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Call of Duty Black Ops II [Xbox 360] Review

Posted on November 21, 2012 AT 03:07pm

Call of Duty, as much as I love the series, can now be equated to the likes of Madden. Every year another addition is added to the fold, along with higher expectations and the longing for something that we fans have yet to see. I have to be honest, I was not a big fan of Black Ops. I almost passed on the review for Black Ops II until I saw the videos that were coming out during each convention over the last year. Those won me over, and thanks to Activision for supplying me with a copy, I was able to take a good look at Black Ops II.

I sincerely enjoyed the hell out of the Black Ops II campaign and was instantly drawn into this gripping tale written by screenwriter David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Blade). As someone who didn’t really touch the campaign in Black Ops, I’d safely say that this narrative can stand on its own without the previous game. Players follow the footsteps of both father and Black Ops protagonist, Alex Mason, and his son, David, as the latter strives to understand all that happened before his first encounter as a child with villain, Raul Menendez.

The story occurs at two different points. The first is the not-so-distant 2025 (where you play as David) and the second is the late-1970s to mid-1980s where players follow the footsteps of Alex and his comrades-in-arms, such as Woods and Harper. Be prepared to learn just how the events of the past occurred to bring forth the dread of today. Upon learning of Menendez’s heinous acts and what he has planned, David must act in order to save the world from the horror that is about to unleash.

It is definitely a heart-wrenching story in all aspects. As for our villain, Raul Menendez is a very complicated character. I pitied him, loathed him, and at some points, I understood him. The fact that I could feel all these things about a single character speaks so much of the writing and of the voice acting by Kamar de los Reyes.

The potential for replayability is high as Black Ops II offers multiple endings, a first in the Call of Duty franchise. Every decision that a player makes effects the outcome of the game. Do you shoot someone in the head or another body part to give them a chance of survival? When it comes to the Strike Force Missions, do you fail to complete them or achieve success in each? All of these factors come into play and will have a direct effect on which ending the player will reach. I’m an achievement hunter, so I know that I will be going back to complete as many of the achievements as I can and see what could have happened had I chosen differently.

Strike Force side missions add to replayability as well. Strike Force levels are only offered for a short time in the middle of the campaign and can no longer be accessed once you progress past a certain level. This mode gives players total control over an open battlefield. You have the ability to take over any element of the team, which consists of troops, drones, and robotics, and see the mission through to its completion. I’m going to have to go back through the campaign at a lower difficulty than Veteran to get a hang of these missions, but they are an interesting addition to just playing story levels nonetheless.

The futuristic portion of the game allow for some brilliantly imaginative missions, weapons, and technology. A prime example is the FA-38 fighter jet, whose inspiration stems from the current joint-strike fighter, the F-35. The evolution doesn’t end here, though. With spider-like drones that climb walls and disable electronics to active camouflage as well as scopes that identify enemies, what is seen here could definitely be something that the military may design over the next thirteen years. I don’t feel its that far off from reality.

I must take a moment and give kudos to the great soundtrack that Black Ops II withholds. The title piece, composed by Trent Reznor, is melodic and dark, and something that I don’t mind hearing over and over again. I’ve even been catching myself humming it when I’m not playing. Although, this game would not be as wholly immersive as it is without the stylings of composer Jack Wall. Known for his work on the Mass Effect soundtrack, Wall’s compositions set the mood completely for each and every mission.

Most people that I know do not buy Call of Duty games for the campaign. They are bought for the multiplayer, and with good reason. Call of Duty, as a whole, raises the bar with every game that is released and Black Ops II is no different. There has been no less than a complete overhaul. While the same familiar playstyle is upheld, players are free to customize in every which way they prefer. Weapons are unlocked by points that are earned as you play with a limit of ten customizations per class, but you can create your class to fit your needs. Don’t use your secondary ever? Get rid of it and gain an extra perk or attachment on your primary weapon. Want to double up Perk 1, 2, or 3? Use the Wild Card and go for it. I like this element of being able to pick and choose, rather than have something on my class that I rarely or never use.

