The Call of Duty franchise and I have had a mutual understanding over the years. I don’t bother it and it doesn’t bother me. I can’t deny the series accomplishments, it has been so popular that it really must be doing something right but for some reason it has never managed to click with me. Black Ops 2 has made a noble effort to make me change my mind, maybe not enough to have me rushing home every day to get another fix but enough for me to acknowledge that this is the Call of Duty that will appeal to those of us that just couldn’t get into it before.
With that said this review is not for those of you who rushed out day one to pick it up. Nor is it for them that have already managed to prestige multiple times in multiplayer. This review is to let those who let each iteration of this game go by each year know whether this is the one that shakes it all up enough to be worth a playthrough.
You cannot deny the value this game offers just from looking at the box. Three separate modes each fleshed out enough to make other games blush. Campaign, Zombies and Multiplayer. This however is the dilemma I have always faced especially with Treyarch’s efforts at the Call of Duty games. The Zombie mode has always intrigued me yet because I had little interest in the other modes I personally found it hard to justify paying full price to access one third of the games content. Now prepare yourself for this. I actually quite enjoyed the campaign in Black Ops 2. I’m not saying it blew me away and there are still things present that I don’t care for. But when the credits rolled I was satisfied with the overall experience.
I am not going to go into too much detail about the campaign as I don’t want to be dipping into spoiler territory. I will tell you however that this story is based primarily in the near future of 2025. What I like about this particular campaign is that it at least gives you the illusion that you are having your own experience, not just the predetermined rollercoaster ride that I have felt I’m on when trying other games in the series. How it does this, is by giving you choices to make and objectives to reach within the level you are playing. While most of the game is still incredibly linear it does give you incentive to go back and replay missions, as if you don’t reach certain objectives it can affect the overall outcome of the game which boasts multiple endings based on your choices and accomplishments. There are even side missions which are entirely optional. These are referred to as Strike Force missions and take on a slightly different approach to the game. The majority of these can be compared to tower defense. Rather than just controlling one guy you have control over the movements of a ground team and various turrets. This RTS approach is very interesting and in a strange way reminds me of the downloadable title Toy Soldiers. While you are able to just direct your troops and see how it plays out; you are also able to jump into the shoes of someone on the ground and influence the fight yourself. Now as I mentioned these missions are entirely optional however if you are looking for a perfect ending I highly recommend playing them as they do affect the main story and each one is only available for a limited amount of time. Be careful though as each Strike Force mission only gives you a limited number of attempts to complete and if you fail that’s it you will have to start again if you want to retry. It’s an interesting spin on the campaign however I personally felt that it took you out of the main story a little too much. Also the RTS controls are a little confusing at first.
Overall I had a lot of fun with the campaign and it has made me want to at least look into future titles that are to come, particularly from Treyarch.
Now onto what has cemented the Call of Duty games as one of the most played this console generation. The Multiplayer.
Just by looking at the multiplayer suite I can see why people buy this game every year. I even know people that never touch the campaign which is something that has always baffled me. Most games get accused of tacking on multiplayer just to say it’s there. It seems that Call of Duty often gets accused of the exact opposite.
With thirteen different game types and thirteen maps to play them across, no one can accuse Blops 2 of being light on multiplayer content. What’s even more amazing is how varied each game type actually is. From all out free for all’s to one in the chamber, which is a fascinating mode which starts you out with a single bullet, a knife and three lives. Each kill you make earns you an extra bullet but it forces you to be absolutely sure you are not going to miss before pulling the trigger. Missing will put you at a major disadvantage; forcing you to get up close and personal to earn yourself another bullet; and when you’re on your last life this is a tall order.
For those that are new or aren’t regulars within the multiplayer of Call of Duty games I highly recommend taking some time getting to learn the maps before going balls deep. By selecting local play and assigning a number of bots you are able to play any of the modes on any of the maps. This is a great way to prepare yourself as there are a lot of extremely good players out there that will not give you the time of day to learn the lay of the land or understand the objectives properly. It’s not the most exciting way to play but at least knowing what you’re heading into will eliminate some frustrations which could have potentially led to you never going back. You can even select zero enemy bots if your only objective is to explore the maps.
The create a class system features a new pick 10 system which is very interesting. Everything you choose while building your own class takes up one point out of 10. Guns, attachments, perks, grenades and more. It pretty much lets you build a class to suit your own play style. It feels very balanced and is very easy to do with each area being explained in enough detail.
You can even choose three score streak bonuses to benefit you. These come into effect when you reach the required points within a single spawn. Be careful what you choose though and consider your own ability before selecting the three most powerful bonuses as these require the most points to unlock.
Now onto Zombies mode. Now this is a lot of fun. So much so that an intended “I’ve got 20 minutes to kill” can quickly turn into an “oh crap where did the time go”. What makes this mode interesting is that with the exception of grief mode there is no true victory. It’s all about seeing how long you survive. The traditional Survival mode pits you against wave after wave of the undead until you reach your unfortunate demise. Upgrades are earned by spending points from kills you have made and you will need them as it gets very frantic very fast. It is a mode I recommend playing with friends as it doesn’t seem to scale to the amount of players that are in the game. Tranzit is very similar to survival mode but the difference here is that you have a larger map to work around and there is even some story to be found here for those that care to look for it. Just like survival however it will result in death but each time you play you feel like you learn something new that will benefit you more in your next attempt.
Grief mode is something else entirely. Two teams of players against the zombie invasion. The catch being that only one team can win. It’s a strange balancing act as the best way to survive is for both teams to work together but sooner or later something has to give. You can’t just shoot the other team either; the only way to die is through zombie attack. So the best thing you can do is attempt to lure the zombies to attack the other team by doing such ridiculous things as throwing meat at them and stunning them when they are trying to revive team mates. It’s all very tongue in cheek and is by far my favourite part of this package.
Finally, the biggest question of them all. Should you try this out if you haven’t got on with the Call of Duty games in the past? If you don’t like first person shooters at all then it’s certainly not for you. Personally I like my FPS’s to be a little bit out there. Titles like Borderlands and Bioshock give me the escapism I look for when gaming whereas military shooters seem a little too focused in reality. Yes I know it’s exaggerated but I’m sure you get what I mean. With that said however the campaign was a lot of fun and with it being set in the near future it has a nice dash of Sci-Fi thrown in to make it appeal to me. Approach the multiplayer with caution and be prepared to invest a lot of time to feel competitive online as the landscape is packed with people that have honed their skills for years making it have an incredibly steep learning curve despite the simple objectives. Zombie’s mode is loads of fun. Get together with a group of friends and take down wave after wave of the infected horde. It’s so different to the rest of the game that you forget your playing a Call of Duty title. It’s no Left 4 Dead but it is still a lot of fun. So yes I do think you should at least try this title. Maybe give it a rent to start with; but if you find you like it there is a whole lot of content available straight out the box and with continued support throughout the next year you’ll be hard pressed to find a game with a wider variety of content.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360 / PS3 Release Date: 6/11/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided with a copy of Call of Duty Black Ops 2 for review purposes by the promotor. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.