Well it’s that time of year again. The next iteration of the all conquering FPS is here for all the awaiting fans. The question is if Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is worth all the hype and does it hold out amongst the plethora of other shooter titles out there?
The Call of Duty games are almost 2 completely separate games for a lot of players. Some people play them for the single player campaign experience and others play them for the popular multiplayer experience. Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is no exception. The Call of duty series has always had a strong multiplayer following that can last long past the titles next instalment. The campaign portion of the series has long had its fans and its detractors depending on which title it is. Treyarch have set out to make sure that they can fulfil the needs of fans in both areas.
Let’s break the game down and look at each aspect.
Single Player Campaign
The campaign follows on after the events from the previous Treyarch title Black Ops. The storyline centres around Alex Mason in the past and his son David in the near future. The world is on the brink of disaster which is being masterminded by a man called Raul Menendez who has affected both of the Mason’s lives. What happened in the past has dramatic consequences for future events.
The inclusion of both past and future events has been handled very nicely. The way it is handled is David Mason talking to Black Ops 1 Special Forces operative Frank Woods. Frank is now old and crippled, but has things that David needs to hear, and one or two things that David would rather not. As Frank describes what he knows, the story darts back to those missions giving you a chance to see what happened first hand. These missions are interlaced with the missions that David and his team take on in 2025. All this works smoothly and feeds the story nicely
The storyline in this game feels very strong and well thought out. There are some twists and turns that put some major league Hollywood films to shame. The writers obviously spent a long time mapping out just where they wanted to take the story. I was personally very impressed and although I could see one or two plot points looming I felt completely happy with each point.
There were however a couple of scenes which I felt were perhaps a little much. There is one scene which without giving away any spoilers all I can say is that it took place on the USS Obama and I personally felt it was more graphic than it needed to be. In some ways it reminded me of the ‘No Russian’ scene in Modern Warfare 2 but at least this time it did feel part of the storyline and wasn’t just thrown in to create drama around the release. That said the only reason I have for saying that they may be a bit graphic is that although this is a clearly stated 18 rated game, we know full well that it will be played by younger people. Should the developers and story writers take this into consideration or should they stick to the clearly adult 18 rating that the game has? Well that’s perhaps a discussion for another time but for now I will say that this is clearly an 18 rated game and has been written with that in mind.
The single player also has some nice points in which it gives you the option on what you want to do. Again without giving away a major plot point, during the single player you have the opportunity in a couple of places to decide who you are going to shoot. 2 potential targets and one choice to make. This for me helped to keep me invested in both the character that I was playing as well as the surrounding cast of characters.
One thing that I personally felt lacking in some way was the use of additional vehicles and kit. The developers have added a wide variety of kit including nano gloves, wing suits, cloaking devices etc but you only get to use them for a short section which although is nicely laid out I would of liked the option to use them once or twice more. The same goes for the vehicles. During the game you get to use 4×4’s jet fighters and even the futuristic, walking tank called the C.L.A.W. Again, the same issue was that although scripted well into the story, I felt that they were just added to show off in adverts a little. The sequences are rather short and don’t add an awful lot to the overall story than a little bit of a distraction. In one case while flying the jet I felt like I had hardly any control over where it was going and I was stuck on rails while firing wildly and I still passed through this sequence. Would it be a better game without these sections? Not really. Do they need to be there? Not really. Some people might like them; others like me feel somewhat indifferent about them. One thing I will say though is in regards to the 4×4 escape scene. The vehicle does drive well which other games can get seriously wrong. Treyarch actually spent some time working on the handling which I was impressed with.
The campaign feels really nicely paced and steps up into high gear as it builds up to an amazingly tense and stunning finally. The game draws you in with its pace and urgency in a way that I have not felt in other Call of Duty titles. The end gives you a great finish to the game and one that you feel that you have worked hard for. But make sure you watch to the end of the (insanely long) credit sequence as there is a section afterwards that is well worth watching. Treyarch are known for their endings (think back to their amusing ending for Black Ops 1) and you won’t be disappointed with what they have done here.
The voice acting and actors brought into Black Ops 2 is fantastic. It’s one thing to recognise a voice in a game but to have it perfectly matched to a face and them being in a role you could easily believe them in if this was a movie is great. The casting was spot on. Personal highlights were both easily recognisable, Michael Rooker as Harper and Tony Todd as admiral Briggs One issue I would bring up is that the sound levels set at default have the music and background noise set too high that it overpowers some of the voice work meaning you miss a few bits of conversation at times. This is easily remedied in the options menu so I would recommend doing that at the beginning so that you get every bit of conversation crystal clear.
Game mechanics – Well to be honest this hasn’t really changed too much from previous instalments. It feels smooth. The speed is nice, aiming feels pretty accurate and changing weapon options does affect this, making it better or worse depending on your decisions. There is still some texture pop in here and there and a few graphical anomalies such as floating guns that enemies have dropped and on one occasion I shot an enemy soldier by a wall and then watched as his body flopped and crawled up the side of the wall slowly and then into the air before coming crashing down to the ground again. To be honest though the graphics engine has been going for a few years now and is by no means perfect but this doesn’t seem to matter for fans of the series. Could it be better? Of course it could. My guess is that we will see a huge improvement in the graphics quality when we see the next gen console and my guess is the Call of Duty teams are well on their way to having that engine ready and waiting to blow our minds. Overall the game is as clean and smooth as before with a couple of tweaks here and there.
