I just finished up with Activision and Treyarch’s latest Call of Duty title, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Thanks to some innovation in the game’s design, this sequel takes the series to new heights. Unfortunately, it seems that the developers were over-reaching at times and the game is also host to several deep moments of player frustration. Despite this frustration, should you press on? Yes!
The game is broken up into three sections – the single player campaign, the multiplayer mode, and the fan-favorite “Zombies” mode. The game’s campaign is an excellent piece of plot-writing. The majority of the title takes place in our future – the year 2025. In this time period you will mostly play as David Mason, the son of the protagonist from the previous title, Alex Mason. However, as the series likes to do, you will jump backwards in time quite a bit and get to play a variety of other characters – including Alex Mason himself (still voiced by Sam Worthington). All of the characters get good moments to shine in. Your main partner in the 2025 sequences is “Harper”, voiced by Michael Rooker, and he deserves a special nod for a great performance. The best performance of the game, however, has to go to the character of Frank Woods, voice by James C. Burns, who delivers an awesome tour de force of vocal power.
The campaign features a lot of new things not seen in past games – the biggest of which is the addition of player choice. At various times during the campaign, you will have decisions to make. These decisions directly affect the storyline and can even add additional missions to the campaign. This is a big step forward for the franchise and will hopefully make the next Call of Duty title a bit more interactive – perhaps even more action-RPG like (which I am fine with). I also appreciated the fact that, in every campaign mission, I could customize my character’s weapon and equipment load-out. This customization extends into the game’s multiplayer mode, which does away with equipment-based perks, instead allowing you to “perk” your weapons via their attachments (scopes, fast-mags, etc). They have governed this with a 10-point system. Each piece of equipment or attachment is worth a point. You can use up to 10 of those per load-out. So, you can fully customize your primary weapon or go more balanced with both primary and secondary arms/attachments – the choice is yours. In terms of overall experience, the game’s campaign had me on the edge of my seat several times, feeling sorry for the main antagonist of the story (while still wanting to eliminate him with extreme prejudice), and feeling like my character played a key role in the outcome of the game’s storyline.
The game’s “Zombies” mode has also been updated with two new game types: “Tranzit” and “Grief”. Each of these adds more longevity to the game mode and give fans a lot to feast upon. Tranzit is a cool open world mode where players can navigate through all of the maps available. There are a ton of hidden secrets to uncover and it will be awesome to see how players band together into their groups of survivors to discover them. Grief is an interesting, last man standing mode where two teams attempt to kill each other not with bullets, but with zombies. The goal is to lure the zombies to the other team in order to eliminate them. This tends to go back and forth for a while and was a lot of fun to partake in.
Unfortunately, it seems that in certain instances the developers have over reached in their attempt at expanding the game’s design. The Strike Force missions, for example, are one of these instances. These are side missions unlocked by playing through the campaign and performing various objectives. They don’t feature any central characters but, instead, feature a squad of units (of various types) for the player to control. The problem is that this mode is trying to be part-FPS, part-RTS, and part multiplayer mode (in terms of how its goals are laid out) and doesn’t do any one of them particularly well. The RTS element of controlling your units by clicking locations for them to go is clunky and the AI is not all that great – so you can’t ever truly depend on them to handle taking on the enemy. This means you have to jump into the shoes (or robotic feet) of those units and manually control them. This, however, leads to a loss of situational awareness and overall unit control as you get sucked into the shooter game. The Strike Force game mode simply did not feel like it should have been included into the game’s campaign. I would have instead liked to have seen them be a co-op game type as that would be a lot more efficient way to play them.
If you have played EA’s Medal of Honor Warfighter, you have no doubt experienced the very on-rails sequences of that game where you really did not have to do anything to complete them. The game almost ran itself in those cases. Well, the on-rails sequences of Black Ops 2 are not usually that rigid, thankfully. Unfortunately, these sequences are sometimes not rigid enough in terms of pushing the player to do something and then punishing them for a bit of free-thinking. For example: Just because my character took cover behind a different column than the guy I am following (even though it was only a few meters away), I was taken out by an enemy drone. Thing is, the drone never got me in its spotlight or even fired a shot – it was simply a logic issue. I wasn’t exactly on the pinpoint spot where I needed to be – so the game assumed I died and killed me accordingly (when my column was just as good). It is clumsy things like that the create a lot of frustration for players. It is most frustrating when you experience these moments in the midst of the sometimes-brilliant moments that Black Ops 2 offers. The contrast between the brilliance and the frustration is palpable. How can the game be so much fun and so slick and then suddenly be clumsy and frustrating?!?
Visually, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is very impressive, with some great environments to roam through either in the campaign or multiplayer/zombies modes. The Los Angeles level of the campaign is my personal favorite – despite a somewhat clumsy flight sequence.
Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a very fun shooter with a gripping campaign and fun multiplayer components. It’s almost like getting three games for the price of one. Just try to enjoy its many excellent qualities and not get too frustrated with its qualities less-than-so.
[easyreview title=”Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″] Our Rating Scores Explained
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- Intriguing campaign with interesting characters
- Player decisions and success affects storyline
- New “Zombies” multiplayer modes
- Great new load-out customization system
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- The game is, at times, very frustrating due to some clunky gameplay mechanics
- The AI sometimes just doesn’t respond in Strike Force missions