Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review

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You know, last year around this time, when I wrote my first Versus review for the dogfight that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 against Battlefield 3, I never knew it would go on to be my biggest review to date.  I really did enjoy both games for what they set out to accomplish, so when they first announced that Treyarch would continue with the Black Ops story for the third game in a row (World at War, Black Ops, and now, Black Ops 2), I was excited and a little let down.  I did love the campaign from Black Ops a lot, probably my favorite since Call of Duty 4.  But I wondered how they could top themselves from that.  Then I heard the big list of details — Part of the game would be set in the future setting of 2025, part of it in the past.  You would ride a horse.  Multi-player would be set in 2025.  This news both got me pumped, and made me want to avoid this game like the plague. I was excited for a COD game in a new setting like we have never seen before, but I would be riding horses!?  I did that enough in Skyrim last year.  Well, now that the game launched, and yes, I was at the Midnight Launch for it, let’s both share my experience of the full spectrum of the game, and maybe in the comment section you can tell me your experiences.

Let’s start off with my most anticipated feature, the Campaign mode.  Like I mentioned above, the campaign jumps back and forth from the past where you’ll play as Frank Woods and Alex Mason, both from the first Black Ops game and the future, where you’ll mostly assume the role of Alex’s son, David Mason.  But in both timelines, your goal remains the same.  Try to find and take out the bad guy.  In this case, that bad guy is one Raul Menendez.  In the past, he’s not quite the big bad guy that he is in the future, so we really get to see his beginnings and his rise to infamy.  I do feel in many regards that this campaign falls short of the high bar set by last year’s Modern Warfare 3.  I mean, it seemed like every mission in that game had a huge set piece and some big time things happened.  Black Ops 2 feels much more grounded and in that regard, also felt much more real.  It still has some big moments like piloting a futuristic jet through Los Angeles and using a glider suit to traverse an entire jungle, but they are much fewer and much further between than they were in last year’s title.

One big new element added this year that I think fits in PERFECTLY with this style of game is the new branching story.  There are multiple endings in Black Ops 2.  Depending on your actions throughout the game, you will see different end results because of them. Like, the fact that there is a point where you get the chance to snipe someone with a bag over their head, I won’t spoil who the person is, but but the ending will differ if you shoot that person in the head or maybe in the leg.  It really adds a ton of re-playability to the already stellar campaign that they accomplished this year.  Or you could just cheat and watch them all on YouTube, ya little bastards.  Every year, a new Call of Duty game launches in the holiday window, and every year, people buy it, but they also complain.  They whine and moan because it’s the same game every year.   Those people proved this year that they will say it no matter what, because since Call of Duty 4no Call of Duty game has been more different than previous entries than with Black Ops 2.  Before jumping into the real reason every Call of Duty game sells $1 billion worth of copies, the multi-player.  I want to go into the Zombies aspect of this year’s game.

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Yes, even Zombies got an overhaul this time around.  When World at War introduced this new mode called ‘Nazi Zombies’, every COD fan was pleased.  It was a new fresh thing to the series and it was a lot of fun.  We all kind of missed it when Modern Warfare 2 launched the next year and didn’t have it, but we all understand that Treyarch and Infinity Ward are two different companies with two different goals to achieve in their respective games.  At least I do.  So when Black Ops 1 launched and we got a real taste of this Zombies mode, we knew this was a thing that was here to stay.  What Black Ops 1 accomplished in the Zombies mode was stellar.  Fun maps, kick ass weapons, amazing easter eggs, and even a few DLC twists like having George Romero chase you around.  So when I saw the first teaser for Zombies in Black Ops 2I’ll admit, my mouth started to water.  We got news that this time, Zombies would be more of its own campaign than just playing on a single map.  So when I got my copy of the game and spent a few hours in multi-player, I then got some sleep, but when I woke up, I literally spent the next 6 1/2 hours when I woke up in the Zombies mode.  It was worth it.

