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Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Thursday 29 November 2012Comments Off

Available on 360, PS3 and PC l Published by Activision l Developed by Treyarch l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1-18 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Activision’s annual FPS series is back but this time things are a little different. Developer Treyarch has added some nice touches to a formula that was quickly losing its lustre. Branching storylines, a more customisable multiplayer experience and a new and improved zombie mode all add enough to make this a sequel worth considering. It may not be a revolution, but Black Ops 2 is certainly a welcome evolution.

REVIEW IN FULL > Is there actually a need to review a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (BLOPS 2)? The Call of Duty formula is pretty well established by now and since the break through title, Modern Warfare, the franchise has barely set foot outside of its well-worn conventions. A single player campaign that guides you from one ridiculous set piece to another and an addictive competitive multiplayer mode with progressive unlocking of abilities has been the foundation the series has built a massive following on.

My choices in the game create divergent storylines, which lead to different endings. It’s no Mass Effect but I am keen to play again to see how things differ.

Call of Duty sells exactly one bajillion copies every year (bajillion being the unit of measurement that only came into existence to describe COD’s sales) yet there is a sense that people are growing tired of the same repeated experience. So to review this game I am taking a different approach. I am not going to comment on the graphics, sound or even the core mechanics, as these are largely unchanged. What I am going to talk about are the new features that Treyarch has managed to inject into the three main components of BLOPS 2 and why they may just be enough to convince even the most jaded fan that there is still fun to be had in this playground.

Part 1 (All By Myself): The single player campaign is where the majority of refinements have taken place. As with the original BLOPS, the story is focused on a government conspiracy and how it will affect the globe as a whole. It’s as cheesy as you would expect, but despite some confusing turns and a somewhat lame ending, there is enough here to satisfy most players. It is very much in the mould of a Robert Ludlum novel, which I personally appreciate more than the gung-ho heroics of the Modern Warfare games. The biggest change to structure is the addition of branching paths. My choices in the game create divergent storylines, which lead to different endings. It’s no Mass Effect but I am keen to go back and play again to see how things differ.

The second new feature is the inclusion of Strike Force missions. These squad based challenges have me controlling a group of units as they set out to achieve a series of goals. I can take command of them individually and fight my way to the goal as a soldier or I can take a more strategic approach and control the battlefield from above, directing units and controlling points, much as I would in an RTS game. While this mode has a few issues, noticeably an excess of micro management, it is a nice way to break up the story and add a little gameplay variety to the mix.

Part 2 (Without a Little Help From My Friends): The zombie themed horde mode from the previous BLOPS returns and I’m having a lot of fun with this revised co-op experience. Instead of one map per match like the previous game, there is now a series of consecutive maps that are linked together by a bus trip. Missing the bus is not a good idea. While there is technically the possibility of walking to the next location, I suspect only Woody Harrelson would stand a chance at actually making it though the infested mists.

Each map has weapons, barriers and revival tools that can be purchased using points earned for each kill and it’s essential to pick the right weapons for the right occasion. For example a shotgun is a perfect solution for only a few zombies but once the numbers start to ramp up, its slow rate of fire is a massive hindrance. This zombie mode could quite easily be its own standalone downloadable title, which makes its inclusion in BLOPS 2 a welcome dose of added value.

I can chop and change my perks, loadouts and abilities with much more freedom than I’m used to with a COD game.

Part 3 (No More Mr Nice Guy): There’s quite bit to like about the revamped competitive modes. For starters, there is a lot more customisation to be found. I can chop and change my perks, loadouts and abilities with much more freedom than I’m used to with a COD game. Each class setup has 10 points allocated to it and each weapon, attachment, perk or grenade uses one of those points. This allows me to really focus on a style of play that suits me. I very rarely use my secondary weapon or tactical grenades, which means I can get rid of them and have an extra perk or attachment on my gun. It’s so refreshing to have this much flexibility.

There are also a handful of new multiplayer game types, the most significant being league play. Here I’m matched with people of similar skill, based on my past performances, and compete for league trophies and awards. The matchmaking seemed to work very well and I usually find the scores for each of my competitors to be very similar to my own.

These additions to the COD formula make BLOPS 2 worth a look. There are some rough edges, but the sheer amount of content that Treyarch has packed in means that this represents the best value for money the series has ever seen.  If, like me, you are wondering if COD can still offer something a little different, then worry no longer. BLOPS 2 may not be a revolution but it has certainly gone out of its way to spice things up a bit. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war to get back to….

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