Platform: Xbox LIVE (Xbox 360)
Review Copy Provided By: Activision
Release Date: April 16, 2013
The second DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops II is finally out for Xbox 360 with four new multiplayer maps and a new zombie map. Vertigo, Encore, Magma, Studio, and Mob of the Dead will set you back 1200 Microsoft Points or the cool price of free if you already own the Black Ops II Season Pass. Don’t expect this pack out for other platforms for at least another month, but when it comes out you can expect it to be $15 (or free with a Season Pass).
Vertigo, surprisingly enough, is all about vertical gameplay as you battle across the top of a skyscraper in Mumbai, India. The building is owned by CyberDrone Industries, so expect to see drones cluttering the map especially with a VTOL landing pad being heavily featured. Vertigo is actually one of the larger, more normal maps in the pack in terms of setting. The map is strikingly similar in theme to maps found in other recent multiplayer shooters like Spec Ops, Modern Warfare 3, and Battlefield 3. That similarity doesn’t hamper Vertigo though because the layout promotes fast action and a sense that you are not safe anywhere.
Vertigo’s flow goes from cramped hallways accessed via sliding glass doors into open outdoor areas. The danger spots come from areas where players can jump down from the high ground on unsuspecting enemies. A misstep though can leave a player plummeting to their death ala Wile E. Coyote. The only real negative Vertigo suffers is that it must have a large player base in the match or it runs the chance of turning into a boring match of running in circles trying to find each other.
Encore features an amphitheater and its surrounding tents at a London music festival. Looking off into the background of the map players will see some of London’s more famous landmarks including The Shard, a large pyramidal glass tower recently featured in an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor rides an anti-grav motorcycle up its side. Encore feels a lot like Grind from the previous map pack with its bright colors and layout. The rock concert setting definitely brings some variety to Black Ops II.
Encore is circular in its layout with a center that is very much large and open. The surrounding tents and structures flow into the amphitheater center into the cramp tunnels behind and under the stage. The map plays extremely well in objective based modes as teams can use the stage area to secure the map and shut down the enemy. Most battles are going to end up fought on multiple fronts, so it is not all doom and gloom for the team that doesn’t hog the center.
Magma is located in a Japanese village suffering the destruction caused by a lava flow. The lava is a hazard for the first time in Call of Duty and will kill you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually flow and is quite stationary. If you want to avoid it killing you, it is easy to fall back on your video game veteran chops and not jump in it. The lava gimmick aside, Magma has quite a few interesting features including a set of subway cars that are sinking into the ground and form a V-shaped pathway.
Unlike most maps in the Call of Duty franchise, Magma isn’t a map that you run in a clean sweep style. Dead ends and areas where you must climb up or jump down break the natural run around the map flow that we are used to. These points will lead to lots of deaths for easily confused players as they are picked off while fumbling with their controls trying to progress. Objective placements can be troublesome for even the most skilled players including one spot that is in a sunken pit like area that leaves you open to attack from higher ground.
Studio might seem familiar for players of the first Black Ops because it is actually an adaptation of the fan favorite map, Firing Range. While the layout might be the same, the change in setting to a Hollywood studio backlot creates a very different experience that is possibly the best of this map pack. The map is filled with various classic movie style sets like alien invasion, western, pirate, and medieval themes. The result is a clash of aesthetics that turn into great fun as you sprint past a dinosaur ducking into a prehistoric tunnel and then running past UFO lasers into an Old West saloon.
The layout features tight corners and enclosed areas much like Nuketown. There are also long sight lines between themes mixed in with high vantage points in the castle tower and tavern roof that benefit those that like to pick players off. The cardboard thin walls of the set pieces are easily pierced by bullets creating a situation where even cover is Hollywood magic. Action tends to be fast paced and great for kill based game modes like Kill Confirmed.
Mode: Mob of the Dead
Mob of the Dead brings the zombie action to the prison island of Alcatraz. Playing as the likenesses of great mobster character actors Ray Liotta, Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, and Chazz Palminteri, Mob feels more natural than Black Ops 1’s Call of the Dead with Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker, and Sarah Michelle Geller. These hardass personalities were meant for zombie slaughter.
Mob works a bit differently than other zombie maps with its new feature Afterlife. In death, players can now float around as ghosts and kill zombies with ghost lightning. Zombie killing isn’t the only purpose of that new fangled ghost lightning as you can help your mobster buddies by powering generators. Some of the maps Easter Eggs, items, and areas can only be accessed in this mode. The downside to Afterlife is that any kills made while being a ghosty will not give you points. You are also time limited as a ghost and must revive/repossess your body.
The main goal of Mob of the Dead is to escape Alcatraz via plane on the roof. In proper Zombies fashion, reaching that end goal will mean quite a bit of trial and error mixed in with team work. This map is near impossible without a well oiled team because there is no handholding on how to progress. The obtuseness of Mob is might scare away some players initially but we all know the internet will fix it with guides within a week or two.
Uprising is one of the better map packs for a Call of Duty game. The solid and creatively themed Studio map might be the standout of the 4 multiplayer maps but the other 3 are almost as good in their own right. Mob of the Dead puts yet another twist into the Zombie mode which has been steadily improving since World At War. The amount of content just in Mob of the Dead is huge and it could easily be a stand alone downloadable game.