Zombies mode this time around is bad ass.  All the maps this time around are connected.  You go from map to map by riding a beat up9 bus that yes, you have to protect and rebuild between maps from the zombies.  It’s hard for me to explain how much fun can be had in this mode.  ESPECIALLY with friends.  If you can get together with a few friends who have played the mode before and understand how it works, you are going to have a fun ass time, believe me!  From the connected maps, to the varied zombie types, to the weapon selections, it’s just all adding up to a great time and quite honestly, I can’t wait to see what Treyarch can add to the mode with DLC much like they did with the first game.  I hope Zombies mode is a mode that is here to stay in all future Treyarch Call of Duty titles!

Now onto the mode that everyone plays and will continue to play until November next year when 90% of us will get the new Call of Duty game, whatever that may be, and I’m hoping it’s not another Modern Warfare title.  I want something new.  But anyway, onto multi-player.  The biggest question every year on the mind of every gamer, have  they changed enough things in Multi-player to warrant me spending $60?  And I can easily tell you the answer.  Yes and no.  Yes, they have changed enough to warrant your purchase, but truly, it still and always will play like a Call of Duty shooter online.  That part will never change.  And honestly, it would be dumb of them to change it.  If an NFL team  won the Super Bowl for 5 straight seasons, would they suddenly change their Quarterback?  No, as the old adage goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Well Call of Duty online certainly isn’t broke.  It’s still playable, no matter how frustrated it will make us all from time to time.  Now, I have my 2 favorite COD games online, COD 4 and Black Ops 1. They might not be everyone’s favorites, but to me, those were the top two.  After playing Black Ops 2 , I doubt I’ll be going back to Black Ops 1.  It’s that much better.

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Now, on the flip side, if COD4‘s online still functioned properly and wasn’t ruled by hackers, I’d still play that game online.  That was one of the best FPS games online ever.  But it’s not, so I steer clear.  But Black Ops 2, well, I find myself having that kind of COD 4 fun again.  I love the maps, including the pre-order bonus of Nuketown 2025.  I love the new modes they added like Hardpoint.  It’s fun.  Treyarch introduced the new Pick 10 this year.  It does away with the classic class creations where you pick two guns, three perks, a lethal grenade, a tactical grenade and go for it.  Now you get 10 slots.  You can pick a gun, a secondary, add attachments to the guns, pick 3 perks and your grenade slots.  That’s all familiar.  However, now we can get rid of anything we don’t want.  Don’t want a secondary weapon, get rid of it.  Want more than 3 perks?  Use the new Wildcard feature which allows you to use a slot to have an extra item like another perk, or 2 lethal grenades or have 3 attachments on your gun.  I had 5 very varied classes for when I played.  It’s a great new addition to the franchise and it’s one I hope Infinity Ward (or whatever company makes the next game) uses, and maybe improves upon.  One feature I don’t like is that every class has to now share the Score-streaks.  Score-streaks are what replaces Kill-streaks from previous games.  Instead of just your kills giving you special perks now, everything you do in a match earns points or XP and every bit of that adds up to your Score-streaks.  So now if you want just a UAV, you don’t have to just get kills, you can get a kill or two and then shoot down an enemy UAV.  As long as your score adds up to the required score of the Score-streak, then you can have it.  But I would have liked it if you could still change your Score-streak with your class like previous games.  Now if a friend of mine and I play, we have to either use the same Score-streaks or change them between every match.  It can get annoying.

All in all, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is easily the most different Call of Duty game I have ever played, and yes, I have played them all.  It’s the one game that wasn’t afraid to change up the norm of every yearly title from the past, and honestly, it worked.  I applaud Treyarch for going out on that limb we as fans have been begging them to go out on.  They took that leap of  faith, and it paid off.  Black Ops 2 was the fastest title to reach $1 billion, ever, in the history of all entertainment.  Faster than any COD game before it, faster than Avatar, faster than The Dark Knight.  And I look forward not only to next year’s game to see if they can capitalize on what Treyarch accomplished here, but I definitely am won over by Treyarch as a developer and I DEFINITELY look forward to their next entry in the Call of Duty franchise.  If the game could mean just one simple thing, it should be that developers shouldn’t be afraid to change things up when they release games annually.  Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a definite runner in my Game of the Year category.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – 8.75/10

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