Finally, after another long year wait for the next instalment in the almighty popular first person shooter franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 from Treyarch is in stores now. In what has to be the ugliest and most bland Call of Duty campaign to date, this year’s disappointing release is only worth it for the online multiplayer.
I’m going to start by saying that I am a huge Call of Duty fan; I enjoy how you can lose yourself in a competitive online world of soldiers fighting for survival in many of the varied game modes. I always have the mind-set that I absolutely must complete the campaign on Veteran before I can even think of taking my soldier online and fighting him out with the rest of the world on the many modes fans have grown to love over the years. It even saddens me to type how crap Black Ops 2 is because it’s been a game I’ve been talking about for not only weeks, but months – and I really hope Treyarch aren’t going for a trilogy with the Black Ops storyline!
Every year my excitement builds for Call of Duty usually after an E3 reveal, and leading up to release I feel I have to know everything about it in every way. I wasn’t all that impressed with Black Ops 2 taking on a futuristic route in the franchise and felt maybe the developers were trying to win over Ghost Recon fans and the Battlefield players who never really bother with Call of Duty as much as the hardcore fans of the series. I can thankfully say though that the futuristic element to the game doesn’t hinder the main Call of Duty experience, it’s just that every single part of the campaign feels like a half-arsed effort and not only does the chapters in the past sections look as cheap and nasty as the visuals – they play that way too. I just can’t stress enough that the campaign is dated, and the original Black Ops was far more of an enjoyable game than this messy, broken unmemorable story.
The story itself is based around the year 2025 and takes you on a journey into the past and the current futuristic 2025 chapters. You do get to control some unique war technology not present in other Call of Duty games and spend many hours gathering intelligence, infiltrating enemy territories and get involved in a war based on revenge from past events. Most of the time you’re out to hunt down the game’s primary antagonist, Raul Menendez, a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist and the leader of “Cordis Die”, a massive populist movement with over a billion followers! Depending upon your actions within parts of the story, and the fate of Menendez will determine which ending you will see – as Black Ops 2 has multiple endings. The campaign doesn’t do much to excite or draw you into it’s strange settings, you just want it to be over – better still, Save, Quit and play Multiplayer!
Another first for the series is having the option to choose your loadout before each chapter starts. After a cut-scene rife with pop-ins and broken textures you get to choose different primary weapons to use through-out your mission, and yet another first is the all new Strike Missions inbetween missions… a kind of mini-game that affects your story. This short game where you have to control multiple units is so ridiculous to master that the fact they kept it in there is an embarrassment to the development team. The AI is so unresponsive to a horde of enemy infantry that when you see another Strike Mission it sends sheer dread into you that the best way out is to just die and move on. For Achievement hunters, you might be pleased to learn that Veteran has also been dumbed right down to the max too – mainly because the AI are all over the shop and look every which way, but directly at you!
Activision and Treyarch just as well have scrapped the campaign in favour for just a multiplayer disc. Treyarch has destroyed the Call of Duty magic that hopefully Infinity Ward or Sledgehammer games can repair next year with their release. The Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 story mode is the worst ever in the series and I doubt I could stand more than one play-through. I’ll accept whatever ending I get!
Moving on from the disgust I feel for the badly designed and presented Campaign Mode, it is fantastic news that Multiplayer still has the wow factor and plays as you would have hoped with well designed maps, plenty of modes to choose from and I am pleased to say that Treyarch have brought back their popular WAR mode. WAR was a great multiplayer gametype in Call of Duty 3 and World at War, but it never made it into the original Black Ops for some reason or another. In Black Ops 2 it returns as Hardpoint – that one location on the map that both teams try to capture, similar to Modern Warfare 3’s DropZone only without the Killstreaks landing every few seconds, so it is in effect WAR only without the Flag.
The whole new Pick 10 in the Choose a Class system totally transforms the way you play because it just does what it says on the tin – Pick 10 items and then away you go. From your unlock tokens that you earn by playing online and ranking up, you get to choose what you want to take into battle from Primary Weapons, Secondary Weapons, Attachments, Tactical and Lethal Grenades, Perks and now all-new Wildcards. Using Wildcards in the Choose a Class system will let you have Greed cards so you can add extra perks to the main 1, 2 or 3 slots. Have an overkill card to use a Primary weapon in place of your secondary and allow extra grenades. Because a Wildcard itself acts as 1 out of the 10 items you can have, the additional item it allows will count as a 2nd – so in place of having additional benefits you usually find that something has to give, such as losing your attachments or other perks. It makes the multiplayer in Black Ops 2 feel more balanced in that with the multiple combinations of different weapons, perks and attachments you are more free to mix and match your loadout than in any other Call of Duty game.
The original Black Ops had the most varied playercard and lobby menu in history, and Black Ops 2 thankfully is a little less intrusive and better designed. Still allowing for the customisable emblems and calling card designs, but you can now show off three calling cards as a showcase item in your playercard – think of it as a kind of trophy for completing specific challenges online. Killstreaks are now replaced with Scorestreaks, basically the same thing, but your score is reset upon death (this doesn’t work like MW3). You can choose to have three Scorestreaks at any one time from the familiar random Care Package drops, UAV, sentry guns and choppers – to the latest and greatest Ground Robots, Dragonfire Drones, and the gunner of a VTOL Warship. For those who can keep the highest score, you can aim for a K9 Unit of Dogs and a SWARM, a large batch of lethal hunter killer drones where there is quite literally no escape.
I’ve always felt that Treyarch Call of Duty games had the more varied and outstanding maps and Black Ops 2 is no exception to the trend with fourteen very unique themed maps on disc. Plaza is a floating resort in the middle of the ocean, Hijacked is a luxurious super yacht at sea – and additionally are more familiar ground such as fighting through slums, urban streets, power plants and train stations. You never get this variety with any other developer, and four DLC packs have been announced for 2013 to get your war-mongering minds into gear. The only minor flaw evident in Black Ops 2 is that visually the game isn’t up to par with Modern Warfare 3 from last year.
I can only hope that Treyarch’s next game will not be based on this engine and will definitely not be a Black Ops title. The original Black Ops was one of Treyarch’s finest games and it’s disappointing that the sequel couldn’t play out as spectacular as many other Call of Duty games before it. This is the worst Call of Duty game to date, but since most would happily spend countless hours in the multiplayer modes, the only disappointment you might have is the price for what is essentially to you, just some new maps to play on…
…the Future is Bleak!