Platform: Xbox 360
Review Copy Provided By: Activision
Release Date: November 18, 2012
Another November has come and brought along with it the yearly Call Of Duty title. Continuing the story from Black Ops, Treyarch has developed the aptly named Black Ops 2 with a focus on future warfare. With the 3 distinct modes (campaign, zombies, and multiplayer) and a host of new features, Black Ops 2 might be the most fully featured first person shooter let alone Call of Duty title. But are features enough to distinguish it in a series that is accused of rehashing itself every year?
Black Ops 2 focuses on two different time periods with you controlling the main character from the first title, Alex Mason, during the end of the Cold War in the 80’s and his son, David Mason, during the height of the new Cold War between the US and China in 2025. The earlier time period sets up the story of why the title’s big bad Raul Menendez goes from hero to terrorist 40 years later. David Mason heads up the US Navy Seals and is digging deep into his father’s and Menendez’s past to try and avert disaster. Pair that plot up with a 6-8 hour choose your own adventure style campaign and you have nearly an entirely different experience compared to previous titles. Throughout the campaign of Black Op 2, there will be choices, successes, and failures that alter the path you take through the story. Fail an objective or kill a particular target and the story takes a different turn on your way to multiple different endings. Sure the core mechanics are the same but it is all about presentation and Black Ops 2 scores huge on changing up the formula.
Another addition to the campaign are optional missions called Strike Force missions. These missions can have an impact on the direction of the story. Unfortunately, they are hampered by inadequacies in control and AI despite being a good idea. You control a group of troops and drones and move them from objective to objective wiping out the enemy from a zoomed out view of an real time strategy game. While in this view, your units can be quite stupid and love to get killed. The saving grace is that you can hop into the shoes of an unit and play the game as a normal FPS.
The third feature change for the campaign is the ability to create and customize loadouts before entering a mission. Think multiplayer loadouts but in singleplayer. Mix in leaderboards based on score and challenges and the campaign ends up with a lot of replay value either by trying to best your friends or get a different outcome in the story. Outside of the new features,, Black Ops 2 is definitely a Call of Duty title with Michael Bay style explosions and action movie theatrics. It solves the problem of feeling like a rehash of previous titles while giving fans more of what they love.
The zombies mode in the previous Treyarch Call of Duty titles has been slowly moving from just some maps with cool features to something that felt more campaign like with a discoverable backstory. Black Ops 2 continues that tradition with the new Tranzit mode. The world opens up as you and your fellow survivors have to travel between areas like a power plant and farm via armored bus trying to survive. Tranzit gives players nearly no guidance and tasks them with finding the ins and outs to survive in the mode as long as they can. You can complete challenges and use the crafting system to unlock new areas and ways to survive. No waypoints, no tips, and no help really brings back a feeling of old school gaming but with community as players, their friends, and the interwebs come together to solve this mode.
Tranzit isn’t the only zombies mode in Black Ops 2 as Survival returns and pits players to survive the horde by holding up in a single location and should instantly be familiar to zombies veterans. This mode is a bit better tuned to new players before transitioning into the more open Tranzit mode. A third zombies mode, Grief, is a twist on survival that has 2 teams try to out survive each other. While the teams are unable to directly attack each other, power ups and knocking them around with weapons is a nice way to push them into the zombies and eliminate them. Black Ops 2 really takes the old zombies mode and expands on it enough to give a little something for everyone.
The third mode of the trifecta of modes in Black Ops 2 is its bread and butter. Multiplayer returns and plays like a Call of Duty title. On the surface not much has changed but some subtle tweaks and variety build upon a winning formula. The regular playlists have the usual loadouts and levels and prestige but there is a new twist on the loadouts with a 10 point system. Every item costs a point. Your gun, your attachment, your perk all are 1 point and you can have up to 10 points. While this is somewhat limiting, it allows greater variety, customization, and experimentation. Want 3 attachments and 2 slot 1 perks? You can do that but you might not be able to carry any grenades or secondary weapon. It is a nice twist that gives players a better chance to build their loadout to suit their needs.
The multiplayer playlists split up between traditional and hardcore and have all of the run of the mill deathmatch and objective modes. There is also a party game mode that includes various deathmatch style modes with special rules. Sticks and Stones has players running around with a ballistic knife, crossbow, and combat axe. Score kills to score points but get hit by a combat axe and you go back to 0. Gun game has players running through a list of guns until someone reaches the final weapon and scores a kill with a ballistic knife. One in the Chamber gives players a pistol with a single bullet and a knife along with 3 lives. You get another bullet per a kill and last man standing wins. Sharpshooter gives everyone a random weapon every 45 seconds. These modes were featured in the first Black Ops as wager matches not allowing experience but that has changed in this game which should attract more players. They are a fun twist on the traditional gameplay that while not all the time fair can be very challenging.
League play is also available in Black Ops 2, allow players to form teams and play in a ladder/division style ranking system on season based time scales. The interesting feature of this mode is that everything is already unlocked allowing you to make loadouts without going through the process of 55 levels or so. There are 15 maps in the multiplayer and not really a dud in the bunch. Environments range from yachts to cargo containers in a port to war torn city sections. Graphics and audio are what you would expect from a Call Of Duty game, each getting a bit more polish every year so it is a pretty game but not the best we have seen this year.
Call of Duty has been getting lots of criticism for what is called its Michael Bay rehashes. Treyarch decided to change things up a bit by expanding and polishing each of its 3 core modes into something that could have been 3 separate triple A games. This is truly a title that has something for everyone that enjoys first person shooters and is able to keep at its core a Call of Duty experience so not to alienate fans.