Call of Duty Black Ops II: catchup review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, Wii U, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Treyarch
  • Players: 1-2 (offline), 2-18 (online)
  • Site:

After the bombastic end to the Modern Warfare series with Modern Warfare 3, Treyarch take the Call of Duty reins again with a sequel to Black Ops. In a first for the series, the game is set in the future, and has a more sci-fi feel than its more grounded predecessors. It’s a bold move to take the franchise in a different direction, but is this a positive step forward for the series, or is it a mis-step?

The single player campaign is set in the 1980s during the final years of the Cold War, with a connected storyline taking place during a second Cold War in the year 2025. Alex Mason from the original Black Ops returns as the main protagonist during the 1980s section, which features the rise of the principal bad guy of the piece Raul Menendez, who is a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist and leader of the Cordis Die movement. The sections set during 2025 star Alex Mason’s son David, with a backdrop of a new Cold War between the US and China. In this future era, warfare features robots, unmanned vehicles and cyberwarfare. The game starts with David Mason and his partner Harper visiting an ageing Frank Woods from the original Black Ops in what looks like a fortified old folks home, who they suspect has information relating to the whereabouts of the dangerous Menendez. Woods eventually tells them that Menendez recently visited him, and left him with a locket. He then tells them about previous covert missions that he was involved in, and his encounters with Menendez, which leads the player into some flashback missions.

The single player campaign is actually quite dull.

The single player campaign is quite short, and features a branching storyline that changes depending on the player’s actions. This is an interesting change to the formula, and encourages you to replay the campaign to see how they can affect the outcome of the game. The game is also slightly less linear than normal, and gives you some different routes to take through the levels; although it’s nowhere near the open world of Far Cry 3. Another new feature is the addition of Strike Force missions, which are set in 2025 and have the player take control of assets like robots, jets and unmanned aerial vehicles. You also have a squad that you can order to attack or defend parts of the map. Unfortunately the AI is poor and your allies always seem to sit in the corner of the map doing nothing, which leaves you to enter the fray and complete the objectives at hand. There are six such missions in total (which are optional) and they do affect the overall campaign story, which means success or failure can change the course of the Cold War, and also the actions of Menendez himself. The campaign itself is actually pretty bland considering the futuristic setting, and the technological wizardry on offer. Most of the levels consist of simply clearing an area of bad guys, and moving on to the next objective. The only standout level was the mission that sees you infiltrate the enemy base by using wingsuits, but unfortunately this part of the level was very brief, and led into another enemy fortress turkey shoot. We normally really enjoy Call of Duty single player campaigns, but this one felt really dull, with a distinct lack of the set pieces that the series is known for.

Zombie mode sees you move around an apocalyptic setting in an old bus.

Treyarch brought the co-op zombie mode to Call of Duty, and this mode returns in Black Ops II, but with the addition of a more open ended approach in the new mode Tranzit. In this new mode there is an apocalyptic world to explore, as you hop on an old bus and visit different locations. The places that you visit contain different parts that you can scavenge, and use to make defences or other pieces of equipment. You can also unlock various side quests, which helps expand the experience. You can also play the standard survival mode with its increasingly more intense waves of zombies if you so wish. The addition of Grief mode to the formula helps mix things up a bit, by pitting two teams of humans against the zombie hordes, with the winner being the team that can survive the longest. You can’t actually kill your opponents, but slow them down by shooting or knifing them, and leave them at the mercy of the walking dead. The zombie mode has always been a lot of fun with friends, and this expansion to the formula is welcome.

The multiplayer maps are well designed, with a good diverse selection to play.

Now most people buy Call of Duty for its multiplayer, and this is where Black Ops II excels. The game has been tweaked from the previous entry in the series, and now you can have multi-team games involving three or more teams instead of the stock two. You can also now customise your player using the Create-a-Class feature. You are given 10 points to spend on weapons, attachments and perks, which each cost a point each. You are also given up to three Wildcards, which you can use to add say three attachments to a weapon. The game also introduces Scorestreaks, which are similar to Pointstreaks from Modern Warfare 3. This means players are rewarded for reaching a particular score in a single life, so if you capture a flag, get a kill or an assist, the points all go towards the reward. Treyarch have also added a new game mode in Hardpoint, where the teams must rush to secure a ‘hardpoint’ on the map, and then hold it from enemy forces. There is a good selection of diverse maps to play, from a derelict aircraft carrier to the close quarters gameplay on an abandoned yacht, and the emphasis on teamplay rather than the lone wolf out to keep their kill/death ratio up, makes the game a lot more satisfying than its predecessors.

Black Ops II should be applauded for trying to innovate, but it all feels halfhearted, and it just doesn’t come together very well. The campaign is lacklustre, with a distinct lack of the set pieces that the series is renowned for. The zombie mode is still a lot of fun although it isn’t as groundbreaking as before, and the multiplayer is as enjoyable as ever with a good selection of maps, and tweaks to the age old gameplay. We just hope that with the next generation of consoles on the horizon, the Call of Duty franchise has the confidence to do things differently, in that the extra power the next gen brings inspires some true innovation – as it’s a series that is looking tired, and in need of fresh ideas.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

Leave a Reply