We’ve come to expect a new Call of Duty game in the fall of every year, and 2012 is no different, with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II – a sequel to one of the best COD games to date. So with the Black Ops pedigree in hand, does BO2 carry the torch? Absolutely!
Developed by Treyarch, the single-player campaign mixes things up this time by letting gamers take on the role of various characters including Alex Mason, David Mason (Alex’s son) and Sgt. Frank Woods, in a story that puts you in various time periods from the Cold War Era to 2025. You’re target – Raul Menendez, a villain whose character has a nice bit of back-story that continues to wreak havoc throughout the years. And while you just can’t wait to kill the guy off, there are parts of his story that you can sympathize with and that’s unique in its own way.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Modern Warfare 3, I found the campaign’s story to be a little convoluted and confusing, which is clearly not the case with Black Ops II. In fact, I’ll go out and say that the story is by far one of the better ones in the series. Not just for the mechanics of traveling through time periods, but of how player choice plays a key role in the game’s outcome, which ultimately encourages a second or maybe even third playthrough if you weren’t satisfied by how the game’s culminates. In addition, players will dive into the new Strike Force missions, that let you take control over a team of soldiers to complete a series of tasks that also play a part in the main story, which is also a nice change of pace.
With a satisfying story in its back pocket, where the game truly shines, again, is in multiplayer. Obviously MP is where it’s at, but rather than just put a new coat of paint on what is already one of the best multiplayer experiences in this generation of shooters (or any), Treyarch created a huge emphasis on loadouts, which adds a whole new level of awesomeness to the experience. As noted in previous previews, gamers will have the new Pick 10 system at their disposal. Basically this gives players a canvas of 10 items they can use for their class, with every weapon, perk, or grenade type counting as one. Feel like going into a multiplayer match with no guns? Sure go right ahead; maybe you can take a knife, a few grenades, the ability to scavenger and stay quiet. There are endless combinations for you to create; opening up all sorts of cool possibilities. Another set of changes is that perks will now affect your character and not the weapon you’re using so if you want to tweak your weapon, you’ll need to find the appropriate attachment to do so. Also, players will quickly notice that during matches, it’s all about the Score Streak now, instead of the Kill Streak, so you’ll have a higher focus on helping the team as opposed to simply worrying about how many kills you got.
You’ve got all the multiplayer mode favorites in the bag like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc. but you can also now have multi-team matches for modes like Kill Confirmed and there’s also Hardpoint, which tasks your team with first capturing specific points on the map and then defending it for as long as possible. Beginners can also jump into the action against bots up to Level 10 (technically you can go higher but won’t earn as much XP) in order to polish their skills before facing real players, which is a nice addition for those who aren’t exactly up to par.
Of course you can also create videos of your best moments and upload them to Call of Duty Elite or use COD Casting to stream live gameplay. League Play is also included in the game, which lets players create teams with custom names and emblems and battle it out with other teams as they work their way up to higher tiers.
And then of course there’s those blasted zombies! You’ll find Survival Mode and Grief Mode, with the latter pitting two teams against each other to see who can survive the longest. And while Survival Mode is still fun, it just can’t beat Tranzit; a sort of quazi campaign that has all sorts of comical goodness. It’s a huge world created for Zombies that has you jumping onto a bus to get to various areas, capped off by a funny robotic bus driver. There’s not really a “story” per se but is open enough to let you explore and dig up interesting stuff along the way.
I applaud Treyarch for trying some different things with Black Ops II, ultimately evolving the franchise in a way that feels familiar yet fresh. They could have easily stuck to the basic formula that has made the past few games so successful, but excellent tweaks to multiplayer, an uber fun Zombies mode and a fleshed out campaign make this my favorite Call of Duty game thus far.
(Stay tuned for a review of the Wii U version)