Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

By Spencer Pressly on November 21, 2012

Love it or hate it the popularity of the Call of Duty franchise is hard to deny. The series is often called out for being the same game every year, but this time Treyarch has decided to try something rather different with Black Ops 2. The game now focuses on a futuristic setting, with new multiplayer systems, and a more robust zombies mode. There is no denying the sheer depth of content, but do all these changes lead to a totally different Call Of Duty?

While most people just jump right into the game's multiplayer, the Black Ops 2 campaign has more to offer than most might expect. Continuing with the characters from the original Black Ops, you spend most of your time playing missions in 2025 and playing out flashback during the cold war era. Playing the original Black Ops will neither help nor hinder in going through this story. At first it starts off like any other, but soon turns things on its heads by offering a rather interesting story about revenge and discovering the past.

For once the villain is actually much more than a bad guy who is evil for no real reason. Early on you realize where all the characters' motives are and this is above and beyond what most people would expect from a Call Of Duty game's story. After playing for an hour the game seems to offer a totally new experience. Also surprisingly the story has you making decisions that can drastically change the game's ending, making sure the campaign has some real replay value.

The strike force missions, something new to Call of Duty, offer a tactical way of play. However, the learning here comes across as quite confusing and arduous. Still this type of mission allows you to control where units go and where they should attack. You can also control individual units on a mission. The idea for these strike force missions is good in theory, and it's been tried before in the past, but the only surefire way to guarantee victory is control a unit yourself. Hopefully in the future there will be a bigger focus on tactical options and better AI.

Not only does Black Ops 2 offer the best story in the franchise, but it sets a new standard for Infinity Ward to match in next year's title "“ if there is one. If you have consciously planned on ignoring the story like past titles, you will be seriously missing out. Still it's not like people go straight to the multiplayer without a reason and this time things take a big change.

While at its core the actual gameplay of running and gunning feels the same, the systems running this time lead to a different kind of multiplayer. The multiplayer takes place entirely in the year 2025 and uses future weapons only. Classes now rely on a new 10-point system where every gun, attachment, and perk cost a point to equip. This leads to a new kind of customization and freedom in making a custom class. There are also new wildcards that allow different options such as more than one kind of perk in a class.There are also some smaller changes to the multiplayer such as having a focus on smaller maps that leads to more encounters and moments of nothing happening. Returning modes from all the past games are back and the new mode, called Hard Point is a welcome addition. Each mode offered is sure to cater to you as long as you are a fan of multiplayer first person shooters. Getting to the 10th prestige will also take a considerable amount of time yet again.

Killstreaks are now gone and instead scorestreaks replace them. Instead of getting a certain reward to unlock after a certain number of kills, you get points for every action that helps unlock these bonuses. This includes kills, support, completing objectives, etc. and is a nice change of pace. No longer do you have to go in guns blazing to start using all the different rewards. On top of that, scorestreaks are much more difficult to obtain than killstreaks were and it helps to strike a fair balance that is a very welcome addition.

One of the other major changes to the multiplayer comes in the form of theater mode. This not only lets you watch previous matches with friends, but you can also livestream it so others can watch. If you have a camera and mic you can commentate the matches. However, at the moment theater mode rarely saves matches correctly and hopefully this will be sorted out in the future.

Most of the changes are mainly geared towards existing fans. So while the changes made are nice, don't expect to have a different opinion this time around. With a community that practically lives and breaths Call Of Duty, it is great to never worry about people being online. Still nothing beats getting a group of friends together and getting lost in the multiplayer.

Rounding out Black Ops 2 is what Treyarch is known best for and that is its Zombies Mode. This mode has now turned into something that rivals Left 4 Dead and is just a third of the total game. This time there are two more new modes. Along with classic survival mode there is Grief, where two teams of four see who can last the most and Tranzit Mode. These modes really flesh out the experience and find new ways to get the most out of the maps available.

Grief Mode proves to be more challenging than it sounds and is one of the most surprisingly fun modes in Black Ops 2. With two teams surviving round after round in order to make sure the other team can't revive their teammate. The only way you are able to affect the other team is by slightly stunning them and that is it. This level of challenge and need for cooperation makes spending time fly by when playing Grief Mode.The largest mode by far is Tranzit as it combines every map available on the disc into one. You move from area to area by catching a ride on a bus. Not only does it have every map to explore, but it also contains entirely new areas and easter eggs. The zombie mode also known for having a story developing underneath all of the killing and it is the definition of subtle. This time you get to experience all the new horrors of surviving with four all new characters. Each survivor lets bits of personality come out as you play, but it's nothing to bog the experience down.

As fun as each of these modes is, there is one big glaring issue at the moment and that is game freezing. This really leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you are in the middle of a match and all of the sudden everything just stops, forcing a reset. At the launch of one of the biggest releases in 2012, fans don't want to go through so much work just to enjoy Black Ops 2. The issues surrounding the game at launch don't stop there ranging from difficulty connecting to multiplayer and sound issues with zombies.

You think on a five year old (heavily modified) engine that small technical issues like this should be smoothed out before launch. Thankfully with spending this much time on the same engine, the game never seems to look bad at any time. Now it won't impress anyone visually, but the actual game surprises with the amount of bright setting and landing the mood in the story and zombie mode. It's nowhere close to the generic shooter setting of brown and greys, and it helps prove that Black Ops 2 is not like most modern shooters released.

Final Thoughts

Despite all of the changes made from the setting to gameplay, Black Ops 2 still feels like the same old Call Of Duty experience that you either love or hate. So unless you were waiting for a slightly deeper multiplayer, zombie mode, and a story mode that will keep you coming back, Black Ops 2 might not change how you view the series. Still with such a drastic changes that fans will notice, this was a bold risk and it completely paid off "“ aside from all the glitches.

Memorable story moments.
The 10-point system.
Playing Tranzit Mode
Freezing issues.
The usual online connectivity issues and broken Theatre Mode.
Highly unlikely to convert any detractors.
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