Black Ops is here. Those who have been with Gamerscene for a while know that when a big game is released such as this one, I don’t review it a day after it comes out. Instead, I let it soak in so I could review it based on fact rather than excitement. This game is key to the COD franchise. Did it revive the series or did it shove it further down the drain?
The three key points to this game are campaign, multiplayer, and Zombies. The campaign in this game is so unlike any other Call of Duty campaign we have seen before. To start off, Black Ops II features cutscenes. Because of these cutscenes, the storytelling is up to par with games such as Gears of War and Halo. You are no longer spoon-fed a story by characters talking over maps and 3-D images. Instead, you see characters interact with oneanother outside of combat.
Cinematic moments are scattered throughout the campaign in a very organized manner. In fact, there were moments that actually caught me by surprise. For once, a Call of Duty campaign had a surprising moment, and I was intrigued. Menendez is a threatening villain, and he isn’t a puppeteer who hides behind the scenes. He isn’t a Makarov. Instead, you see that he is in fact dangerous, and he can personally dish out a lot of damage himself.
A big problem I had with Black Ops I were the constant explosions and mindless action. This game, however, paces itself nicely. I didn’t feel like I was rushing into chaos when I played each mission. The mechanics such as horse-riding, drone controlling, and squirrel-suit jumping were very smooth, and for the first time in a COD game, I didn’t feel like I was forced into a vehicle or cinematic setpiece. Everything was just so smooth. Smooth like a well-cooked steak. Or yogurt.
A lot of talk has revolved around Strike Force missions, missions which supply you with an arsenal of soldiers and drones. Many have complained that these missions aren’t strategic, but these whiners need to take a look at another perspective. If you rush out into the fray of battle and handle everything by yourself, the mode doesn’t have a deficiency in strategy. Instead, you are simply choosing to handle the mission in an independant way. If you choose to implement your arsenal into the mission, however, the Strike Force mode suddenly becomes more strategic. Regardless of the way you handle these tasks, they are a nice change in pace from the story.
Treyarch has added the option to tweak your class before you enter a mission, as well as decision points in the story. These subtle changes keep the campaign replayable and the story everychanging. This game is mostly linear, but these decision points that are thrown at you spice up the narrative. It doesn’t feel gimmicky, and they aren’t little pointless decisions. These are decisions that you know will change the story in a large way.
For those who enjoy the grit and darkness of Treyarch games, have no fear. Let’s just say that Treyarch returns to its roots. The ending of the campaign that I experienced due to my choices in the campaign wasn’t explosive and ridiculous. I didn’t hang Menendez and then light a cigarrete. Jets did not fly over me and shoot fireworks. It was an ending that satisfied me while remaining consistent with the rest of the story. Be sure to stay after the credits, by the way. Treyarch never fails to add in Easter Eggs that leave you smiling.
After careful thought and honest evaluation, I have come to decision that the Black Ops II campaign is the best of the Call of Duty series, hands down. Its engaging storytelling and smooth mechanics were very cohesive, and so this campaign was definitely a success.
Now onto the multiplayer. Let’s start with the main mechanic of it: The Pick 10 System. Black Ops II integrates a new way to create a class, called the Pick 10 System. The game gives you ten points, and you can use these points to add ten things to your class. I feared that there would be some exploit to this system. I was wrong. This mechanic adds a whole new layer to multiplayer. The class combinations are endless, and I am no longer forced to take things into battle that I don’t need or want. Instead, I can choose what I want to use, thus giving me more options and more freedom.
I haven’t witnessed any overpowered combinations that make the system flawed. In fact, I think Treyarch balanced it perfectly. This is a big deal. Another thing I like about this system is the option to unequip your secondary and/or primary. If you choose to do that, you are given a Combat Knife, and you can use your points to buff up on perks and equipment.
The sound in the game is great. Treyarch usually has trouble with sound design, but this time around, all of the guns sound how they should. The only sound issue would be the near muteness of footsteps. In the first Black Ops, footsteps were ridiculously loud. As a result, Treyarch attempted to lower the volume of footsteps, and they did, but now they are nearly silent. People with gaming headsets won’t have an advantage anymore over people without headsets. This levels the playing field for everyone.
The guns in this game feel smooth and can be used in many different ways due to the large variety of attachments this time around, including a Select Fire attachment, which can transform your guns fire-rate at your will. Changing your favorite gun to a three-round burst weapon makes it feel like a whole different gun, and the experimentation is nearly limitless. When you prestige in Black Ops II, you do not lose your weapons’ attachments, camos, or reticles. This is huge. Instead of feeling like you are restarting at each prestige, you feel like you are actually progressing and ranking up.
Earning weapon camos have never been so addictive, and the things you need to do to earn more dynamic camos are frustrating yet motivating at the same time. The same is true for Scorestreaks. Score is no longer taken lightly. When you capture an enemy flag, you feel rewarded. When you pick up a dog tag, you feel rewarded. When you earn a killstreak, you actually earned it. Killstreaks aren’t easy to obtain anymore. You need to play the objective and play smart in order to get high streaks.
The bottom line is this: When you play this game, you feel rewarded. Black Ops’ COD point system never rewarded players correctly, but Black Ops II has rebounded from that. The multiplayer is balanced, fair, and very cohesive. But there is one thing I haven’t discussed yet: the maps.
This game’s map design is masterful. They are all designed in a way that there is a counter-point to every power-point. That is how a map should be. Plus, they are all very bright and very polished. A problem I had with MW3 and Black Ops were the darkness and gloom that most of the maps contained. In this game, however, all of the maps take place in interesting locations that are very visually stimulating, while also keeping its smooth playability. I feel that Treyarch is being generous. Maps that have been released that are beautiful to look at have only been given to us as DLC in the past. I like feeling as if Treyarch actually wants to deliver us a great game.
I could post pictures all day to show how gorgeous these maps are, but I need to move on. The Black Ops II multiplayer is outstanding, and while it may present more challenge than previous COD games, it is new, fresh, and very well executed.
Last and certainly not least, Zombies. Three Zombie maps have been given to us upon the release of the game, not including Nuketown Zombies. The first one, Tranzit, is something entirely new to the Zombie gamemode. The map is gigantic, and the correct way to navigate it is by taking the bus. There are many Easter Eggs to uncover and many items to build. This is the map that will surely challenge hardcore Zombie players to uncover all of its secrets.
The second map is Town, a smaller Zombie map that is my favorite of the three maps. It plays well, looks dark like all Zombie maps do, and is great fun. A new mode has been added to Zombies called Grief, a mode in which there are two teams of Zombie players. These two teams of four cannot directly injure eachother, but there are many ways in which one team may hurt another. The goal is to be the surviving team. In other words, try to stay alive and to down your opponents. This mode is great fun and very competitive.
The last map is Farm, the smallest map of the three. I personally haven’t gotten the hang of it yet, but it is another option for Zombies. All Zombies is good Zombies. Over all, Zombies mode has delivered again.
The last game mechanic worth mentioning is Theater Mode. It is AWESOME. It gives me complete freedom and is extremely smooth. Black Ops II is a juicy, perfectly cooked Filet. Black Ops II is the revival game that the franchise needed. I am very impressed, and can proudly say that this is one of the best, if not the best, Call of Duty game ever created.