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Retroactive Posts: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

May 8, 2013

(Originally posted on November 17th, 2012)

blackops2_boxartCall of Duty: Black Ops 2

What’s good:
 -Excellent soundtrack (save for a few poorly placed stinkers).
-Character-driven storyline has more investment than usual “there’s a bad guy there, so we’re going to kill him” nonsense, and player choice provides opportunity for slight replay value.
-It’s the same multiplayer as last time.

What’s bad:
 -Horribly executed Strike Force missions interrupt the pace of the campaign to make way for frustration.
-CoDcasting streaming feature comes off as half-baked.
-It’s the same multiplayer as last time.

If I were to give it a rating: 3 out of 5

Other Thoughts:
The Call of Duty series is a textbook example of diminishing returns. Black Ops 2 isn’t the exact same game as previous entries in the franchise, but you’ve still played it before.

The campaign is more character-driven than previous Call of Dutys, and player choice makes an impact on how the game ends. These choices can be big things such as sequences that provide a set of button prompts, with each button corresponding to a separate choice, or they can be smaller, less obvious things such as shooting fleeing adversaries before they can get away. These things impact how the story plays out, and are what ultimately determine which ending you get.
The story itself opens and ends well (depending on your ending anyway), and is a more personal narrative than you’d have seen in recent Call of Duty entries. You’re no longer jumping from nationality to nationality within a theater of war, and instead you’re jumping from each of the protagonists points of view, in both the past and the future to flesh out the story.
The choices make for an interesting change to the boring “stick to your AI companions and turn your brain off until the credits roll” slog that came before, but it doesn’t change the fundamental gameplay, which still consists of going from A to B in a linear (though in some cases more wide open) environment, and gunning down anyone in the way.
Unfortunately however, playing the campaign requires participation in a small number of Strike Force missions, which play out as pseudo RTS missions, where you have the ability to take the control of several types of units on one of the multiplayer maps, or command them from an overhead view (similar to the Blackbird mission in Black Ops 1).
The problem with these missions, is that their completion (pass or failure) contributes to your storyline. This would be fine if these missions were fun to play. They are not. You’ll give your units commands that they won’t initiate or carry through, your units will stand on the other side of a doorway from an enemy and never shoot them, and generally do extremely dumb shit that forces you to basically complete these missions by single handedly taking control of a single unit and having to wade through a sea of enemies to complete the objectives. Every time one of these came up, I let out a sigh of aggravation,  foreseeing the headache that awaited me on the other side.
It’s unfortunate, because the campaign has a lot of ideas going for it, and the story it tells is pretty well told (especially by Call of Duty standards), and gets you reasonably invested in the characters by the end. It’s a step in the right direction.

Black Ops 2 includes the zombie mode seen in World at War and Black Ops 1, and it’s as ludicrous as ever.
They’ve added a new mode called Grief in which two teams attempt to make the other team screw up, where the last team standing wins, but I didn’t find this mode particularly fun. There’s also a mode called Tranzit, in which players can gain access to a bus that will take them to other sections of the map. To get there, they need to scavenge the area for parts to create items (such as a make-shift generator to open doors and power machines). It’s a neat idea, but the game never really explains what’s going on. The zombie mode was never my thing. It was a neat little toss away thing in World at War, but as the games keep coming, the mode gets more and more complicated, and I can’t help but feel like it should just have its own standalone game at this point.

And then there’s the multiplayer, and I wish I had more to say, but it’s literally the same thing that you’ve seen in the past few years. Treyarch has made ever-so-slight changes to the manner in which you unlock and equip gear, allowing for classes that say, have no secondary weapon or grenades, but have more than 3 perks, but this doesn’t make the game feel any different. They haven’t addressed any of the issues that have plagued the past few CoDs (cookie-cutter classes being the biggest one), and they haven’t improved things such as the spawn system or perk balance. If you had issues with previous installments of Call of Duty, nothing Black Ops 2 does with its multiplayer will have you clambering back; it has the same things you like, and the same things you hate.
They’ve added a streaming feature dubbed CoDcasting, but there are strict limitations on when and how you can stream. For example, you can’t turn on a stream as you hop into regular matchmaking, and you can’t stream to fewer than 10 people. It may be simpler than using a streaming site such as Jtv or Twitch, but in this case you’d be far better off just using those services instead. They may be more complicated to get up and running, but you’d have far more control over those than what is seen here with CoDcasting.

I wish I could give Black Ops 2 more credit. It does more with its campaign than we’ve all come to expect from Call of Duty and all, but that alone doesn’t warrant the purchase price. If you’re a huge fan of Call of Duty’s multiplayer and just want another leveling treadmill to run on until next year, maybe you could see this game as a map pack with some other neat modes thrown in, but save for the campaign (which can be completed in one extended sitting), this game doesn’t do enough to really grab me like previous installments in the series have.
If you’re looking to buy a Call of Duty game this holiday season, get Halo 4.

From → Games

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