This year Treyarch promised us some sizable changes with its sequel Call of Duty Black Ops 2. They did carry out their goals of a new branching campaign, expanded zombies, and new take on multiplayer customizations. But even though they kept their promise these changes aren’t all for the best. The game is still a blast to play but at times I was really missing some of the parts that made Black Ops 1 so addicting.
Over the last few years the Campaign in the Call of Duty games (both Modern Warfare and Black Ops) have all played out like a Michael Bay movie, lots of fast paced action with large over the top explosions and stunts, and a storyline that is only surface deep and all over the place. In Black Ops 2 the story is a bit more refined and to the point then in years past, plus a bit deeper. The Campaign takes place in the near future as the son of Alex Mason, David, is on the hunt for Raul Menendez during the new cold war between China and the United States. The path to Menendez begins at “the vault” where it is discovered that Frank Woods is being kept there. The story then jumps between the near future to a time just after Black Ops 1 where you play out the original hunt for Menendez that was led by Alex Mason and Woods. I was a bit surprised with the story, my biggest issue with the past games is the story encompassed so many different characters that it got so confusing on what the focus was. Now it’s pretty much a group of good guys hunting a bad guy, and along the way they encounter some problems. I also really enjoyed the flashback levels which give us the back-story into what caused Menendez to get to his current evilness.
As you progress in the story you’ll come across one of the game’s new features, “Strike Force Missions” These timed missions have you taking over command of multiple units in a small scenario based level. The missions take place on the game’s multiplayer maps and can vary from defending positions to hacking and attacking positions. Completing or failing these missions will alter the ending of the game. While the mode sounds fun I found it incredibly frustrating at times. The biggest issue is the shoddy AI. Setting a waypoint for different units of your team will move that unit to the position but unless you take control of them they won’t do a good job attacking or defending. It also doesn’t help that the enemy AI has no real plan other than attack in numbers so you can’t really make a strategy other than attack in force and hope you just make it in time.
While the career is decent, the big part everyone looks forward to in a CoD game is the multiplayer, and multiplayer remains strong this year, though not quite as good as MW3 and Black Ops 1. This year the team at Treyarch focused on giving gamers more customization options. Every class you build is limited to 10 items, so you can mix and match all you want. For instance you can carry only a primary weapon then use a new “Wildcard” which gives you the ability to use 3 attachments, then you could use another “wildcard” giving you an extra perk in one perk group. But you will be limited to 10 items so you might have to give up your secondary weapon, and your grenades to do this. It’s a neat system but takes a little work getting your build-outs just right.
Gone in Black Ops 2 are the Killstreaks, now players have “Scorestreaks”. Instead of requiring you to get X number of kills to get a sweet unlock, you now have to earn a set number of points. Points can be earned in many ways from kills, flag/domination captures, to even getting a couple of points for making “Scorestreak” kills. We saw a similar change in MW3, but in MW3 they split the streaks up in different groups, one being the “Support” group allowing you to carry over the progress to a streak after death, I kinda miss this aspect in “scorestreaks”
Another new aspect of multiplayer is the “League Play”. This is a new ladder ranked mode where your Clan or just you solo can fight it out for the top spot. There will be different League seasons with the ladders rebooting each season. In League Play you can also use the game’s new Livestreaming function which allows you to stream your gameplay to Call of Duty Elite and even your own Youtube channel. This will be a great tool for big clans to show off their skills. Livestreaming is only available in League Play and not in the normal multiplayer mode.
And now my favorite part of Treyarch COD games, ZOMBIES. Zombie mode is back and bigger then ever. For fans of the mode your normal Survival mode is there but there is also two new modes “Grief” and “Tranzit”. Grief is a competitive mode set in a zombie map, one team is CIA the other team is the CDC. While you can’t kill each other you can slow each other down and let the zombies do their work. You’ll also be able to score power-ups like throwing a pice of meat at an opposing player to attract the zombies. The mode sounds interesting but it’s not the best, I would have rather seen a straight-up Team Deathmatch with lot’s of free roaming zombies. Each game of Grief I played ended in under 3 rounds, and most of the time there was no need for power-ups, just let some zombies in then stab the other team to stun them.
Tranzit on the other hand is pretty neat, the gist of the mode is you move via a robo-bus from one area to another. If you don’t get on the bus you’ll be stuck in the area until the bus returns. However as neat as the mode is there is one big issue, and that is they give you NO direction at all. A major part of the mode is finding parts int he world to build items, like a power turbine, or a zombie shield, but the parts don’t have any indication in the world that will make them stand-out, plus each blue-print doesn’t give you an idea of what parts you need. I would find a part in a section then try to add it to the blueprint and it would tell me it’s not the right part. Even though it’s a headache building the items, they do add to the gameplay and strategy as you’ll need a turbine with you to open doors or power the machines in the world. Bottom-line Zombies Survival is still good the new modes are a mixed bag, but it will be interesting to see how new zombie maps progress the new Tranzit mode.
Overall Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is a solid game. While it’s nowhere near the big steps forward that we saw in the first Black Ops, the campaign is solid and enjoyable, the new multiplayer League Play is addicting and Zombies never gets old. The game continues to be visually stunning, lots of explosions lots of eye candy, and if you got a good surround sound system you should crank the volume cause all the action around you is insane. Strike Force mode falls a bit flat, and the new Zombie modes aren’t quite as good as original Survival but there is enough in the rest of the game to keep you sucked in for hours on end. Call of Duty Black Ops 2 will make a great gift for any COD fan this holiday season.
A copy of Call of Duty Black Ops 2 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review by Activision