TGC Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

blackops2gunAh yes, the infamous Call of Duty franchise. The one that spawns a sequel every year by seemingly the only qualified developers to do one (I’m looking at you, Nihilistic), Infinity Ward, and with this entry, Treyarc’s Black Ops II.

So, how does Call of Duty: Black Ops II stack up against the others? Well, let’s take a look.

To make things clear, because the game has three main aspects of gameplay, I will be reviewing each one separately, then tallying the results to give it a final score.

Campaign: In short, a huge improvement over the first Black Ops campaign. This time, you’re playing as David Mason, son of former protagonist Alex Mason. You’re basically tasked with taking down a global terrorist being hailed as everyone’s savior, while also learning of your father’s past. The campaign will be jumping between various characters’ perspective and also in time. One mission you’ll be playing as Alex Mason saving a former teammate, next you’ll be fighting robots. I’ll admit, it takes you out of the experience a bit. Generally though, you should be able to keep the experience alive even while switching era’s, and I have to praise the antagonist for the game – Raul Menendez.

In my opinion, he’s a great antagonist for the game. He really sets the vibe, and it definitely had me thinking twice about whether I wanted this guy dead, with nothing proper to be done in his name, or if I just wanted revenge on the guy. I couldn’t decide between whether I disagreed for his world goals, or with them, because it was one of those moments where if you put yourself in the villain’s shoes, you’ll get why he’s doing this.

The best part about this campaign though is that you have to face moments where you were forced to make choices. Choices, that will define your story. When you talk about the game’s campaign, you’re not just talking about the Black Ops II campaign, you’ll be talking about your Black Ops II campaign. It’s a game worth replaying to make different choices in the campaign, to try to get a new, better world ending, or possibly just to try to get the worst possible one. Either way, it’s nice to see a change of pace for the campaign aspect of a Call of Duty game.

The characters were well designed, and voice acting is spot on – Michael Rooker (Merle from The Walking Dead) as Harper – is definitely one of the best. Not everything goes smoothly with these characters. I really felt that I couldn’t connect on any sort of level with some of the characters (David as a child). They just weren’t explained, and that scene where Alex and David are climbing a tree in the beginning, it was just plain awkward for me…

Another welcome addition to the campaign are the Strike Force missions and challenges. The Strike Force missions will give you an overview of the map, intending to give you full control of your squads in order to fend off enemy troops for a certain amount of time. Of course, while the idea is there, it doesn’t necessarily mean the content is as well. Your options for controlling your teammates and drones are quite limited, and I always find myself just taking control of a soldier and single-handedly holding back the hordes, Call of Duty style. The AI is not the smartest AI I’ve ever seen, and they will often just run out into the open and get themselves killed, which is just another reason to take control of the battle yourself in a first person perspective. It had the potential to be great, but it doesn’t quite reach that status, keep trying Treyarc.

Multiplayer: This is the feature (most) people are buying this game for. It is, of course, the feature of the game that will be getting the most attention from Activision and Treyarc. This feature falls no short of innovation though.

Ever since Call of Duty 4, the series has been defining the way other developers make their class system. Three perks, one primary, one secondary, yada yada yada. Now, Treyarc has decided to take a different route, a route that works exceptionally well. They’ve introduced to us, the Pick 10 class system. Not only that, but new features in the Create-a-class menu such as wildcards and the ability to take only one lethal in exchange for two special grenades (thanks to the Pick 10 system). It’s a system that works well enough to make everything balanced (so far) and a fun twist to it.

There are also a few other notable tweaks to the multiplayer. One such tweak is the fact that perks will now only be affecting your character himself, and letting attachments do all the work for your weapons, along with a new way to earn what was once “killstreaks”. They’ve given us “scorestreaks”, which will make every match LESS about killing other people, and MORE about focusing on the objective, which in turn will yield you your scorestreaks.

Prestige levels are all still there, 10 levels in all. What I like with what they did here, is each time you prestige, your stats will all stay the same, and you’ll get a token to permanently unlock an item in the create-a-class menu, permanently. It now gives me a legitimate reason to prestige, and gives me a reason to keep playing. It’s a good inclusion. They’ve also gone ahead and added a few new modes, as well as bringing back the fan-favourite party modes.

Treyarc is giving us a real competitive side though as well for Black Ops II, now that they’ve introduced League Play Mode. It will basically allow you and your friends to create a team, slap on a name, and emblem, and get playing competitively. But, what if you’re brand new to the whole experience? Well, Treyarc did the work again here for you. They’ve added a mode that is exclusive to players who are between levels 1-10, so you can grab the basics before heading into the “real” cyber world, where you’ll soon discover that it’s “full of hackers”, and almost everyone has “done your mom”. Surprising, I know.

The new CoD casting system and a free Call of Duty: ELITE will make for a good experience online. ELITE has an easy menu to navigate right from the get go, and being able to stream is plain great. Theater mode is easy to use now, and having these tools will give you even more reasons to stick around and play multiplayer for that much longer.  Of course there are flaws here and there, but I won’t get into those as there small nuisances really, but still noticeable. One example, might be that you can only stream the League Play matches.

Zombies: And finally, the last feature for Black Ops II, but definitely not the one that you should play last, Zombies. With the addition of more than two players for local (hallelujah!) and a much more deep, immersing experience on any map, Treyarc has made numerous improvements over the predecessors.

With the addition on two new game modes as well as keeping the traditional “survival” game mode, Zombies might just be the reason to purchase the game alone. It’s not exactly a story that will come with it when playing TranZit, but it’s a good alternative to playing a more serious campaign, as the multiplayer can definitely be a bit of both. All three modes are fun, but I definitely found TranZit to be very confusing, even a month into the game I still don’t really have a clue what the hell is going on half the time. It’s a really cool idea, and I found the humour with the whole bus situation quite amusing, but I always find myself dying when the bus would leave and my teammates wouldn’t risk it to get me back up. All in all, good idea, glitchy parts,  and confusing mechanics. Grief is great fun though, and I’ll definitely be sticking around for that.

Survival is just like you remember it, only with more gameplay elements. New weapons, new maps, new pack-a-punch options, all that stuff. It’s mindless fun really, especially when you play with friends.

Version Differences: This is a topic I’m definitely going to cover, because it’s about time publishers and developers get it together. The PS3 version clearly has not gotten the attention it deserved. Treyarc has had 2 years to develop this game, and I get it, the PS3 is hard to develop for sometimes, but it’s been out on the market for 7 years now, and yet there are still problems I’m finding.

I jumped right into Zombies with some friends and tried out 3 players locally, and by the time we got to round 15, the game was so incredibly choppy that it was unplayable. Connection issues come at us left and right, as well as issues with textures.

I’m not going to take these issues off of the overall score, because I’m reviewing the game and how it performs the best. So, issues aside on the PS3 version, let’s take a look:

Very simple main menu, create-a-class menu is very easy to use though, it’s intuitive, and everything is done so your two buttons away from finding out what you need to know, and getting to where you need to go. 9.0

Graphics: The best graphics yet for Call of Duty. Game looks great, but there are noticeable texture pop ins, on both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions. 9.0

Sound: Good voice acting, gun sounds could honestly though use a bit more work. Music chimes in at the right times, and Zombies metal just never gets old. 8.5

Gameplay: Same old formula, but that’s definitely not hampering the game what so ever. Zombies is as fun as ever, but campaign could have used a little bit more variety sometimes. 9.0

End Score: 8.9

Have you played Black Ops II? Think this is a fair score? Let us know in the comments.