Review

Probably the most played game of the year has come. I’m sure many of you have played and formed your own opinion, but here is mine if you’d like to know.

Call of Duty Black Ops II is the sequel to Treyarch’s Call of Duty Black Ops, which takes place in the same universe as Call of Duty World at War. Call of Duty has become the Madden of shooters and is pretty much hated around the net. Treyarch saw this and wanted to take a few steps forward in innovation, without making changes to the engine or adding dedicated servers. Strangely enough, the Treyarch Spokesman, David Vondehaar, doesn’t understand why people want a new engine for Call of Duty. He said, “To me, it’s like I never really understood. It runs at 60 [Frames Per Second] and it’s gorgeous. What exactly is there to be upset about with the engine?” [Source: IGN]. I suppose he doesn’t understand there’s more to a game than pure looks. Sure, there are decent looking textures, but the only reason the game really looks good is because it’s upscaled to 1080 or 720p and runs at 60 frames per second. In reality, the graphics are hardly better than a PS2 game. I’ve seen quite a few PS2 games that were re-released in HD and have the same graphic capabilities as the most recent Call of Duty. When looking at the actual cut scenes, the graphics look even worse! The real time scenes that take place during missions and cannot be skipped look decent, but the skippable cut scenes look really bad for a game at the end of this generation’s life cycle. It’s sort of embarrassing, but people who don’t play any other games outside of Call of Duty probably wouldn’t notice. Pick up a copy of Final Fantasy XIII or XIII-2 and get blown away by real next gen graphics.

As I said earlier, the engine is the same as always. Point and shoot a target to get direct hits. Hit markers will even pop up on screen allowing you to see if you’re hitting an enemy. Walls can be shot through at reduced damage, but walls seem to make enemies impervious to explosives — you would think they would have fixed that by now. If an enemy is on a balcony with their head popped out, and an explosive hits the wall of the balcony just a foot below the enemy’s head, the enemy will not get injured in the slightest bit. Dive to prone also returns in Black Ops II. That’s really all I can say about features that everyone doesn’t already know about.

When it comes to the audio of Call of Duty, Black Ops II can output 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The audio is pretty decent, and most of the weapon sounds are far better than the past Call of Duty games. I’m glad Treyarch has begun adding explosive sounds with their weapons, not submachine guns that sound like they’re firing staples. I did run into a few audio glitches where the audio would cut from select areas in the game, like a weapon wouldn’t have any sound, but it’s not like that was a huge game breaking glitch, and it didn’t last too long. Enough about the basics, lets move on to the three game sections.

Campaign

The Campaign of Call of Duty has come a long way from its early infantry WWII roots. These days, the campaign is a Spec Ops Hollywood Action movie, complete with a predictable storyline, huge explosions, and ridiculous scenarios. One scenario that sticks in my mind is when the main character is on a medium-sized boat that’s getting missiles and machine gun bullets rained down on it from a HIND Attack Helicopter. The boat manages to stay afloat — and the characters relatively unharmed — long enough for the main character to fire several rockets at it.

Now, it’s not fair to completely belittle the campaign. Believe it or not, when it comes to innovation, the campaign has the most out of the entire game! Decisions can now be made during the campaign that will slightly change the storyline and the final cut scene at the end of the game. In reality, the only decision is whether or not you should kill a person. Sometimes your decision may not really matter. You choose to keep a character alive, but someone ends up killing them anyway! This is a step in a pretty cool direction, but since there are many unskippable, real time cut scenes in the game, you will have to listen to the same dialogue and watch the same scene over and over if you want to get a different result. This is also a problem with another new feature: Challenges.

Ten challenges have been added to each campaign mission. Unfortunately, the challenges are a bit hard to find, and only seem to be available for viewing after the mission is over. If you want t know the challenge while playing the game, write them down after one play through or look for them online. If you completed a challenge during the mission, some small text will pop up where the “Checkpoint Reached” text pops up. I believe the text says something like “Campaign Record Updated.” Some of these challenges are pretty easy, like melee ten enemies. Some of the challenges are ridiculously hard, like dive to prone on top of a frag grenade and survive. Then there’s the collecting of three piece of intel in every level. Collecting items that have absolutely no use in games is stupid enough, but when you add it to an action game where people are screaming “Come on! We have to protect the President,” and what not, it is moronic to stop and search for small boxes or tablets. It’s even possible to fail missions because you didn’t find it fast enough! All in all there are new features to the Campaign, but they definitely need a lot of work to be positive additions.

Alongside regular missions are new “Strikeforce Missions.” These missions are a mix of First Person Shooter with Real Time Strategy. It’s an over-the-head view where you can control troops on the ground to hold or take objectives on the map. You can then use a soldier or drone in first person mode to hold off the enemies. All the missions are timed and completely optional. I’m not too sure if people will enjoy this new addition or not.

The actual story to the campaign is a bit interesting. I’m usually the type to really get into the story of a game, even if the game itself is kind of bad. This game, however, didn’t completely suck me in. It was nice to show both sides of the conflict, and it completely tied into the first Black Ops with the same characters, but it just didn’t do it for me. The story takes place in the year 2025, but it also reverts back to the 70s-90s it seems. You either play as Mason from the first Black Ops or his son who is all grown up and in the military. The antagonist of the story is the same throughout all these decades. Some say there’s a mission or two where you actually feel sympathy for him in regards to a certain small story arc, but I didn’t feel it. All the damage he had done before and after that small story arc negated any sympathy I felt for him. As I said earlier, the story is pretty predictable. There are a few choices that can be made in the game, but the outcome of the choices are usually small or non-existent.

