Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Released: November 13th 2012
The Call Of Duty series is a good representation of the current console generation in more than one way: new release every year, tons of downloadable content and a repeated but valid gameplay forumula.
This is probably the reason why Activision prefered making a sequel to Black Ops rather than making another Modern Warfare game: developer Treyarch tried to give a fresh spin to the standard Call Of Duty formula in both single player campaign and multiplayer: an engaging and mature plot with an unexpected ending definitely helped raising the bar in First Person Shooters storytelling.
In Black Ops 2 Treyrach went even further by adding a branching storyline with multiple ending, expanding the Zombie mode of the first game and polishing its game to the best they could.
The past makes what we are now
Let me say right away that the game’s plot is really well done: the story was written by David Gover who also wrote the plot for the recent Batman movies and it manages to stay compelling from beginning to end.
Players will take the role of Alex Mason during the Cold War sections, witnessing the rise to fame of Raul Menendez, a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist and leader of “Cordis Die”, a populist political movement celebrated as the champions of the victims of economic inequality. The game also features missions set into the future where players will control Alex son, David, as he fights during a new Cold War between China and the United States, a war caused by the action of the same Menendez Alex fought. I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers but believe me when I say the plot is coherent in almost every way and the past and future sections are well connected without resorting to some arbitrary gimmick.
Like I said before, the game has a branching storyline where players’ choices will impact the plot and ultimately the ending: the best thing about this system is that choices aren’t always obvious and more than once you can deviate from the main objective to search for clues for a possible branch of the storyline. Thanks to this replay value for the single player campaign is really high: the main game lasts around 7 hours but if players really want to discover all possible variations they’re in for a long, long time.
Treyarch really set a new standard for storytelling in First Person Shooters: there’s never a dull or empty moment; players may feel a little confused at first since the game constantly throws at you new story elements but once you reach one of the endings you’ll finally be able to understand all the events that brought to the story’s conclusion.
Your orders, sir?
Gameplay wise there are two additions to the formula that really help keeping monotony at bay: Strikeforce missions and Weapons choosing before each mission. Strikeforce missions are only available after some story missions and they’re a good variation to the standard formula: they almost play like Real Time Strategy games, where player will be able to lead troops and vehicles while taking active part in the fight in the usual first person view. The Strikeforce missions don’t really last too long and the RTS component could have been handled better since controls are a bit clunky and the AI is not really up to the task: having to complete the mission in very little time most players will just prefer to do everything themselves without relying too much on the artificial intelligence. With a little more tweaking it could have been an excellent gameplay element but as it stands now the Strikeforce missions are more important from a narrative point of view rather than a gameplay one.
Another welcome addition is the ability to choose your weapons before each story mission: after every stage you’ll unlock a variety of weapons and by completing challenges you’ll also be able to improve some of your abilities like reload time, more damage to enemies, faster movement speed and so on. The Access Kit plays a big role in expanding your arsenal allowing players to access otherwise unreachable areas.
All the perks and extra arsenal options are not required to complete the game: Normal difficulty is really easy. This is a shame because level design really shines in Black Ops 2 with big maps full of intricacies, objects and of course enemies: the best thing is that the “on rail” moments are mostly limited to indoors while the outdoor sections allow players to take the route of their choice and actually give an incentive to explore the maps fully.
Playing on harder difficulties makes the enemies smarter and the player sustain more damage making using the level design to your advantage an absolute necessity.
Time for some teamwork
As one would expect, Multiplayer shows the same amount of polish as the single player campaign. Two elements make the online modes shine: Customization and Teamwork. During character creation, when choosing your class, you’ll have ten slots to fill to your liking: each piece of loadout has a price and you can assign pieces until you fit the 10 slots. This system allows for heavy customization: it makes players experiment with their equipments and perks and pushes them to specialize in a specific field since you’ll only get a single token after leveling up to buy upgrades and the level cap won’t allow players to buy all upgrades. The system shines even more considering the Teamwork nature of the multiplayer modes: single kills don’t count as much as reaching the objectives in each map. Winning in multiplayer matches also grants a special token each time and once players have gathered more they’ll be able to unlock more than 20 Scorestreaks.
Treyarch has managed to create a balanced multiplayer experience, where playing online like you would in Modern Warfare games won’t be effective at all: everything is very well thought out and there’s hardly any overpowered abusable element.
Zombies, zombies everywhere
Treyarch loves zombies and zombies will love eating the poor players of Black Ops 2. Zombie mode gets a full campaign this time, even though calling it campaign like the story one is a bit of stretch. It features enough to be a stand alone mode though: during zombie mode players will have to fight wave after wave of zombies. To help them in this task they can use the Bus which is used to travel around the map; also, by picking up objects, you’ll be able to create different items near tables which will help you fend off zombies and reaches unaccessible area. This feature could have been done better: there’s no way to tell if an item can be picked up so you’ll end up pressing the button near most items, hoping you’ll be able to use it in item creation. Zombie mode also features different play modes and serves like a nice diversion from the main game.
THAT’s an explosion
Presentation wise Black Ops 2 is better than Modern Warfare 3: Treyarch promised to shorten the technical gap between Pc and Console versions and they delivered what they promised. The game moves at a steady 60 FPS and features detailed characters models and improved lighting and shades. Night missions are really well done and the day time mission show how much care has been put even on the graphics even though some textures are not really top notch. Cutscenes direction is excellent with many cinematic moments, improved by the soundtrack created by famous Industrial musician Trent Reznor.
Enough talk, it’s time to save the world
Treyarch really delivered in every aspect. The game is fun from beginning to end, packed with content, together with a masterfully crafted multiplayer mode: there’s really nothing major that will prevent players to enjoy the game to the fullest. Some things could have been done differently, like the Strikeforce missions and overall difficulty levels but everything else is really the best available today. In my modest opinion, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the best game in the series so far.
- Excellent story
- Gameplay variety
- Branching storyline
- Customization options
- Tons of content
- Multiplayer modes
- Normal difficulty is too easy
- Clunky controls during Strikeforce missions
9 out of 10
Article from Gamersyndrome.com