Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Review
Bridge the generation gap. With guns and high explosives, of course.
The Call of Duty games are usually quite good, but one complaint that is always screamed from atop the highest message boards, and article comment systems on the internet, is that each new game is too much like its predecessors. Treyarch are looking to break that cycle with Black Ops 2, by introducing a number of changes to the campaign, multiplayer and even the Zombies mode. Can Treyarch make a Call of Duty game that feels fresh, without straying too far from what makes the series so popular? I’m about to find out.
Black Ops 2 starts off with a single player campaign in which Treyarch have promised a number of changes to the standard, linear story we’re used to when playing a Call of Duty game. I don’t personally have a problem with a linear experience in a video game, as long as it’s accompanied by a compelling story and is fun to play. Black Ops 2 does break out of the linear cage the series has become trapped in, but only in the most superficial of ways.
The events of Black Ops 2 will take you back and forth between the year 2025, and various periods in the 1980’s that follow the first game’s characters, Mason, Woods and Hudson. The missions that take place in the past allow you to learn the background of the game’s villain, so Mason’s son, and his team of U.S Navy Seals, can try to stop him in the present day (which is in the future, to you and I).
Being a big fan of the story in the Modern Warfare series, and a medium-sized fan of the story in the original Black Ops, I was a bit disappointed with the story in Black Ops 2. It is standard Call of Duty fare, but with a lot of really strange and cheesy moments thrown in. There were events, and lines of dialogue, that were just completely unbelievable even when you consider the science fiction nature of the futuristic story. This isn’t to say the story ruins the game, it still manages to be fun, but it’s a definite step backward in terms of narrative. Where it moves forward is the fact that the story can change, in a few spots, based on your actions lending some actual replay value to the campaign for what is probably the first time.
Treyarch’s larger attempt to quell the complaints of linearity in the campaigns of the Call of Duty series falls short of that goal, but succeeds within itself. During the campaign, you’ll be notified that there are secondary missions, called Strike Force missions, available for you to take on, or not. You can ignore these and simply move on with the campaign, and they will hang around for a set number of levels, but I recommend tackling them as they come up.
Strike Force consists of a handful of missions that place you in the role of a remote commander of a larger scale mission than you typically see in a Call of Duty Campaign. You’ll be able to look down on the battle, from above, and will be able to direct each unit or squad to move or attack the targets you want them to. When you aren’t directing traffic, you can take immediate control of any soldier, or drone, on the battlefield and press the action yourself. Rather than breaking up the linear campaign, Strike Force felt like a secondary mode but these missions were a lot of fun and were a nice change from the norm.
Since we’re on the Treyarch side of the Call of Duty cycle, you know must know that Zombies will be returning once again. This time around you’ll have three different Zombies modes to choose from; Tranzit, Survival and Grief. Survival is the old standard, where you and your team must survive as many waves as you can on a set map. Grief is a new mode that places two teams of four in a survival map at the same time. You can’t kill members of the opposite team, but you can let the zombies take care of them and the last team standing will win the match.
Tranzit is another new mode, and the deepest of the three. This mode will feature a city transit bus, driven by a robot skeleton of course, that can drive you from map to map in one continuous session. You can also gather parts to build helpful machines and upgrade the bus itself to make it tougher. If you miss the bus, you’ll have to survive where you are until the driver comes back around again. I had a great time with these new zombies modes, and I know a lot of you are going to be sinking way more time into Zombies than you did in previous games.
Finally, we return to competitive multiplayer. The staple of the Call of Duty franchise remains the same, at its core, but there are a number of small changes that can’t be ignored. Killstreaks have been replaced by Scorestreaks, meaning players who prefer support roles, like shooting down enemy air support, can still have their points count toward some cool rewards. This approach may anger some of the more hardcore players, but I think it’s a great idea.
The way you set up your custom classes will now feel a bit different as well. The addition of Wild Cards, secondary bonuses that do things like allowing you to take two perks from one category, really crowd screen and each gun is allowed two attachments. These additions are balanced out by the fact that your class can only have ten things equipped at one time. That means you’re going to have to drop a perk, for example, to take a second non-lethal grenade or ditch your secondary weapon to equip a Wild Card.
League Play has also been added to Black Ops 2, allowing you to qualify for, and compete in, a separate list of league games for the more serious players. Most of these changes are nice, but don’t really do a whole lot to refresh the series in any big way. If you were looking for the same old Call of Duty multiplayer, you’ll be alright, but if you were looking for a fresh new experience this won’t be it.
Black Ops 2 promised some big changes and we did get some changes even if most of them weren’t really that big. The exception to this rule is Zombies, where I was really impressed with the new modes, and new depth. Black Ops 2 is still a good solid Call of Duty game, but it falls short of the fresh new approach we were promised in the lead-up to its release. Many people will buy Black Ops 2, and many will enjoy it, but a big chunk of us will still be wondering just how long the series can go on like this.
Available On: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC