The best of the best
“Call of Duty is the same thing every year”, “Activision just pump out the same game every year”, “Call of Duty sucks”.
These are some of the more common answers you’ll hear when you ask someone to describe COD and whilst most answers are unfair towards the mega popular shooter, one of those answers does hold some truth to it. COD seldom changes and that’s fine considering Infinity Ward and Treyarch give us great games every year that continue to do well despite the grievances of naysayers. However, this year is different. Call of Duty Black Ops II might just be the best and most innovative Call of Duty since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and by no means do I say that lightly.
Treyarch, like with the original Black Ops has give us an involving and action packed story with Black Ops II which breaks free of the “bro shooter” overtone that looms over nearly every first person shooter of this generation. You play as David Mason, the son of Alex Mason who’ll serve as the secondary protagonist for the game. The story takes us over a period of thirty-nine years and follows Alex Mason through the tale end of the Cold War placing you in some deadly locations such as central Africa, South America and the FPS favourite Afghanistan. With David Mason, this is where you’ll get to experience Treyarch’s vision of 2025. What really makes the story interesting however isn’t the Mason family. It’s the antagonist Raul Menendez, the South American drug lord turned terrorist. Grief and anger drive Menendez to do the things he does and for the most part, he’s a believable and somewhat relatable character. Suffering a family tragedy from the beginning of the game, you’ll see Menendez unfold into a truly terrifyingly realistic villain.
Despite feeling short, the campaign offers some of the best fun I’ve had in a Call of Duty campaign in some time. Treyarch have really delivered what they promised with a big emphasis on player choice. There are various points in the campaign that will have a dramatic effect on the games outcome. It’s not a simple decision to kill character A or character B with the only difference being that character A won’t be featured in the story line, it can mean the difference between life or death for some characters.
Another great addition to Black Ops II’s campaign is the addition of a create-a-class for every single player mission. Players are given an option to customise their load-out in a wide variation of ways. Players will be able to choose any weapon for a primary and secondary which you’ll able to customise with various sights, grips, different sized magazines, silencers, skins. You name it, there’s a good chance that they’ll have it. This is a great option as you’ll be able to tackle any mission with any weapon and you’ll get to experiment with all the futuristic weapons. When you can feel like Boba Fett from Star Wars with a wrist mounted grenade launcher, you know that Treyarch are doing something right.
The Strike Force missions that run alongside the story are what brings down the campaign down a bit. It’s a nice idea, but quite frankly, it’s very much a free-for-all rather than having an emphasis on teamwork. You’ll get to control an array of soliders and drones with the option to play as any individual or simply be the eye in the sky directing your troops to objectives. It would work really well if my soldiers weren’t killed so often that I was forced to be a one man army securing all of the objectives. Whilst these missions are optional, they’re worth playing through as some of them will change the story outcome.
Treyarch offers a huge incentive to play the multiplayer for Black Ops II this time around. When you go to sign in for the first time, you’ll be prompted to sign up for Call of Duty Elite. Don’t worry, it’s free but it is compulsory. This is a great feature as Call of Duty Elite is a top tier former subscription service that you’re getting for free. Players can opt to use it to use it to the max with competing on leaderboards to fully customising your profile. If you’re like me however, you can just get straight into the multiplayer and have it as an option.
Making the player feel comfortable in Call of Duty has never been Infinity Ward’s or Treyarch’s strong points. Too often would you jump in from the campaign to be blitzed by another player who’s fifty levels higher than you resulting in you putting down the controller until next years installment if you’re not the type to try again and again. Thankfully, Treyarch has given us a mode that allows players from level 1-10 to practice against bots called Combat Training. Using this Combat Training between levels 1-10 earns you experience points that you can spend to gain access to unlockables for playing against real people. Combat Training is still available after you’ve surpassed level 10 but you’ll only earn half of the experience points. You can also use the Custom mode to take the bots from Combat Training and have you and your friends face off against them if you don’t fancy going up against other players all the time.
