Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review (Xbox 360)

Once you blop, you can’t stop.

Black Ops 2 is, by my count, the eighth game in the Call of Duty series this generation. It seems like a divisive series, with the two developers Infinity Ward (developed 2 and the Modern Warfare series) and Treyarch (developed 3, World at War and the Black Ops series) each having their own fanbases. Until recently it was assumed that Infinity Ward were the better developer but due to the departure of Infinity Ward’s leads things have been shaken up a little. Many fans of the series militantly defend one set of games or the other, and the subtle differences between the games can make all the difference. So for the record, below lies my ranking of all of the Call of Duty games I’ve played, from best to worst.

  1. Call of Duty on the PC It had the most memorable set pieces and amazing multiplayer for its day, a classic FPS game.
  2. World at War  – Dogs! Plus I loved the weapons and the tanks, gave the multiplayer a very specific feel.
  3. Black Ops 2 – Read the rest of the review.
  4. Black Ops – Sheer insanity, in a good way.
  5. Modern Warfare 1 – Amazing multiplayer progression and a good mix of old and new maps
  6. Modern Warfare 2 – Some really broken mechanics and glitches but some brilliant maps.
  7. Call of Duty 2 – It was just bland, but it was also one of the first 360 games so was exciting.
  8. Call of Duty 3There were hints of Treyarch craziness here but the community never took off. Memorable for Call of Duty vehicles!
  9. Modern Warfare 3 – Terrible maps and terrible people.

I suppose I’ve already given away what I think of this title, but it comes with the important caveat that I really disliked Modern Warfare 3. I hated the maps, I hated the killstreaks, I hated the tactics that worked and I hated the people that played it. I’m hoping, due to the bile that is being projected at Black Ops 2, that those people will soon leave Black Ops 2 and return back to their beloved Modern Warfare. So this is why I love Black Ops 2.

To get it out of the way, the single player is forgettable. I finished it in six hours on heroic and didn’t mind it. That’s about as much of a ringing endorsement as I am willing to give. There were some really cool sections that I don’t want to spoil here, but then there was a lot of filler too. Essentially Call of Duty games now revolve around corridor-based shooting ranges with occasional Michael Bay style set pieces. The few times they change up this formula it is nearly always for the better but they haven’t had a good campaign since Modern Warfare 1’s Fantastic ship-based opening and Ghillies in the Mist level.

The Zombies mode is also fine. Treyarch have added a superficial level of complexity with the buses in Tranzit, but essentially zombies mode is as it has been for a while now. There’s some areas that you can defend, and if you want to work your way through to the hidden story you can, or you can just watch what happens on Youtube. The addition of an easy mode is welcome for those people that wish to see the story without the slog, but it’s still fairly challenging and at times frustrating. There’s a lot of random factors involved in reaching ‘the end’ and that rarely makes for an enjoyable experience when you just want to get it done. I’m sure DLC will expand on this mode and the people who buy this game for zombies will get a lot of mileage out of it. There’s also more traditional zombie modes for those who just want to defend. Fantastic for split-screen or winding down after a multiplayer marathon.

The real meat of the game is in competetive multiplayer. Black Ops 2 has spoiled us with a wealth of playlists, an overhauled class creation system, the return of the Emblem maker and a decent collection of maps to suit a wide range of tastes.

Ok so the maps are mostly on the small side, but they definitely feel like they have been crafted as playing spaces much like the old classic Firing Range. Wherever you are there’s always an array of different sight lines and paths, and camping is readily discouraged with an assortment of new technology. Of course it still happens but if someone is hiding in a container it’s not too difficult to bust out a millimeter scanner, work out exactly where they are and chuck in some C4 or Semtex. If there’s a turret blocking your path use an EMP grenade or the new hacking tool, the Black Hat. The Black Hat in particular is genius. You can use it to turn enemy mines against their owners, destroy turrets or killstreak rewards, and even to collect care packages that have fallen out of the play area.

The collection of tools is immense and I don’t feel that people have really come to grips with how differently you can play. There are no clear terrible weapons, there are no clearly ‘better’ loadouts. Nearly everything is viable, I can go positive with just a knife, or I can load up with a long distance shotgun. Everything you use levels up with you and unlocks new challenges and camo packages. It’s a completionists dream and nightmare all in one, but it’s addictive.

There have been issues with netcode and many people are complaining of unsufferable lag. Hopefully these issues will be resolved soon as this is a fantastic entry into the series. Once you get into a game without too much lag there’s real competition. Objectives count towards all Killstreaks so teams seem a little more focused than before. You get rewarded for doing everything so even if you’ve not got a 2.0 KDR you can still have a lot of fun. This is the broadest most compelte Call of Duty yet, and I applaud Treyarch for going the extra mile rather than just polishing up the same old game to be released again. This is the definitive Call of Duty for this generation, and I get the feeling it’ll be the last one too.

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