Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PS3)
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
First Person Shooter
November 13th, 2012
There's no greater phenomenon in gaming then that of Call of Duty
. Ever since the release of Call of Duty 4
in 2007, the series has earned its share of fans and detractors. Five years later, the franchise is still going strong, even if the basic formula hasn’t changed much from the Modern Warfare
Taking a page from Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
; the story of Black Ops 2
surrounds the near future and the gadgets that inhabit it. The narrative jumps from between different time periods and characters, allowing players to experience covert ops from the Cold War and near-future battles. As David "Section" Mason - son of Black Ops
protagonist Alex Mason - the player is tasked with taking down Raul Menendez, a widely loved public figure who’s more than he seems. While a lot of work has been put into the game's story, Black Ops 2
takes a while to find its footing. The initial story levels lack the cohesiveness of Modern Warfare 3
, while the overall narrative unravels without the same cerebral punch of the originalBlack Ops
Treyarch has to commended for their effort however, as Black Ops 2
is quite a different beast than its predecessors. Depending on the player’s actions, Black Ops 2
can end in one of four ways – meaning those engaged in the game’s narrative will want to play through it multiple times.
Series critics are quick to point out the age of the Call of Duty engine, which hasn’t changed much in the past couple of years. However, thanks to a few tweaks from the teams at Treyarch, Black Ops 2 ends up looking quite pretty. The game certainly looks far from dated, and varied landscapes help give it a visual edge, while beautiful character and gun models help to show that the Call of Duty
engine still has power. Of course, the game runs just as smooth as ever, with only a few stutters here and there between cutscenes. On the PS3, gamers have the option to install textures for multiplayer, alleviating some of the strain on the system’s disc drive. Neither the visual quality nor the framerate take a hit in multiplayer.
By updating on the game’s audio engine, Treyarch has been able to vastly improve the audio quality of Black Ops 2.
Perhaps the series doesn’t outclass Battlefield
in the audio department, but it still ends up sounding wonderful – well, as wonderful as war can sound. There is even a hard of hearing option, which raises the sound levels for dialogue – a much welcome addition for impaired gamers.
In terms of music, Black Ops 2
has a soundtrack that this reviewer would put on par with the Hans Zimmer composed Modern Warfare 2
, helping to drive the action forward and add tension when needed. Voice acting itself is quite well done, though there are a few characters that stand out as under par.
If you’ve ever played a Call of Duty game before, then you already know what to expect. Much like past entries in the franchise, gameplay is just as smooth and rewarding as ever, though Treyarch has made plenty of changes to keep things interesting. Unlike past games, players can now customize their loadouts at the start of missions, selecting a variety of weapons and perks to help them in battle. Story missions are now more open, with weapon caches hidden amongst the environment, giving the player an edge in battle. The environments themselves allow for more maneuverability, so the player doesn’t always feel as though they are riding on a track.
For example, during one mission I was tasked with storming Raul Menendez’s mansion. During this time I could have run straight through the gate, taken cover and fought in normal Call of Duty
fashion. However, I also had the option to open a nearby garage, grabbing a hidden stash of mortars to throw at the enemy. A third option allowed me to snipe from a nearby bell tower, supporting my squad as they rid the area of Menendez’s men.
Story missions are also broken up by a variety of Strike Force missions, which turn the Call of Duty
formula on its head. These missions play out like mini-RTS games, with players commanding a variety of troops from a bird’s eye view. Players can directly control units to get right into the action, allowing for some of the most varied Call of Duty
missions to date.
The customization also extends to the game’s multiplayer. The create a class system has been revamped entirely, now known as the pick 10 system. Players can put 10 items into their loadout, and what they pick is entirely up to them. For example, a player can focus entirely on guns, arming their rifles with all matter or attachments. Or the player can load up on perks, raising the total to six per class. This however, limits the player’s weapons to just a knife. Of course players can find the middle ground if they so choose, but the extra breathing room is quite welcome.
On the PS3, some players have complained of freezing issues. Though I did not experience these issues during my time spent with the game, it was a reality for the past week. Treyarch recently issued a patch to help with the freezing issues – as well as numerous multiplayer bugs – and as such these issues will not be factored into the final score.
With the Pick 10 system, a branching storyline and a brand new zombies mode, Black Ops 2
is going to last players a long time. Zombies has now been divided into two modes, Survival and Grief. Survival is the tried and true four player mode, wherein players face off a never ending horde of zombies. Grief adds to the fun by throwing in a second team of four players, going for eight in total. It’s up to the teams to work with or against each other, but in the end only one wins.
For both Call of Duty
fans old and new, Black Ops 2
is definitely worth a purchase. Though I wasn’t a fan of the game’s narrative, the new additions to the campaign, multiplayer and zombies add a whole new dimension to the popular formula. The gameplay is just as great as ever, and though the game’s engine may be a few years old, that doesn’t stop Black Ops 2
from looking like quite the pretty game. Any way you approach it, Black Ops 2
will keep players entertained for hours.