Another change within multiplayer is that while killstreaks are still available, an addition known as scorestreaks has been implemented. Between kills and the points earned from assists or objective style gameplay (such as capturing a domination point), players that may not be as adept at acquiring kills still have a chance of earning streak based rewards. I have heard arguments for the good and the bad side of this new adjustment, but overall, I believe it to be a good move to equal the playing ground for all Call of Duty players regardless of skill.

There are plenty of game modes for players to choose from when playing multiplayer. The generic game modes, like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Demolition, etc, are all still alive and kicking. There’s Party Game mode that supports Free-For-All games like Gun Game and Sharpshooter. As a competitive player, I am interested in how League Play pans out. Players are matched up after completing five preliminary rounds into a league. From there, players earn or lose rank depending on how many wins or losses they have incurred.

An accessory within multiplayer that I didn’t get to try out, but I did explore, was CODcasting and livestreaming. Black Ops II gives players the opportunity to stream their games live via League Play. The caveat is that in order for your stream to go live ten people must be viewing your YouTube channel. The other issue is that you cannot link to your personal YouTube channel as  a whole brand new YouTube channel is created for you. The stream will cut off after thirty minutes, so if you plan to stream or do something for charity, you are still better off investing in a capture card.

As a player, I swap between run-and-gun and sniping depending on the map and game type. I love how smooth sniping is in Black Ops II, compared to previous iterations of Call of Duty, I’d say that it is the best yet. Although, I do feel that a number of these maps are slanted towards one team or the other. I see that Treyarch took this into consideration and implemented, for example, rounds of Domination rather than a straight game, but sometimes one team or the other is given complete advantage.

Myself, as well as those that I usually play with, have already witnessed quite the imbalance in weapons, such as some dealing much more damage than others.  There needs to be some kind of tweaking across the board here. I understand that it will take some time to figure out what needs to be nerfed and what needs to be given added damage. I hope that Treyarch is looking into fixing this issue in the near future. Another issue that I’ve witnessed is that when hosts migrate in the middle of a game, the entire game video is lost after the migration point. I would be quite upset to lose all of the game video for a game that I did exceptionally well.

Last, but certainly not least, Zombies, Zombies, Zombies, one of the biggest pulls for players in the Treyarch Call of Duty games. There are three different modes that can be played. Just like previous incarnations, you can play Survival, but  Black Ops II introduces Tranzit and Grief.  In Tranzit, hop on a bus and travel to different locales in Green Run in a search for more perks and a quest to turn on the power. While playing Grief, split into teams of two and be the team that survives the longest.

I was able to play Zombies solo and with one, two, or three other people. I’m not really a fan of going solo, but it can be done. I’d say that the right amount would be two to three, as the areas are just way too cramped with four people, especially on that tiny bus. Every player has their own preferences when it comes to weapons, and we’d all like the random weapon box to drop the RPD, but I’m a big fan of the Executioner. It is a handgun that shoots shotgun shells and within Zombie mode, it spawns with the long barrel. Zombies is quickly growing on me. I didn’t really play it much in Black Ops or World at War, now I’m wondering what I was missing.

Summary: Even as a long standing Call of Duty fan (Infinity Ward moreso than Treyarch), I can take off my fan girl cap and take a good look at the game. Treyarch hit the nail on the head with the campaign. While Call of Duty Black Ops II is not without its drawbacks in multiplayer, as a whole, I am thoroughly impressed by this game.

  • THE GOOD: Branching storylines of a gripping campaign are an excellent addition that adds to replayability.
  • THE BAD: Game breaking weapons give multiplayer an imbalance.

Score: 9.0


Amanda "Mandie" Marron is a US Navy Veteran, Gamer, Reader, Poet, Xbox Community Ambassador, Battlestar Galactica Aficionado, Wine Connoisseur, and all around geek. Follow me on Twitter: @Caprickah

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