An old time Call of Duty fan, I felt that recent titles have lacked enough innovation to feel fresh and new. Call of Duty: Black Ops didn’t bring much to the table, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 did even less. That being said, I didn’t go into Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, this year’s annual Call of Duty release, with high expectations. However, I was sadly mistaken.
Yes, Call of Duty is a game centered around an addictive multiplayer experience, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t include a story that attracts a vast number of players. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is no different, packing a campaign alongside a cooperative experience and a competitive experience. However, the campaign for Black Ops 2 is sure to shock many by proving not only to be the best Call of Duty story to date, but one of the best stories this year.
The campaign still suffers from the jarring effect of switching between characters, time periods and the such, but once players get used to the overall arc it isn’t all too difficult to understand. Players take control over both Alex and David Mason, the latter being the son of the first Black Ops’ main protagonist. The story is a lot more personal this time around, focusing on strong character development with its main antagonist, Menendez. As players advance through a story centered on personal vengeance, they can’t help but feel a strong tie to Menendez, whether it be an all around hatred or a tad bit guilt. Alongside some superb writing by The Dark Knight Rises writer David S. Goyer, fantastic voice acting and facial animations, and a stellar score Black Ops 2 manages to tell a story unlike any other in the franchise.
The actual story doesn’t shine by itself, however. A heavy focus on player choice also makes its debut in the Call of Duty franchise. Choices players are forced to make throughout the main campaign range from simple, quick decisions to tougher choices that influence the overall outcome of the game. The system is welcomed into the Call of Duty series with open arms, established really well and adding more depth to an already deep tale. Also added to the campaign is something not so well established. Strike Force missions is a new game mode that bridges the gap between a real time strategy game and your generic first person shooter. However, these game modes just fail to be anything past frustrating an all-around boring. Poor AI makes the actual strategy element practically useless and unlimited spawn makes for going in the action unbearable. Throwing in the fact that its a very sudden change in pace that fails to be exciting and entertaining. The fact that these Strike Force missions are important to the outcome of your story doesn’t help the fact, meaning players would have to endure the frustration to encounter the best outcome of the story.
With every recent Treyarch Call of Duty title, a ludicrously addicting Zombie Mode enters the fray. This year is no different, aside from the vast differences found in this year’s entry. Black Ops 2 packs not one, but many different Zombie modes. The first being TranZit which puts players in one huge map that can be traveled through a bus. The game play similar to recent Survival modes, but the ability to craft various items and travel between this huge environment provides enough fresh to leave players gathering to play for days.
The game’s Survival Mode also returns, but doesn’t impress nearly as much as TranZit. Maps are a lot more clustered than even the older maps in recent titles and also lack the same amount of perks, weapons and event the iconic Pack-a-Punch machine. A new, competitive mode also lacks the luster quality of TranZit, putting eight players into one tightly packed Survival map. Throw in the fact that most of the time players will be senselessly attacking each other while getting mauled by zombies, and the Grief mode (as it is called) fails to impress.
Finally. The key factor in any Call of Duty game. Black Ops 2 incorporates a multiplayer experience that impresses. The first change to
the Multiplayer experience is the new Pick 10 System for Create a Class. This system gives players a massive amount of freedom, giving them ten slots to toy around with their many options. Want to go out without any lethal grenades? Go for it. Going to test your luck by going out with merely a combat knife, overdosed on perks? It can be done. The amount of options is great, and will leave players messing around with Create a Class merely to test how many options they actually do have.
That aside, the rest of the Multiplayer Experience is pretty much the same, albeit a lot more balanced. The removal of Pro Perks and nerfing Perks entirely make for fairer online play. The Prestige system was also reworked, allowing for players to keep all that is available to them rather than completely wiping the slate clean. Streak Rewards were also reworked, now being earned solely by points. Assists, captures and other point-rewarding experiences build up the streak bar for players. Still entirely customizeable, the new system also adds to some great balancing. Higher-end streaks are made a bit more difficult to earn with the system, requiring some sort of methods outside of killing to earn them.
New game modes are always welcome, and Black Ops 2 tries its best to provide. Multi-Team Deathmatch and Hardpoint are cool ideas on paper, but they are pretty much just different variations of available modes now. In the end, most players will find themselves returning to modes that they feel more comfortable with, but these new additions just don’t impress. The Ps3 version that was reviewed suffered from a number of server issues at launch, which has since been fixed with patches. Maps also vary greatly, opening style changes for each map. Sniping maps, close quarters maps and stalking maps all make a presence. Ultimately, the multiplayer still has that addictive feel with the massive amount of unlocks and customization. Throw in an improved Theater mode with Call of Duty’s variation of live casting and live streaming, and you have a Multiplayer experience sure enough to leave players playing for countless months.
Visuals and Presentation
The game, as usual, looks great. While many have pointed out the fact it runs on the a slightly updated engine of past titles, Black Ops 2 easily stands out among the others. Heavy vibrant colors and incredibly smooth animations make for a superb looking game. This fits perfectly alongside the iconic 60 FPS the game runs at. Along with great graphics, the game sounds better than recent titles as well. Grenades pack a loud, amped sound and silencers sound a lot more realistic than recent iterations. Each gun also sounds drastically different from each other. A small feat, sure, but when looking back at older titles, these feats stand out far more this time around. Maps are also well-designed, each feeling and looking very different from each other. Between cruise ships, club scenes and open, desert arenas, there is a wide variety present in Black Ops 2. Plus: no snow maps!
However, despite some fantastic graphics, the UI is drastically bland. This is especially true when compared to the interactive menus of the first Black Ops. Once players enter the game, they are presented with a generic menu with a mere, immediate three choice system. Sure, this is a good way to jump right into their mode of choice, but something even a bit more flashy would have sufficed. The PS3 version also faced some freezing issues at launch, which was also fixed with recently released patches.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 answers the question “What would happen if Call of Duty innovated?” Making changes to all three components of the game make for the ideal Call of Duty experience. The deep storyline packed with an established choice system make for a fantastic single-player experience. Strike Force fails to impress, but fortunately there aren’t many of those to jump into. Zombies makes a triumphant return, but disappoints if players are looking to jump into a standard Survival Mode. Grief also fails to impress. However, TranZit impresses greatly and makes these other modes seem as though they don’t even exist in the final product. Multiplayer retains that addictive feel, while establishing some welcome changes to the iconic formula. All in all, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 succeeds in innovating and creating a fantastic entry to the series, especially when compared to recent entries.
- Well-written, deep storyline packed with superb animations, voice acting and a stellar score; established choice system that works in creative various outcomes
- Addictive Zombie Mode makes a triumphant return; TranZit stands among the best Zombie Mode in the series to date
- Multiplayer retains that iconic addictive feel, while implementing much needed changes and balancing improvements; Create-a-Class Pick 10 System works and impresses greatly; Theater mode changes are great, along with Codcasting
- Black Ops 2 looks solid, impressing with vibrant colors, detailed maps and smooth animations; the iconic 60 FPS returns and still looks smooth
- Black Ops 2 also sounds great, with weapons, grenades and the such packing very detailed effects; as noted earlier, the score and voice acting are superb
- There’s no eating around the bush – the Strike Force missions fucking suck
- While TranZit is an incredible experience, Survival and Grief leave much to be desired
- New game modes fail to impress
- Menus are ridiculously bland and boring