Multiplayer

The Multiplayer is pretty much the same as all other Call of Duty games (Past COD 4). All the weapons available are the weapons from the futuristic missions in the campaign, but a huge majority of them feel the same as all the other weaponry from Call of Duty. A few attachments have been created for Multiplayer, many of which were once perks like Stalker and Steady Aim. There’s also the new Select Fire attachment which caught my attention instantly. I thought they would finally make guns with select fire, being able to go full auto, semi auto, and possibly even burst fire. However, Select Fire is an attachment that isn’t unlocked until a later weapon level. It makes all full auto guns burst fire, and all burst fire and semi auto guns full auto. There are no other options, and the semi auto weapons are already extremely powerful that they don’t need t be full auto. It’s a pretty big fail of an attachment if you ask me. Another pretty lame attachment allows players to see through walls up to a specific distance. Of course, this attachment is the last attachment available, but come on! And the last new attachment marks player with a diamond while looking through the sight. If they have a perk that prevents that, the optic will still change colors from blue to red. I don’t know who thinks up these horrible attachments, but they’re there!

A new, and frankly stupid, unlock system is used in Black Ops II. Everything is locked at a specific level, like many of the Call of Duty games before Black Ops II. You must reach that level to gain access to it in create a class, but then you must use an unlock token to unlock it for use. Why? There’s no real reason why… One unlock token will become available after each rank, meaning there are 55 unlock tokens in each prestige. It would make great sense if everything was available for create a class, then you could use an unlock token to unlock whatever you wanted. It would even make sense if they used the old system of unlocking something at a level for use. Instead, they combined the two for this stupid system. The Create A Class has been upgraded, and is probably the best upgrade in the entire game. The new “Pick Ten” System allows people to pick ten items for create a class. A weapon, perk, attachment, equipment, and wildcard each costs one point. Of course, some people may “abuse” this to create a class of all perks and a combat knife. It’s the Marathon, Lightweight, Commando class on steroids. Wildcards are another new addition which breaks the normal slots of Create A Class. A wildcard may allow you to select two primary weapons, three attachments for a primary weapon, two perks from the same tier, or more! Normally, create a class slots are open like this:

  • Primary Weapon
  • Two Attachments for Primary Weapon
  • Secondary Weapon
  • One Attachment for Secondary Weapon
  • Perk 1
  • Perk 2
  • Perk 3
  • One Lethal
  • Two Tacticals
  • Three Wildcards

Prestige mode has been slightly altered. There are now eleven levels of prestige, but weapon levels and attachments will not reset. However, weapons can be prestiged themselves to re-lock all the attachments and unlock new calling cards, clan tags on the gun, or emblems on the gun. Once a player prestiges, they can keep one item (perk, weapon, equipment, or wildcard) that will stay unlocked forever. Three Prestige Awards can then be chosen to either unlock another Create a Class slot, refund all unlock tokens during that level, or completely reset all stats and prestige.

All the same game modes return — with the exception of Sabotage — including Party Games like One in the Chamber and Sticks and Stones. Kill Confirmed ups the dog tag count from 75 to 100, and Domination is now set into two five minute rounds. A new playlist has also been added called League Play. This allow people to play against each other based on skill level, not rank. All items are available for custom classes, but little XP is earned in a match. I feel this addition is really bad without dedicated servers. That’s right, still no dedicated servers, which means you’ll have to connect to one player and hope he’s nearby to get a good connection. The host will always have the best connection, and latency issues are prevalent.

Zombies

Treyarch’s specialty returns for a third time: Zombies! Like the rest of the game, Treyarch had promised to add new features to Zombies to make it all new. And like the rest of the game, they were minor changes. Lets start off with the best new change. Zombies now runs on a similar system as Multiplayer. Players can sort of rank up to play with other people on the same skill level. Many different stats are tracked as well such as kills, downs, revives, and doors opened. In addition to the regular survival mode, a new Grief and TranZit mode has been added. Grief is basically the same as Survival, but this time there are two teams of four. The final team left standing will win the game. This game mode is a bit boring at earlier rounds because there doesn’t seem to be extra zombies on the map! The new TranZit mode was called a new Zombie Campaign, but it’s the same as survival! There’s an Easter Egg story like the other zombie maps, but it requires four players and several steps. The map is cut into small areas, all connected to each other in a long line. A bus is usually needed to get from area to area, but it’s also possible to walk, at the risk of being killed by new creatures in the mist or lava rivers. Basically, it’s just another new survival map. There’s only one map available, but three small areas of this big map is used for Grief and Survival. The entire map is used in TranZit only. People who bought the Collector’s Editions get to play the original Nuketown map on Survival Mode. Weapons and barriers have been put it up to make it specific to Zombies.

Final Verdict

In the end, Black Ops II tried it to present a new Call of Duty game with some new changes, but many of the changes were bad or overhyped as real changes. Yes, there were a few good changes in there, but definitely not enough to make this Call of Duty stand out from the rest. Couple that together with many glitches found on the PS3, PC, and Xbox 360 versions, and this game is a massive disappointment. Some people still can’t play their games or finish the campaign. Two 26 MB patches have even been released in the first week, which means there is no excuse for this type of game behavior. I even come across this game breaking glitch on the 360 version several times a day. My game pretty much stutters so it’s like one frame every second or two, but it’s not just the frames that are freezing, the entire game freezes up! After a few seconds, the game starts running again. If you need to play another Call of Duty, you can go ahead and pick this one up, but know what you’re getting into. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone else.



About the Author

Hector Madrigal
Hector Madrigal is a writer and hardcore gamer. He is currently a Freelance Writer for IGN.com's Wiki Team. Don't forget to follow around the net by clicking one of the buttons under the picture.