'Call Of Duty: Black Ops' Draws Midnight Nerd Herd To L.A. GameStops, Best Buys

A GameStop employee braces himself for the stampede
A GameStop employee braces himself for the stampede

Updated after the jump: L.A.-area GameStop managers weigh in on the success of their midnight launch parties. Originally posted at 6:05 a.m.

The economy had a pretty wild night last night.

While you were sleeping, it partied with passive-aggressive stoners looking to blow some bitches up with toggles, middle-school Monster guzzlers looking to kill the pain with another epic bloodbath and bored-to-death businessmen looking for -- honestly -- a reason to live.

"Black Ops," the latest installment of "Call of Duty," is one of the most highly anticipated video-game releases of our time, and could very well become the highest-grossing to boot.

At midnight last night, for $60 a pop, it busted from its display-case shackles into the hands of the people.

The game is an update to "Modern Warfare 2," which sold over 4.7 million copies in its first 24 hours on the market, one year ago exactly. But Activision has reason to believe "Call of Duty" will better its own best today: Amazon.com Tweeted that "Black Ops'" pre-orders have shattered all previous records.

Blockbuster wizened up and tried to cash in on the hysteria. The bankrupt DVD dinosaur plans on offering brand-new copies of "Black Ops" in exchange for two used video games.

However, that failed team of balding strategists is once again two steps behind its contemporaries. GameStop locations in Los Angeles and all over the country stayed open into the wee hours this morning, pulling major traffic with the best deal in town: $10 cash back for the same exchange as Blockbuster. Plus, there was free pizza and NOS energy drank (in bottles fittingly designed to look like Nitrous Oxide Systems cartridges).

Best Buy drew long lines as well, outfitted with gaming islands and a jivey social atmosphere where nerds could rub shoulders in lieu of the battlefield.

Because, as Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel illustrate in the game's cinematic teaser, "there's a soldier in all of us":

Santa Monica-based Treyarch Studio developed the latest "Call of Duty" stunt. Seeing as Treyarch's previous installments have been less popular, they're holding their breath on this one -- but it doesn't look like there's too much to worry about.

Last month, key "Black Ops" competitor (and neighborhood nuisance) "Medal of Honor" was released to give couch soldiers something to twiddle their thumbs with until the real deal was ready. But "Call of Duty" is like an iPod -- nothing's ever quite as good as the original. Or as ridiculously good-looking.

Where "Medal of Honor" depicts modern Afghanistan, "Call of Duty" takes a stickler of a historian's approach to 1960s wartime.

Inside this time capsule, new-age graphics are dazzling. The game is crisper, louder and far more customizable (think Wartime Barbie) than its predecessors or competitors -- and at a whole new level of frightening, against a backdrop of sporadic missiles and helicopters with minds of their own. Ever heard of a knife-dart or crossbow-rocket? Now you have.

Even before the clock struck 12, #BlackOps was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. Here's what you were saying:

johnhowe4

"#blackops #blackops #blackops i'm so fucking ready to blow shit up."

TezGordon

"Where the fuck is Postman Twat with my #BlackOps !?"

Proudbone

"has just completed #blackops on the hardest setting."

Poppy_Rocks

"So the bf has replaced me with #blackops great!"

iJuanLuis

"What is #blackops ?"

Hey, @iJuanLuis: Get with it, man.

Activision will smartly rake in a few more million with an obligatory limited-edition box set. For double the price, the set includes night-vision goggles and a remote-control vehicle with a spy cam. But please -- don't be that guy.

Reviews of the game have already started flooding in. Check out this angry critic's shocking discovery:

All floating apples aside -- this shit is groovy. Within the first few minutes of play, we've already been tortured by Castro in the Bay of Pigs, raided a Cuban base and assassinated the enemy with piano wire -- then ziplined through his torso for good measure.

And we haven't even gotten to the zombies yet.

Update: All 100-plus GameStop locations in the Los Angeles area took part in the 12 a.m. festivities last night. (And this morning, they all answered the phone with a frantic "We carry 'Black Ops'!")

Half of the 10 store managers we called said they weren't supposed to talk to the media, but the other half said they'd each sold a whopping 200 to 400 copies of "Black Ops" last night alone, and that more customers have been streaming in all morning.

The majority added that the midnight turnout was significantly higher than for the launch party of "Modern Warfare 2" last year. Activision has yet to release the opening-day sales numbers, but if rough L.A. GameStop estimates add up, "Black Ops" will have its prequel beat by a mile.


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