Published on November 18th, 2012 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], Playstation 3, PC and Wii U
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2012
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
Here it is another November and that means another Call of Duty game is flooding the marketplace. If we take a step backward, some of you may recall that I was actually fond of the first Call of Duty: Black Ops–but was extremely disappointed with what was given to us last year. Coming into Black Ops 2 I remained optimistic and hoped that the fallout of last year’s release was due in part of Infinity Ward breaking apart.
In many ways I may, again, take some heat for this review, and may even be looked at as the “Simon Cowell” of GAMINGtruth, but I have to look at the game in a professional way and as a consumer, a fact which I think many reviewers tend to get out of touch with.
I’ll start off by saying that Black Ops 2 is by far the most ambitious title in the Call of Duty franchise since the original Modern Warfare in 2007. The campaign does try to add some new experiences that you have not had before in the franchise. From horseback riding through the desert or even the time period change to feature some futuristic weaponry, Black Ops 2 does hit the mark. However it is the remaining 80 percent of the game I have concerns with.
The game does open in intense fashion. We follow the characters that we have enjoyed from the previous Black Ops and follow them in two different time periods: the year 2025 and flashbacks to periods of the Cold War. The narrative follows an old Frank Wood as he tells the story of your efforts to stop Raul Menendez from his master plan to destroy the United States.
There are moments within the campaign that let you make choices that could alter the story and whether key characters live or die. These decisive moments are not common to the franchise and are a breath of fresh air. If you feel at some point you might have made an error in judgement there is a new rewind feature that will let you replay levels so that you can see the different outcomes of key decisions.
Each mission allows you to change your loadout, and customize which weapons and equipment to bring into the battlefield. Each mission also gives players different challenges to complete to help Unlock load out items and adds to the replay ability.
Also added to the campaign are Strike Missions that puts the player in a large group of AI teammates. The cool thing about this new mission structure is that you can interchange between assets you wish to control. You are given teammates in objectives that would either have you escorting a convoy or rescuing hostages. The theme is always to shoot as many enemies as you can. Even though your AI partners won’t do much to help you, so prepare to hold much of the burden.
Even with the added gameplay elements the game still feels underwhelming. The story is decent, at best, but the one lingering facts that I can not wrap my mind around is it still feels like I have done this all before year after year.
The environments are lush, but feel that they have been used before. This means that the game engine has still not received its much necessary upgrade since Modern Warfare 2. The engine is really showing its age in this title. Clipping and draw distance is becoming more of a problem than in the past. Character animations seem to be non responsive and walk seamlessly right through environments.
The AI is another problem. Whether it’s your partner or the enemy, it’s just awful. Countless times I have walked right up to an enemy and shot him without him budging from his cover, or an enemy runs right past all my teammates and shoots me in the face with a rocket launcher. That bit doesn’t concern me as much as it used to, due to the fact that all of the past Call of Duty games were never very strong in the AI department. However in this day and age I would have thought that some stronger effort would be added.
The heart and soul of any Call of Duty game is the competitive multiplayer. I am pleased to say that the way that Black Ops 2 has made adjustments. The loadout is creative; you now assign points to different areas of your loadout, which include guns, attachments, perks, lethal and tactical items. For example, let’s say that you are someone who hardly uses a secondary weapon, such as pistols. You can use that point that would be assigned for it to unlock another perk if you need it.
The point system from the previous game have been abandoned and are replaced with a token system which will give you a little bit more control over how you unlock certain weapons and the order in which they become available.
The game’s multiplayer modes are nothing new here. You still have your traditional team deathmatch, and squad based fast paced action, however there is one objection to Black Ops 2 that I would like to see stay with the Call of Duty franchise.
League mode is just what the franchise needed. Essentially, when you enter league play you are thrown into a couple of different matches, and the game will calculate your skill level. Once the game has a particular skill level for you, your then placed into a division among your league. Every league game you play will be against other players who place roughly around the same skill as you. You can go up and down the ladder as you continue to play, which can affect your league as well. League play does add that element of evening out the competition, however when you earn experience points from that matches, it’s minimal compared to other game types.
There is also a very cool integration of YouTube with the league matches. You are able to livestream your matches directly to YouTube and share them with the world. You can also watch previous matches, create highlight reels and share in game images with the community.
Treyarch can’t make a Call of Duty game without the famous zombies multiplayer mode. This was, however, probably one of the bigger disappointments in Black Ops 2. Sure the mode is still challenging and can become frantic, but it has become the same ol’ thing all over again. When other games have come out with the zombie co-op survival theme in mind, the Call of Duty way has become a bit boring. The environments are blocky and look very bland. Even when the cracks of fire send a zombie into flames, the environments become even more disturbing and less appealing.
Call of Duty has been a huge success for Activision and fans turn out in droves to the midnight or day one launch just to get their hands on the latest and greatest in the long-running series. It just seems, however, the series is getting more and more stale with each incarnation. Last year’s Modern Warfare 3 was a major disappointment, and even though Black Ops 2 is better than what was given to us last year, it’s still lacking the fundamental change and excitement that the series used to have.
Even the always fun zombie mode was a let down and for a game that thrives on competitive multiplayer and now zombies leave much more to be desired. I just hope that developers that now take the reigns of the franchise take the time to give the game a solid re-fresher and actually take the time and money to build a new game engine and give the game the polish it needs.
+ League Mode
+ Campaign loadouts
+ Community sharing
+/- Decent Story
– Re-hashed game engine
– Ugly environments
– Zombie Mode