Some people buy the Call Of Duty games purely for the multiplayer and almost ignore the singleplayer. Treyarch instalments have always had the better storylines and the better campaigns and Black Ops2 is no exception. I feel that this is the strongest story so far and is well worth playing. In fact I would go on to say it’s probably something you should do first before diving into the multiplayer.
This singleplayer campaign is strong!
The multiplayer is arguably the strongest part of any Call of Duty franchise. Some players only ever play the multiplayer portion of the games. Treyarch have tweaked the multiplayer in Black Ops 2 so that it can give players the most out of the feature as possible.
The load out system has been redesigned with what’s called the ‘pick ten’ system. Using this system you can pick up to ten parts to your loud out. These can be a mixture of weapons, attachments, perks and wildcards. For example you could pick a primary weapon and give it 2 attachments. You would have now used three of your ten picks. You could then add a secondary weapon with one attachment. This would now bring you up to five of your ten picks. Add to this two perks and that brings you up to seven picks. This now leaves you up to three picks to add tactical and lethal grenades etc as well as any wildcards you wish to add. This system I believe is a great way to add your own personal touches and personality to what you use and how you want to play. With so many choices and things to try out, you could in theory be playing with different combinations for a very long time to come.
The wildcards give you the ability to add extras to your load out. These can be extra attachments to weapons bringing the total from 2 to 3. You could also use one to pick a second primary weapon or add a second perk of a type you already have. These all count towards your pick ten system so think carefully when picking as you may have to give up something to use them. Is dropping your tactical grenades worth an extra attachment on your assault rifle? Try it out and see.
CoD points have been removed to open weapons and attachments and instead we have the new ‘Cod Tokens’ that allow you to unlock new weapons and perks as you see fit. In some ways it almost simplifies the task while also making you think a little bit more about what you want to open up and use as the tokens are only handed out when levelling up rather than being given out per game as the Cod Points were.
The usual inclusion of adding clan tags is still there as well as the ability to create an insignia that comes over from the original Black Ops. I would of liked to of seen the option to import any insignia created in Black Ops 1 over but unfortunately not. Still, it gives players the opportunity to come up with new and ingenious creations as well as the usual bout of undesirables who come up with some form of insult or lewd image.
Weapons seem to be pretty well balanced. The big thing that I noticed that I have had an issue with in other Call of Duty games is that the shotguns now feel much more how they should. They are not these over powered monsters that they have been. They are devastating at close range but pretty damn poor at anything medium to long distance which is what they should be. Sniper rifles also seem to have been balanced well, they are still devastatingly powerful when used accurately but don’t seem to be the kind of weapon that changes the course of battle in anyone’s hands. The well designed maps also seem to make it a little trickier to find a good sniper nest to use that can be well defended making things a little more balanced for everyone.
Maps are varied and interesting. There is a good mix of large open maps along with some more cluttered maps perfect for all types of gaming. Team tactics and the lone wolf ‘run & gun’ mentality will both work equally well of different maps. As with any game of this type, people will love some maps and hate others. The old saying goes that you can’t please everyone and this is true but Treyarch have done a very good job of trying to make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy here and with the almost guaranteed assurance of many more ‘map pack’ dlc to come I am sure we will be seeing even more variety on its way.
It does seem that there is a similar issue that Black Ops 1 had in regards to maps re appearing in the multiplayer feed more often than they possibly should but personally this doesn’t affect the enjoyment for me although I have heard a few people complain about this.
Killstreaks have been replaced with Scorestreaks.This means that you can get the support bonuses by doing things such as gaining kills, getting headshots, helping with assists, using UAV’s etc rather than just going on all out killing sprees. Some people will like this, others will hate it. Personally I like it. It gives players the chance to get some of the impressive support enhancements on offer such as the usual UAV drones and care packages to more unique aids such as the dragonfly drones and Warthog assaults. Even the RCXD from Black Ops 1 makes a comeback.
Well what can I say? I think that this is the best in the Call of Duty franchise so far. Black Ops 1 was top of the list before and Treyarch have done it again and surpassed what they previously with this sequel. The single player campaign is very strong and makes for some compelling gaming while the multiplayer gives players exactly what they want.
Is Call of Duty Black Ops 2 the best game out there? Not by a long shot but it does improve the CoD name amongst the ranks. Is it the best first person shooter out there? Debatable, this all depends on how you like your gaming. People make a big argument for the Battlefield games and I don’t argue with them. What I do say is that although both are FPS they are played very differently and this needs to be taken into account.
Black Ops 2 is well worth picking up. I have a feeling the CoD community will take to this very well and support it for long into the future. Treyarch have done it again with another great game.
Score = 90%
Buy It Rent It = Buy It
Will You Be Playing In 12 Months = Yes, Multiplayer Will have a strong community backing for a long time to come.
Since the game was released on the 13th November there has been some intermittent server issues where people are being kicked in the middle of games, people being unable to log into multiplayer etc. Hopefully this is just small glitches that they will have fixed within a day or so. If not then this could be a big problem but as yet my guess is that it will be fixed very quickly.