Activision have created an empire, there’s not doubt about that. Call of Duty: Black Ops II continues the legacy of said empire and is the latest blockbuster gaming release from arguably the kings of the FPS genre. Does Black Ops II live up to its predecessors, or is it a release too far? Read on to find out.
Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
The campaign has always been a side show to Call of Duty’s online prowess, but whether or not it’s Activision’s favourite child, the stories they have come up with over the years for campaign mode have always been nothing short of fantastic. Activision always create a story full of drama, emotion, action and adventure. I am happy to tell you, this year is no different.
The story is set in not just one time zone, but two. David Mason is the main protagonist, son of Alex Mason from the previous Black Ops. You take control of Mason through 2025 trying to find and capture the international terrorist Raul Menendez. In your search you “stumble” across Frank Woods, the man who raised you after your father died. Woods recounts his days with Mason’s father back in the 70/80’s trying to capture a youthful Menendez. In true Call of Duty fashion, the story has plenty of twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the end. Treyarch has done a magnificent job in creating a cinematic experience with just the right amount of cutscenes and action.
To spice the usual formula up a little, Treyarch has introduced branching storylines into Black Ops II. Your decisions impact the way the story in your playthrough goes, giving you alternate endings and, in the process, essentially handing all the story-based power to you. This type of mechanic is becoming increasingly popular with most titles featuring story modes, but a brand new and most welcome addition to a Call of Duty game.
The story is definitely fun to play through, even delivering a very surprising end cutscene that some may love, but others may find extremely strange. Nevertheless Black Ops 2 does a great job of building on the foundation of Black Ops, with a lot of character development, emotional plot twists and fast, gripping action.
The brilliance of the story is only furthered by stunning visuals. As someone who has fairly critical views on a game visuals, I was very impressed by the character models in campaign as well as the environments surrounding you. Voices matched up perfectly with characters as they spoke and movements were natural. If there was any issue with the graphics, it has to be the online character models, but with the action so fast-paced in that domain you rarely get time to notice anyway.
Treyarch has done an outstanding job with the soundtrack to Black Ops II. They have the usual narrative over online maps, but it’s in the campaign and menus where the sound blows you away. The ominous dark tones set the mood perfectly for the missions and the character voices are expertly cast.
Honestly, when it comes to the single player, this is the most disappointing part of the game. It’s not that the gameplay is poor, Black Ops II plays as well as any other Call of Duty title. The problem is there has been no evolution, no improvements and only minor changes. Whilst gamers adapt and evolve, Call of Duty has stayed where it was years ago. There have been some additions to the game, such as a heavy use of vehicles and animals (horses, to be precise), but other than that Treyarch hasn’t made too many changes to the usual formula. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” could be applied, but gamers are fickle and the developers have missed a golden opportunity to push the boundaries of the FPS genre.
Of course the zombies are back again. This is a part of the game that can sometimes get overlooked, but is a fantastic side portion to compliment the campaign and online modes. Playing online with friends or even strangers, fighting off zombies can be a lot of fun and is a nice get away from the usual maps you get online.
On surface it might seem like not much has changed, but delve a little deeper into the world of Black Ops II online and you’ll find that Treyarch has made some fantastic improvements to this particular portion of the game. Most of the usual modes are present with some new maps to help keep things fresh, but it’s the addition of score streaks rather than kill streaks that really help mix up the online facet of the game. You get points for everything you do, and if you build enough enough of a score without dying you’ll get access to a variety of different streak perks such as care packages, UAVs and attack helicopters. Then there’s the slot system, giving you ten spaces to use as you see fit. Don’t want a second weapon because you’d rather have an extra perk slot? Sure, you can do exactly that. The power is in your hands, you are let loose to create your set-up as you see fit.
In addition to the above, credit must be given to Treyarch for creating maps that attempt to stamp out those annoying campers. Whilst you will still comes across the occasional teenager camping out in a building or corner, the design of most of the maps in the game is geared towards players who don’t sit one spot the entire match. This approach from Treyarch is great and, dare I say, helps to deliver online battles that are fun rather than frustrating. Another great addition is the CODcasting feature, allowing you to watch matches as they’re happening and comment on them. It’s a godsend for the e-sports and streaming community, and something that more developers should look into doing, especially with sports titles. In terms of multiplayer, it would be fair to say Black Ops II is the best addition to the Call of Duty series since the original Modern Warfare, and that’s some compliment.
The majority of Call of Duty developers have always been able to create games that you will keep you playing them until the release of the next iteration. It’s something that’s been a staple of the franchise, and is most certainly prominent here in Black Ops II. The online maps and leveling system is in place to keep you coming back for more, just make sure you take a break and don’t get too addicted though.
Jam packed with top notch visuals and a cinematic campaign, Black Ops II is a fantastic addition to the Call of Duty series. Whilst the core gameplay hasn’t evolved too much, Treyarch has made some fantastic improvements to the online facet of the game. These changes not only help balance proceedings, but keep the biggest part of the game fresh, ensuring that you’ll be happily playing Black Ops II until the next addition to the popular series.