Treyarch yet again shows us what makes them a great Call of Duty developer with their changes to multiplayer by introducing the new Pick 10 mode. Pick 10 mode allows you to have ten perks that are made up of your weapons, grenades and perks. You’ll be able to edit you loadout as well as customise and combine it. The level of class customisation here really reaches new heights. Thanks to the new Wildcard system that allows you have more perks as an example just gives Black Ops II that little extra magic that makes it soar above the competition. If you want to have two primary weapons stocked with attachments, you can have that. If you want to have a single shotgun with no secondary weapon but loads of perks, what’s stopping you? You’ll have to make sacrifices if you want such options as these but Pick 10 allows you the freedom to customise all the way down to the nitty-gritty. Black Ops II not only gives the player freedom in single player, it also gives you freedom in multiplayer to tailor you soldier to the soldier you want him to be. It’s a feature that you’ll spend a lot of time with as it’s just fun to see what kind of combinations you can come up with. It makes the already varied create-a-class system from previous games look surprisingly restrictive.
Weapon perks have now been replaced by attachments meaning that perks will now only affect the player. Players looking for Sleight Of Hand or QuickDraw will now want to look to attachments to get what they need. A similar replacement also affects gameplay in the way of Killsteaks being replaced by Score Streaks which eliminate the simple motivation to kill in Call of Duty games. Things like UAV’s and Hunter Killer drones now won’t solely be available to the guy who’s got the highest number of kills, they’ll be available to those of you who are team players. It really gives more of an incentive to explore some of the other features Call of Duty has to offer such as search and destroy. Call of Duty’s multiplayer no longer relies upon how many kills you can get but rather how many points you can accumulate to make yourself a better player. People will still run around the match just looking for blood but the option for players to want to play tactically is more relevant now.
Black Ops II returns with fan-favourite game modes such as Capture The Flag, Search and Destroy, Kill Confirmed and the classic Team Death Match alongside newer ones such as Hardpoint that gets you to hold a controlled zone for as long as possible to earn points. It’s not really that original, but it brings something new to the Call of Duty plate. Treyarch have also brought us League Play mode, a mode that allows buddies to create teams and with your own name and emblem. Your team will be able to jump straight into the multiplayer with everything unlocked and available to the players. You’ll play against teams of a similar rank to move your way up the league table to battle against higher ranked teams. It’s a cool edition to play with if you like to team up with your mates.
Zombies yet again returns with three modes, Tranzit, Grief and the classic Survival. Whilst survival is still the same as previous games, it’s still fun to play through if you’re after a quick game. Ultimately, Survival feels outdated and obsolete with the introduction of Tranzit and Grief. You probably won’t play it as much as the other two but it’s still there for those of you feeling nostalgic.
Grief is a mode that places two teams into the heart of the zombie apocalypse. You’ll be killing zombies, racking up points for weapons and rebuilding barricades alongside your team members but at the same time trying to ensure that the other team dies. Well, at least dies first. You can’t directly affect the opposition yourself, you simply have to make life harder for them. That means interrupting their revivals and throwing meat at them to make sure zombies see them as the primary food source. It’s a lot of fun but it’s more or less survival mode extended by your teammates. You’ll last longer in the fray but ultimately, you’re zombie food.
Tranzit is the closest thing Black Ops II’s Zombies has to a story. It won’t be told to you in the traditional sense, rather you’ll unravel it piece by piece as you move forward. Tranzit offers a somewhat open world with area’s you’ll be able to move between using a defendable bus driven by a robotic driver. You’ll drive from area to area unlocking bits of it as you go or until you eventually buy the farm.
Zombies just feels refreshed this time around. Only two more modes have been added but you’ll struggle to fight the addiction to send the undead back to the grave.
I have yet to see a Call of Duty game offer so many new features since the original Modern Warfare from 2007. Black Ops II not only brings an exciting new multiplayer approach but the introduction of a tightly focused narrative with a fully fleshed villain are the factors that really stand out. Whilst not every character has their strong points, David Mason in particular feeling one dimensonal, Raul Menendez really steals the show.
Couple this with a more than generous multiplayer offering and the great Tranzit mode for Zombies, Call of Duty Black Ops II won’t leaving your console anytime soon.
- Strong campaign.
- Great Villain.
- Inventive multiplayer.
- Addictive Zombies.
- Strike Force missions don’t work.
- David Mason is a bore.