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A Game of Clones? The State of Weapons in Black Ops
Treyarch has been known as a developer that is crazy about balancing the aspects of their game. With Black Ops, the balancing has gone so far as to make certain guns exact replicas of eachother, sans their skins. This has resulted in a situation in which the gun you use doesn't really matter all that much. Before a slew of balancing updates, there were one or two guns that were incredibly overpowered stat-wise. The AK74u comes to mind, as an assault rifle in SMG form. This article will be using DenKirson's flash chart for an analysis on the various Black Ops weapons.
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The Bread and Butter: Assault Rifles
Out of the assault rifles, the Famas and AUG are stat-wise, almost the exact same gun. The both have the exact same fire rate, spread rates, and damage ranges. In fact, the AUG could be considered to be technically inferior, as it has a 3/10 of a second faster reload time on an empty clip, but takes longer to reload on a partially full clip than the Famas. The Famas has a slightly faster gun raise time, whereas the AUG has a slightly faster drop time. Keep in mind that these are very slight, in the hundredths of a percent range.
The Galil and the AK47 are identical aside from slightly different reload times, a 5 bullet clip difference, and the faux recoil that comes with the AK47. Damage ranges are the same, along with general recoil and fire speed.
Between the Enfield and the Commando, the Commando offers a superior advantage with a higher damage range, faster reload times, and a bit more recoil towards the bottom left corner.
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The Small Assault Rifles: SMGs
The AK74u, even after all of its nerfing, still remains king of the SMGs. It is simply a stronger MP5k, having less recoil, a damage range that is 10 points higher, with a neglible higher gun raise time, and a significantly lower gun drop time.
In general, the guns of the SMG group are fairly diverse, but in ways that make them very difficult to effectively apply in-game. Whether it be the PM63, which drops enemies incredibly quickly, but doesn't have enough ammo to make it through an entire firefight, or the Uzi which carries large clips of ammo but lacks the damage output to outgun another player.
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Shotguns: Just a Faster Knife?
Shotguns have gone back to their Modern Warfare 1 status of 'fun guns'. They make perfectly good secondary weapons, but aren't strong enough to be primary weapons. Unfortunately, Treyarch decided to return to the route of them being primary weapons, and nerfed them to the point of being much weaker than Modern Warfare 2's shotguns. It's not as if making a primary shotgun is difficult either. A look at games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 show that a primary shotgun can be done very well and not be overpowered.
As it is, all of the shotguns have fire ranges that are incompatible with most of the game's levels, and damage ranges that sharply drop after knife range, dropping down to 0 damage after around 10-15 meters.
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The Sad State of Sniper Rifles
This section of Black Ops' weapons is practically a joke. Sniper rifles lack the damage output, the level support, and the scope time to work well in the game. By the time you've located a target, scoped in, and held your breath, he's most likely disappeared due to the lack of open spaces, and the fact that your preparations have taken close to two seconds. The only advantage that the bolt action L96A1 enjoys over it's semi-auto counterparts is a 1.5x damage zone in the shoulder and upper arm. The other sniper rifles have the same damage ranges, larger clips, and semi-automatic capabilites. They are identical except in recoil and hit multiplier zones for the most part.
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Most of the attachments are decently balanced and only add to gameplay, but there are a few that are completely useless. As it stands, the grenade launcher attachment is an incredibly weak attachment that can easily be completely mitigated. The explosion radius of the launcher rounds is even less than that of a grenade, making it usable only as a method of softening up targets or as another method of gaining a direct hit kill.
Infrared scopes are also useless, as they take just as long as a sniper scope to zoom in, and don't paint targets nearly as well as they should. On an automatic weapon, a single shot sends your reticle flying sharply in every direction, making it nearly impossible to pull off a clean kill.
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It's Not All About the Numbers
In the end, even though many of Black Ops' weapons have very similar stats, there will be those that will swear on the AUG over the Famas, and vice versa. It all comes down to personal feeling. A gun isn't just its stats. It's also its looks, its sounds, its reticle. And whereas many of the guns are almost alike, there are a lot of guns in the game that simply don't have the level support to make them work with Black Ops' gameplay. So it isn't just a problem of gun balancing, it's also a problem with level design. The map packs have slightly changed this, but not by much. So my question is: are people satisfied with where the weapons are right now?
For a complete listing of all gun and attachment stats, you can download DenKirson's flash chart. If anything, use this knowledge as an excuse to use a gun that isn't the Famas.