Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review
For the past few years, Treyarch’s created a nice little nest under the shadow of Infinity Ward. Relying on the template IW built with Call Of Duty 4, they have alternated year-after-year releasing what is widely regarded as the inferior entries in the franchise. Now that the winds of change have made a mess of the IW offices, it’s time for Treyarch to step up to the plate, grab the bull by the horns and attempt to innovate. Have they succeeded in progressing the franchise forward? Or have they taken a step backwards?
The answer rests somewhere in the middle. Hit the jump for our full Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review.
The Story in Black Ops 2 takes place between two separate time periods. The first of which takes place during the 1980’s, following Alex Mason and Frank Woods. It’s here where the game introduces you to Raul Menendez, the games main villain. A series of events is played out showcasing why Mr. Menendez isn’t the happiest of terrorists when you reach the year 2025, where you then assume the role of Mason’s son David and attempt to do what daddy never could.
During the course of the campaign, you’ll take control of a number of different vehicles and machines from fighter jets to machine gun-spitting remote control helicopters and the C.L.A.W. – A quadruped drone with mounted Gatling guns, grenade launchers and oh yeah… did I mention flamethrowers? The vehicle sections definitely break up what would otherwise be a standard run-and-gun gameplay experience.
Level design seems quite a bit more open compared to Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games’ Modern Warfare 3. There are often multiple routes to take and opportunities to flank enemies. And with the new customizable load-outs before each mission offering up a slew of new toys to play with, it’s possible to play missions in a completely different way each playthrough. Take the access kit for example; during the course of a mission it allows you to pick locks, snap locked doors or chests with some bolt cutters in order to find either new routes, new weapons, or even intel you might otherwise have missed.
The two most notable changes to the format however would be the inclusion of branching story arcs with multiple endings and the Strike Force missions. At the moment I have only completed the campaign a single time so I can’t speak on how drastically different the endings can be, I can only tell you that when you’re at a point where the story can change, you won’t even know that you’re making a decision. It felt very natural compared to other games, such as Mass Effect which makes it very clear that you’re at an important crossroad. There is simply no time to think about it when you’re playing it like a standard shooter.
The Strike Force missions are where things start to fall flat. During these sections you take control of multiple squads, movable turrets, and C.L.A.W.S. It presents itself from a top-down RTS-like view and tasks you with either attacking or defending multiple points on the map. It all works per se, it just feels rather clunky and unpolished compared to other games that have tried to implement RTS mechanics into a first person shooter. On top of that, the friendly AI seems rather useless; I tried a number of times to complete these missions from the commander’s view but it just wasn’t possible. Oddly enough, I found that the easiest way to get through these segments was to set up my troops anywhere near what we were attacking or defending, taking control of one soldier on the field, and going solo from there. It wouldn’t be as big of a deal if it weren’t for the simple fact that failing these can change the course of the story and how future missions play out for better or worse.
The multiplayer has seen a few changes to its design as well. Black Ops 2 introduces the pick 10 system which allows you to pick ten of anything so long as you have unlocked it. Want to get rid of all your perks in exchange for multiple equipment slots? Have at it. Want to carry two of the same type of grenades in exchange for a perk? Be its guest; the choice is yours.
It’s all well and good but make no mistake, this is the same COD multiplayer we all know and many seem to love. Killstreaks are gone to. Relax…they just changed the name to Scorestreaks and its now based on all your in-game contributions, not just your kills. Simply hitting someone with a concussion grenade while a friendly takes him down grants you points towards your score-streaks for example.
All this and I haven’t even touched on the Zombie co-op mode, which is much larger and more open than previous games. It’s too bad that it lacks any kind of plot or interesting characters to care about, yet there is still fun to be had there for sure.
AUDIO: Pretty standard action shooter stuff here. You have your celebrity voice-actors making appearances and doing a admirable jobs (Sam Worthington – Avatar, Michael Rooker – The Walking Dead). Then you have Trent Reznor scoring the main dubstep-laden theme song. But make no mistake, the guns and explosions are still the star of the show, sounding off with decidedly punchy sound effects.
GRAPHICS: Opting to maximize frames-per-second instead of pushing the boundaries of the current console generation, Black Ops 2 is running on the same (albeit tweaked) engine as previous titles in the franchise, and it’s starting to show. You’ll find some muddy textures here and there, and really there’s no real visual improvements since the first Black Ops.
+ Branching storylines finally give you a reason to replay the campaign
+ Missions are more open than previous titles
+ Online multiplayer is as fun and addictive as it always has been
– Strike force missions feel rushed and not fully realized
– Graphics engine is showing its age
– Zombie mode could have done with a back story and characters you care about
Here’s the tricky bit, do you praise Treyarch for trying something new with the franchise? Or do you fault them for shoehorning in more than was needed with the Strike Force missions? Despite what side of the fence you’re on with that, there is no denying the sheer amount of game for your buck you get out of Black Ops 2.
When all is said and done, you should already know if you’re going to enjoy this game. If you were a fan of previous titles, then no doubt you will find enjoyment here. On the other hand if you weren’t a fan, I’m not sure Black Ops 2 does enough to advance the franchise into something truly new to change your opinions.
Posted on November 25, 2012, in Game Reviews and tagged black ops 2, call of duty black ops 2, cod black ops 2, entertainment, game review, games, gaming, treyarch. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.