Another year, another Call of Duty. Black Ops II is the sequel to 2010’s Call of Duty game, Black Ops, developed by Treyarch who has done their share of games in the franchise right behind Infinity Ward. Does Black Ops II have enough “new” to keep the series from going stale or is this just another entry for a series that’s been milked way too much?
A NEW DAY, A NEW DUTY
Adding Choice to Campaign - The two most common reasons people hate the CoD single player campaign is the subpar plot and the linearity of the missions. Although the former is still in effect, the latter has been pleasantly changed. There are several points in the campaign where you have a choice that does affect the storyline. Some are simple "Do X or do Y" but others require you to act a certain way during an action sequence. Depending on your actions, you'll get one of several endings. Say what you will about the series, Treyarch did try to improve on the campaign and it worked.
More to do in Missions - Another nice addition is the multiple objectives added to each mission. From finding certain items throughout the mission to killing a certain amount of enemies in a specific way, there's a bit more to the campaign that many people have criticized in the last couple iterations. With these objectives and multiple endings, Black Ops II's campaign has a much needed increase in replay value. Granted, most people will not even touch the campaign but for those times when the internet is out, you can replay the campaign to earn a new result. The action, however, still does have that on-rail shooter feel to it so those having issues with that aspect of the game will still have that to complain about.
Getting Multiplayer Right - In Modern Warfare 3, multiplayer was dramatically changed to give players a variety of choices to match their play style, and while interesting, it didn't have an impact on the multiplayer. Infinity Ward strived to get players that don't make a lot of kills involved in the game, but after all was said in done, they still weren't involved. With Black Ops II, killstreaks have been replaced by scorestreaks, keeping the same concept of rewarding players for kicking ass but focusing on points instead of kills. Due to this change, kills are still held king since they give you the most points, but helping out your teammates can also be rewarding. Throw a concussion grenade out and you'll get assist points for enemies killed by your teammate, or call for a UAV and receive points whenever your team scores kills. This new multiplayer won't help the sucky players become a major asset to their team, but it'll help them to contribute a bit more.
More Run with Zombies - Zombies mode returns once again. This time, two additions have been made to spice things up: Tranzit and Grief. Tranzit expands on the size of the zombie map as you can now travel between multiple areas in order to figure out how to complete the level. In Tranzit, you can also build items to help you get to new areas or fend off zombies. Grief has two teams of 4 face-off against each other AND the zombies. As the name implies, this mode is about causing the other team as much grief as possible since the two teams can't kill each other. This is a great extra mode for those veteran Zombies mode teams that know the ins and outs of each map.
Who Pput a RTS in My Black Ops? - Now here's something that through me for a loop. A brand new addition to the campaign are Strikeforce missions. There are several of these missions where you controls multiple squads of soldiers. You have a goal to complete with each mission whether it be destroying targets, defending buildings, or saving a prisoner within an allotted time. To complete the goal, you'll have to direct your squads to various points on the map. If need be, you can directly control a soldier or robot that makes up the squad since an experienced player can do much more damage than when the squad is left on auto-pilot.
At first, as expected, I was completely thrown off by having to control multiple squads instead of trying to run-and-gun through a mission. Once you get used to it, it does play like a very simple RTS. By no means is this some great innovation on the part of Treyarch, but it does show that they're willing to experiment by providing something different from the same ol' routine expected in a Call of Duty game.
Not an Oscar Winner, More Like an Emmy Nominee - I won't beat around the bush here, but the Black Ops II campaign wasn't bad. It's not an in-depth piece of gaming bliss like Spec Ops: The Line. Instead, it follows the structure of the first Black Ops game, play as two characters that are linked to each other, as well as one or two ancillary characters for a short period of time, rather than have multiple soldiers from different countries who are all on the same side but fighting different parts of the war.
You'll play as Alex Mason, from Black Ops I, and his son David Mason. As Alex, you'll be playing through missions that take place in the 1980s where the Cold War was still happening while David is in 2025 where a new Cold War is happening. There will be betrayals, tender moments, and some surprises while playing through the game. Although it won't be winning awards for "best story" anytime soon, Black Ops II provides a story that could work as a good TV show, and is not NEARLY as bad as some people will say it is.
Getting Multiplayer Wrong - As much as I have praised the Black Ops II multiplayer, people are going to have problems with it. For some people, the maps aren't good for sniping, but others say the maps will push you to camp. Point is, everyone will not be happy with the multiplayer, simple as that. Whether it's the CoD expert or the newbie, this multiplayer will not make everyone happy. If there is one glaring issue that I can tell after playing several hours of multiplayer, it would be that spawn points on certain maps aren't as dynamic as I would hope. There were times in which I spawned right behind an enemy running away meaning that I could have been spawn-killed.
Not Enough to Change Minds - Even though Black Ops II is probably the best CoD games since CoD 4 with improvement to the single player campaign, multiplayer and zombie mode, it's still not enough to change the minds of those that have come to detest the series. Granted, these people would probably never change their minds unless Activision's CEO Bobby Kotick kissed their feet, the game is still not grand enough to change people's minds. It's good enough to make a lot of people happy, yet not amazing enough to stop people from declaring Call of Duty the biggest ill to hit video games.
What the Hell Was That After the Ending?! - I can't really say much about what happened since that would be major spoilers. What I can say is that Treyarch completely dropped the ball in their post-credits segment they added. You have to see it for yourself, and I'm sure you'll agree with me that it was an exceptionally poor decision to go along with it.
As I mentioned, I think Black Ops II is the best Call of Duty game since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. There's been so many great additions and changes made to where you know it's a Call of Duty game although you're surprised it's an actual Call of Duty game. The game does have flaws, but don't flaws will range in severity depending on your preconceived notions about the series.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*