“Another year, another Call of Duty title…”, that is is what the internet’s reaction is to the release of Black Ops 2. With that being said, let’s be objective here, something has to be pulling people into the same familiar franchise year after year. If you haven’t been following the news, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the biggest entertainment launch of all time, those are facts and numbers. There is a question that should be asked and that is “Is this game something I should be picking up?” and hopefully, that is why you are here, reading this.
I never played the campaign for Black Ops, I was too busy playing Halo or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, so I was very worried about if I would be able to keep up with the campaign storyline. Although the story is told like a Tarantino flick, it backtracked enough to tell me what was going on and who everyone was. The narrative is extremely competent and used efficiently to make sure that the player is on the same page. More or less, David Mason, the son of Black Ops’ Alex Mason , is in a whole shitstorm due to some interactions his dad and Frank Woods had with a man named Raul Menendez. When playing as David, there are tons of cool guns, gadgets and tech that can be used to accomplish your missions, I felt like James Bond during the 2025 storyline. The other part of the game has you playing again as Alex Mason and while the weapons are old, the story of why Raul Menendez wants you and the free world destroyed is cleverly made painfully clear.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t expect a Call od Duty storyline to wow me, it had been something that single player enthusiasts have been able to enjoy for quite some time. With that being said, Treyarch did throw a few curveballs to get you off their well documented trail of plot twists. While there are moments within the campaign that are quite graphic or surprising, there isn’t really a “shocking” moment, which is actually nice for once. The storyline is influenced by decisions you make in the game and are not as absolutely clear as a fork in the road, these branches are mostly taken without even thinking. Rush through a facility without searching for intel, miss an opportunity to change the future. Don’t avoid a hazard while driving, horribly disfigure your partner. It’s the subtle things that really make this single player campaign stand out and thankfully, the campaign remains a 1 player affair.
Along with the typical run and gun levels that the world has become accustomed to, Black Ops 2 also features an intriguing side mission system called Strike Force. Stirke Force plays out partially like a RTS and also as a FPS, meaning you can position your force to achieve your goals or jump in and command them directly, like you have already been doing within the game. These missions break up the monotony that you’ll feel after grinding out a few missions and really offer a nice change of pace. Two things to note though, these missions are actually pretty difficult and are mandatory if you expect to receive the best overall ending in the game. Oh, I didn’t tell you? The game has at least five different ending you can get based off the choices you make, meaning this is likely the most robust Call of Duty campaign ever.
More than likely, if you really truly have interest in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, you probably came here to hear a bit about Multiplayer. I spent some quality time in these modes and have a bit to report on. First off, in the the standard multiplayer mode, I liked the improvements that were made to the Skillstreak system. It felt like I had less Rambos on my teams and more people that seemed interested in actually helping us win. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t the odd 12 year old kid telling me how big his dick was while ridiculing my usage of the ability to shoot things while aiming with my gun, but with the new silence user option, he can talk his crap to dead air. Yes, Treyarch did go out of their way to try to improve quite a few toxic elements of their ultra-popular multiplayer and while not perfect, I think they made leaps and bounds in the right direction.
So, the traditional Multiplayer mode? All your favorites are back for more fun with a mix of objective games, deathmatch games and even league play, which is more of a competitive mode akin to League of Legends’ ranked system. They opportunity to build loadouts returns, having you buy ‘items’ for your loadout that can be anything from a gun or a grenade to a perk or a weapon add-on. When building a loadout, I found myself pondering what gear would be the best for certain situations and after finding the right gear, making a set of immediate ‘go-to’ loadouts. More or less, this is a further refined version of the same multiplayer you have been playing for the last couple of years, with even more unlockables. The wheel wasn’t reinvented here, just filled up with air and rebalanced.
Then we have zombies… Honestly, I couldn’t really get into the zombie killing rampage that is Call of Duty: Zombies. I got to play a little of Black Ops’ zombie mode and while minimal, there seemed to be a little bit more of a coherent story to go along with things. In the new zombie mode you will start in your respective starting zones and attempt to survive through wave after wave of undead onslaught. Now, I am well aware of the slight objectives in Tranzit, they just require some crazily silly stuff to be completed. Add that in with the simple issue that half of my teammates never realized that they have to get back on the bus and you have a recipe for about 6 or 7 rounds before game over. The other levels consist of mundane survival or team survival modes, after it was all said and done I found myself going back to ranked where I felt like I was actually being able to accomplish something.
Oddly, I saved the presentation of the game as the last thing to talk about. That is because this game’s presentation is about as hit and miss as a novice no-scoper. That is to say, I don’t really know what to think. Early on in the game, the visuals are very underwhelming. Characters look like they are plastic, tall grass is nothing more that paper-like cutouts and everything else just seems a tad recycled. However later in the game there are moments of brilliance, places where I was on the edge of my seat on presentation alone, somehow along the line, they decided they wanted to make the game look and play slightly better. The game also features a soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Jack Wall and holy hell, it is seriously great. Long story short, the graphical presentation is on par with Modern Warfare 3, if not worse in some parts, while the audio aspect of the game is dead on and just what the doctor ordered.
While it may be cool to hate on the Call of Duty franchise, it’s pretty hard to say that they are actually making a bad game. I would say that it is a pretty good game with a lot of great ideas that I hope to see in next year’s installment. If you are looking for a good FPS and Halo isn’t your cup of tea, check this one out. The variety of guns and superb soundtrack made the experience well worth it while the branching storylines really gave me something to actually revisit a single campaign for. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, you ain’t bad at all.
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
- Awesome new weapons and tech
- Improved multiplayer
- The campaign is pretty freaking cool
- Trent Reznor and Wall’s soundtrack
- Graphically underwhelming
- Zombie mode just doesn’t live up to the hype
- While the campaign story was great, it jumped around quite a bit. It could have been better just going from past to present.
- Multiplayer Strike Force missions would have been worth an awesome addition.
Activision sent us a copy of Black Ops 2 – Hardened Edition to review for the Xbox 360