Reviews
Call of Duty: Black Ops II

By Sharad Hirjee - December 1st, 2012

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Sometimes we are stretched thin – or we’re not experts on particular franchises. Our friend Sharad is a very knowledgeable chap who happens to live and breathe Call of Duty – who better to speak about Black Ops II, AMIRITE?

Treyarch and Activsion teamed up again to release their highly anticipated sequel, Call of Duty: Black Ops II – this is really the sixth game of the Call of Duty franchise when you consider the Modern Warfare titles. This latest release is really three games in one, The Campaign, Zombies, and the Online Multi-player modes. I commend them for taking some chances beyond the typical evolutionary changes of any franchise, especially when you consider that they arguably have one of the most proven models of game-play*. They could have just done a refresh of Black Ops and still had a guaranteed money maker.

The storyline in the main campaign jumps between two different time periods: the Cold War in the 1980s and a future fictional terrorist attack in 2025. As usual, Treyarch isn’t afraid to mix it up in terms of the story-line, and rely on the player to keep up with the narrative. While the story tends to feel like a secondary element in a lot of war games involving fiction, Treyarch definitely tells a good story. Many of the players of this franchise simply skip the campaign and move to the online play, but in BOPS2 I think that this would be a regrettable decision.

One of the changes that I really liked in this iteration of the game was the ability to change your load-out including primary and secondary weapons, their respective attachments, and both tactical and lethal munitions. Players of the online game mode will be well-versed in this as it has been a staple capability since the original MW.

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Fire Team Charlie Bravo Knuckle Underwear takes the footbridge to the duck pond.

Within the campaign, “Strike Force” missions are added. Strike Force is a mode in which you are directing different types of assets to accomplish a given goal; for instance, a Strike Force mission may consist of defending a specific compound. With critical areas identified you direct the drones or soldiers via an overhead view to neutralize the threat. This game mode offers a Command and Conquer-esque type of interface, with the option of taking over specific assets and going to a first-person mode to accomplish the objective at hand. This was one of the changes that I did not like because it feels like being forced to play a game mode that FPS lovers may not necessarily appreciate.

Another new twist in the campaign: in previous versions, if you did not meet an objective you simply had to restart that objective and play it again until you met the goal. In BOPS2 you may still move ahead and have to deal with the ramifications of not meeting that objective in future missions. This results in variable endings upon completion the campaign; the fact that you may not have seen all of the potential missions makes the replay-ability of this game much more compelling than its predecessors.

The strong multi-player mode is probably the the biggest draw in the Call of Duty franchise; consequently, this is what most players will spend the majority of their time participating in. BOPS2 does not disappoint with the included game stages offering a wide variety of scenes and settings with something for everyone whether you prefer to hang back and snipe or play forward by running-and-gunning.

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In the year 2025, President Bieber requests only the best for his personal guard.

The new method of obtaining rewards using points earned for all actions -from capturing a flag, or securing a checkpoint, to getting kills or shooting down the opposition’s aircraft- as opposed to just rewarding kills creates a new balance in game-play.

The new “Pick 10″ configuration is the signal biggest improvement to what is, in my opinion, the most important game mode in BOPS2. This allows you to customize your load-out in a fashion that is simply revolutionary. Whatever style you play you will appreciate the flexibility that Pick 10 affords you. If you don’t use a tactical gadget you can add an extra perk or a third attachment to your primary weapon with the use of the wildcards. There are literally thousands of possible permutations to your personal arsenal.

The above changes to an already very good multi-player mode make this the best Call of Duty experience ever. The one piece of functionality that I did hope to see (but was not included) was the addition of matchmaking based on player ability. As there is a large population that has been playing this for years, it would be nice for the new ones to play against others with a similar skill-set rather than facing certain death.

Full disclosure: my experience with the multi-player mode started very poorly for me as I was having issues with the matchmaking, what with my PS3 freezing and requiring hard reboots. Fortunately, Treyarch reacted quickly and released the 1.03 patch that resolved 99% of the problems.

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“Stay on target…Stay on target!!!”

Zombies return the third time in a Treyarch game, with three modes. Tranzit is the campaign-like Mode. The second selection, called Survival Mode, has you and up to three other players rage against never-ending waves of zombie enemies until you can no longer hold them off. Grief Mode is a competitive version of Survival where you compete against another team; the one that lasts the longest wins. While I have never been a big fan of Zombies, this is certainly the most playable version involving the undead that I have played so far.

As expected, the graphics and audio continue to improve with each release from the franchise – which is a pretty amazing achievement. Black Ops II stands higher than the original Black Ops in terms of both quality of graphics and animation, as well as sound. Seriously, games like Black Ops II are perfect demos to show off a great audio/visual setup.

For those who don’t want to settle for the normal version, you can always bump up to the Hardened Edition. The folks at Activision sent us a PS3 Hardened Edition and it is pretty sweet. The game comes in a collectible SteelBook, complete with the official soundtrack and limited edition Challenge Coins. There is also some great DLC in the form of levels (Nuketown Zombies and Nuketown 2025) and some avatar items.

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The Hardened Edition: Awesome!

While there is still room for improvement, Call Of Duty Black Ops II took some risks to make some changes from its predecessors, and this has paid off in the production of a fantastic game that exceeded my expectations. This is certainly the most graphic of the Call of Duty line (with players watching a man burn to death in a car very early in the game as an example**). Parents should indeed take heed of the M (mature) rating associated with the game.

* – Not to mention that the franchise is a perennial best seller.
** – Which was even shocking to this seasoned player.

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