(Disclaimer: This is a retrospective review. When I have not completed the game I am currently reviewing or if I have nothing to review I will be posting a review for a game I have already played in the past.)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the ninth full game in the Call of Duty series, and this is the root of its problems. Since the beginning, I have been a fan of the Call of Duty games. I got to play Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 on the PC back in the day, and many would argue that Call of Duty 2 is one of the best first person shooter games to ever be made. The emotions of scaling the cliffs at Pointe de Huc during D-Day in Call of Duty 2 was one of the most heart pounding moments in the beginning phases of my gaming experience. One of my most cherished achievements at that age was beating Call of Duty 2 without the reticule being turned on. May sound like a minor thing to you but to me it was pretty awesome.
The heart of the problem that the more recent Call of Duty games is that they have not been too willing to change-up the formula. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is one of my favorite games because it took both a leap in leaving World War 2 behind for the modern-day as well as having strong characters and an engaging story.
Black Ops 2 takes the “leap” into the future, but does nothing else substantial. Even the leap ahead in time is half-hearted, because its seems like every other mission takes place back in time after the original Black Ops. The game can’t decide what it wants to be, a futuristic shooter or a historical one. Going from futuristic weapons to older ones can be a bit jarring at times as well. For someone like me though, who is a little bit of a gun nut, I appreciated the older weapons more because I knew better what they were and what situations they worked best in.
AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE, STOP PUTTING THE XM8 IN “FUTURE” GAMES!
For those who don’t know, the XM8 was one of several weapons that were involved in a program to find a new gun to replace the aging M-4 in the US Military. The weapon has a futuristic look, so many assume that it’s pretty cool. Since it was introduced, it seems like every game set in the future has it, but they fail to realize that the weapon didn’t win the contract! This is NOT the gun of the future! If you want to put your game in the future, put the HK 416 in it.
The HK 416 has been the weapon that’s been the most well received to succeed the M-4, not the XM8. When a “future” game has this beauty instead of the XM8, I’ll be a little happier.
Anyways, back to the review.
The combat in Black Ops 2 passes. It seems like the same gameplay we’ve had for years, just with nicer graphics. Here’s the thing with first person shooters, you need more than a gameplay mechanic to make a good game. Each FPS that’s been made basically plays the same, so it’s the story and characters that set them apart (See Halo 4). Black Ops 2 has neither strong characters or an engaging story. The characters in Black Ops 2 are shallow and seem kind of copy-pasted from other games. One of the members of your squad in the future names Section (dumb name) is such a stereotypical white guy gung-ho for America and freedom that I thought to myself, “This guy is going to betray us, there’s no way that he is really this shallow.” Was I right… Nope!
There is a character in your squad who does betray you… and to give minor spoilers, IT’S THE ONLY NON-WHITE GUY ON THE TEAM! I mean, come on guys! I know that something like this is easy to look past but when you really look at it it’s pretty sad. Also the main villain is such a stereotype that it’s laughable. I did find it ironic that the organization that was presented as the “bad guys” could be argued as the Occupy Wall Street of the future. I found this interesting, but not a very daring form of storytelling. I feel like the developers just picked up a newspaper when they got their coffee on their way to work, read it, and based the game off of what they read.
To me, the most compelling part of the story was the parts set in the past. The members of your team had already been sort of established and the missions set in the Cold War had real world connections to them. This made it all more compelling, while the missions in the future just seemed like a bunch of rich white guys going to kick the bad guy’s butt with their future tech.
Here’s another thing, Black Ops 2 brings in some really cool futuristic technology for you to use, but often you only have one chance to use it, which makes it become a sort of mini game (I’m looking at you, squirrel suits!) or they turn out to not be too effective. I mean, who really thought that an active camouflage system that made you invisible but left your gun completely visible was a good idea? The sight of a floating gun would just draw more attention.
Another new feature that Black Ops 2 brings to the table is the mini games that you must do at certain points in the campaign. These missions have 2 major faults, they directly influence your ending and you only have so many tries to complete them. Combine those with the fact that the A.I. for your soldiers is completely stupid and these missions are a major pain in the ass. In these missions you are given an objective to either defend points, take points, or escort certain people. You are given a few squads of soldiers and some unmanned assault vehicles to do this with. When you first do one of these missions, you probably assign one of these squads to a point thinking that they’ll take cover and fight smart. You couldn’t be more wrong.
I just want to say real fast, the system of “lives” is too dated. If you develop a game type such as this and make it essential to win all of them to achieve the best ending, you either need to make sure they work or don’t make it that you only have a certain amount of attempts.
Your men stand around like they’re talking about the Super Bowl, and when they’re attacked they just take the enemies bullets like sponges. So basically, what was supposed to be a new and fun part of the game that emphasizes tactics ends up being a hectic one man army when you have to take direct control of one of the soldiers in order to get anything done. The final one of these missions consists of you having to take a point and defend it. This point is in the middle of a road and is IMPOSSIBLE to do without taking direct control. Your men, when tasked to defend it, STAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLIPPING ROAD. It’s rare that I’ve been so frustrated.
I feel obliged to talk about what Black Ops 2 actually does right. The gameplay in Black Ops 2 is as smooth as ever, making the actual combat more enjoyable. Now, this could be argued to not truly be something for Black Ops 2 to take claim over since the gameplay has evolved over time from other games. However, since I’ve been ripping the game up, I will give this to it.
Black Ops 2 brings back the Zombie mode of Black Ops and World at War. This game mode is as enjoyable as ever, especially with friends. In Zombie mode, the issues of story and characters are thrown out the window because you and your friends are the characters and the story is what you make it. This makes Zombies more of an interactive experience, full of situations where it seems all hope is lost but you and your friends find a way to squeak on through. Playing with your friends can make any game better, and the Zombie mode in Black Ops 2 is a great example of this. Still, ironically, I wish Zombies would be in one of the Infinity Ward Call of Duty games. Could be really awesome.
I need to make the disclaimer that I have not played the multiplayer in Black Ops 2. I have never been huge into multiplayer, and if I was to try to get into it I would probably play Halo 4 instead of this simply because I enjoy Halo so much more than this game. Because of all of this, the online multiplayer is not taken into effect in this review.
The positive parts of this game are just what have been carried over from previous Call of Duty games. After I played this, I’ve gone back and played through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare again to remind myself what a good Call of Duty game is like. I have hopes for Call of Duty: Ghosts because it looks like they’re taking a leap into a new and compelling story. I’m sure it’ll be better than this game, but only time will tell it truly breaks the cycle of mediocre Call of Duty games we’ve seemed to have lately.
- Smooth Gameplay
- Zombie Mode
- Shallow Characters
- Non-Compelling Story
- Lack of Innovation
- Stupid and Frustrating Mini Game
Is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 a good game? In my opinion, no. However, it seems like the hordes of people who play online multiplayer will disagree with me. That’s OK though, because a game should be way more than the multiplayer component. If you want a game that’s built to be multiplayer and shouldn’t have a campaign, see Battlefield. If you’re going to sell you game on its story, actually take the time to write something that has even a drop of originality. This game sure has non of it.