Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Hands-on Preview

At the Eurogamer Expo 2012 we got a two-game hands on with the multiplayer of Black Ops 2. To be honest I wasn’t particularly excited about the game. I wasn’t impressed with Modern Warfare 3 and the videos did nothing for me. But at the expo we met up with some friends and after lunch decided to face the hour long queue to play a couple of games and see what it was like. I was shocked.

We got to play a round of multi-team Kill Confirmed, and then a multi-team Team Deathmatch. Each team had three players and I was placed with the two friends we had met up with, while Kimkylet was placed on the opposition. We were sat down on the 360 with some Turtle Beach headsets, and given a few moments to create our class before the match began.

There was some weird interference causing our menus to jump around a little bit but it quickly became clear that creating a class is much more involved this time around. I picked an M27 just because we had seen a kid completely dominate with one previously. I didn’t have time to change much else, but could get a sense of how the token system works where you can have so many pieces of gear in pretty much any combination you want. I was tempted to switch out my sidearm for a grenade launcher on the rifle but couldn’t see how to do in in time. I then went to the ‘Scorestreak’ (read: Kill Streak) menu and was again thoroughly overwhelmed by the menu. You can choose 3 but I had a ‘Wildcard’ that allowed me to pick an extra ‘first’ one. I have no idea how that is supposed to work, and when I selected ‘counter-UAV’ to take it off the menu changed and came up with a bunch of other streaks. I managed to get them set up but I still only had 3 so maybe I was wasting one. I set it up to take UAV (3 kills) Care Package (4 kills) and ‘Lightning Strike’ (5 kills). I didn’t have much faith that my killing streaks would go further than that.

Our first map was on a cruise liner. There was a tower sort of structure with rooms, a balcony overlooking the middle and an odd dead end towards the north end of the map, some open decking with 4 small structures running through the middle, two raised sections at either side and then a lower section at each end that felt very isolated. The map looked reasonably impressive and spectacularly colourful, but the graphics in general aren’t a huge leap forwards. The game looks like a cleaner version of Modern Warfare 3, still running at 60fps.

Starting out I had a couple of terrible deaths and started thinking this was going to be another COD that I would be awful at. It seems like some games I just ‘get’, like World at War and Black Ops, and then some games I just can’t play to save my life, like Modern Warfare. Mayve it’s Treyarch’s design sensibilities, but I seem to be better at their games. Thankfully my losing streak turned around and I started pulling the trigger quick enough and making good decisions about my paths through the level. The guns feel more forceful this time around. I think it’s a combination of a slightly increased rumble for each shot, a bassier sound and possibly increased damage. To me it seemed as if this was balanced by a lower accuracy on the weapons. I only tried out a couple of main weapons in my time but the recoil seemed to have a much greater effect, but when you connected you could generally take someone down in a couple of shots. Really it felt not too dissimilar from Battlefield 3. Movement and aiming still feels very Cod-like with high sensitivity and the aforementioned steady frame-rate, perhaps this title has taken the best of both worlds.

Once I had settled into my groove I was steadily racking up kills and flying through the kill streaks. The Lightning strike allows you to highlight three areas on a map, just like the mortars in previous games. There seemed to be many less high-powered killstreaks flying around, but this could just have been due to the inexperienced teams. I saw no helicopters or drone swarms, or even little turret-tanks driving around the level at all. Instead there were lots of missile strikes and one or two strafing runs. Care packages worked in much the same way as previous games, giving you UAVs and Predator missiles when you really want an AC-130.

The multi-team system makes games a lot more interesting and the constant competition between teams and ensuing politics (is it possible to gang up on the leading team?) creates a more engaging ‘flow’ to longer games. I hope these multi-team matches become the norm, keeping up with a three-man squad is also a lot easier than keeping track of six players.

We ended up winning that first game overall, and all the usual stats are available at the end of the match.

For the second game we were placed in the ruins of a city and this map felt more like the ‘standard’ COD maps of games in the past. Everything was brown and dreary, and there were wide open streets and narrow alleys to run around. This game didn’t go as well, despite players getting more used to some of the really interesting gear. I saw some great used by campers of those sound-emitting shields, disorienting unwitting enemies as they stumbled into a wall before being cut down by a hail of gunfire. I was experimenting with sticky grenades that appeared to have a shorter range than previous games, but a more powerful blast within their area of effect. Throwing also seemed much more responsive, with a more immediate effect when you tapped RB.

We ended up coming third in this game and I think the longer ranges in the map were a lot of the problem for me. I really struggled with accuracy and hopefully this is a sign that maps will dictate viable guns rather than just having one or two really good guns that outclass all the others.

All four of us were surprised at how much we enjoyed the game. It was exciting, tense and interesting. Much of the ‘magic’ that MW3 seemed to be missing was fully present and correct in Black Ops 2. Some of the other features shown that we didn’t get a hands-on with were the spectator/commentator sections. Players can now join a game as a commentator, and choose between players and see loads of real-time data as they comment on the match. From what we understand this can then be streamed online. It’s a brilliant idea and if it takes off could signal a drastic change in the world of console gaming.  Overall our interest in the game has significantly picked up, November 13th can’t come soon enough. Check back around then for our full-length review!

Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and on Twitter