Campaign has multiple endings; great changes to multiplayer; zombie mode is good.
Slo-mo explosions are overdone; RTS missions are broken and annoying.
Everyone loves to roll their eyes a t the thought of a “new” Call of Duty game; after all, we’ve played games from this franchise a half-dozen times now, and the bloom is off the rose. But don’t be so quick to judge, because the newest installment of Call of Duty is the freshest version of an old favorite that we’ve played since Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In addition to a majorly revamped main campaign with several welcome surprises, it also sports a reasonably improved multiplayer mode and an all-new zombie mode that is a bit cliché at this point, but still a lot of fun.
Though you spend most of the game shooting, there are also a few stealth missions that require lurking in the shadows.
As in previous titles, in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (CoDBlops2) you hang with your buddies from the last game, which include Woods and Mason, and are introduced to two new characters, Mason’s son David, and David’s sidekick Harper. The game still has you jumping back and forth between time periods to keep the gameplay fresh, so you’ll find yourself on a mission in the ’80s with Woods and Mason, and then you’ll be off to 2025 with David and Harper. In the previous games, the missions always flashed backward in time, not forward, so even though the nano-based technology here is a bit Crysis-like, we dug the change of pace and new direction of the game. Another welcome change is that the game’s missions let you choose different paths to take instead of just funneling you into a closed-off corridor, as in the previous titles. We liked being able to choose how we navigated a large battlefield without having to worry about getting killed or failing the mission if we strayed off the path. And though the game contains the now-par-for-the-course epic explosions, we didn’t like the constant use of slow-motion here—at this point it’s played out, especially in the CoD series.
Several optional RTS missions seem like cool new additions to the series at first, but turn out to be poorly executed. The missions have you controlling turrets and ground units in order to protect a base from an incoming enemy assault, but these missions are unplayable and annoying—in our play-through, the squads we were commanding wouldn’t go where we told them to go, rendering them ineffective. Luckily, the game developers must have known that people would either love or hate these missions, and they only force you to play through one of them; the rest are skippable.
The game has multiple endings—a first for a CoD title—that arise from the choices you make throughout the game, typically revolving around killing certain characters or sparing their lives. This is an interesting twist that gives it a little bit of replay value, and since the main campaign is rather short at about 6.5 hours, we went ahead and played the game twice to see another ending, and were generally satisfied with the twists and turns the game took both times.
It wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game without the requisite slow-motion explosions.
Black Ops 2 not only switches up the main campaign, it also offers a few fresh changes in its ever-popular multiplayer mode. You are now given 10 points to allocate to your soldier for enhancements, weapon attachments, and grenades. More multiplayer perks include quicker reload speed, faster running capability, and increased weapon damage, to name just a few. This let us create a loadout whereby we tossed our handgun in order to gain an extra attachment for our primary weapon, since we never use a pistol. The new perk system also lets you choose to just stack up perks for your soldier’s skills, then go into matches with a knife and nothing else. We liked the heavy customization of our solider and his gear; it allowed us to tailor our loadout to our particular playing style, adding a lot more variety to the multiplayer mode than what we’ve seen in previous CoD games.
Finally, CoDBlops2 offers an all-new Zombie multiplayer mode which—you guessed it—entails killing waves of zombies in several custom maps that are available via three new gameplay modes: Tranzit, Grief, and Survival.
Tranzit was our favorite by far, just because it seemed like a fairly natural re-enactment of a zombie apocalypse scenario, which has you zipping around a variety of maps via buses to collect various items and parts from each location to help fight the undead. The best part is that the characters have personality, and will say funny things like, “You’re lucky you saved me since I’m the one who does all the work around here,” when you revive them in the midst of battle.
In multiplayer you can still customize your weapons with special optics, crazy colors, and more.
The Grief mode is aptly named: It’s a four-versus-four squadmatch with zombies attacking everyone at the same time. Sure, that sounds like a cool idea, but getting into a match was nearly impossible since no one seemed to be playing it the first week the game was out. And of course, no zombie game would be complete without a “survival” mode, which has you and your squad fighting waves of zombies. This mode is simply cheap thrills, but thrills nonetheless.
The graphics look great and the game ran extremely well totally maxed out on our overclocked Core i7 Sandy Bridge system with a GeForce GTX 660 Ti at 1080p. Everything from the characters to the gun models to the explosions just looked badass. Adding to the eye candy is a whirlwind of exotic locations, including jungles in South America, deserts in the Middle East, and even the gritty streets of downtown Los Angeles.
In the end, we liked CoDBlops2 more than we thought we would. The singleplayer campaign is fun and the replay value is increased by the inclusion of multiple endings. And the overhauled multiplayer is surprisingly good.
If you’ve gotten tired of the Call of Duty games, we know the feeling. That’s exactly why developer Treyarch tweaked the formula so much this time around, and the results are largely successful. Though it’s not a perfect game, it’s one that FPS fans certainly won’t want to miss.