In the world of first-person shooters, the Call of Duty series has been king. Dominating the sales charts and taking over the multiplayer leaderboards has become an annual trend for this franchise. With Treyarch getting their next turn to keep the train moving with Black Ops 2, can they justify fans of the genre picking up yet another entry in the series?
The most beloved and most scrutinized portion of the Call of Duty series has consistently been the multiplayer. Each year, either Infinity Ward or Treyarch is tasked with taking the same basic framework of the series and making it stand out to consumers. The different time settings offered by each developer help distinguish each new title, but ultimately consumers want a balance of fixes from previous iterations and new features to satiate their developing tastebuds.
For casual fans of the series, the changes in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 may not be overtly apparent. That said, the more stringent observer will notice that Treyarch did a fantastic job of implementing changes that impact the multiplayer positively. Features like the “Pick 10” system completely change the aspect of the create-a-class system.
In years past, gamers were allowed to customize their playstyle within a fixed scope of options. The addition of the “Pick 10” system completely alters the landscape of Call of Duty multiplayer. Players are no longer confined to a limited range of customization, but rather given the ability to create a class that perfectly complements their individual style. Each option you choose takes one out of the ten allotted points you’re given. Don’t often use your secondary weapon? Take that point and, instead, use it toward something that better benefits the way you play.
Just as in previous years, the further you advance in multiplayer, the more weapons, perks, and customization options you’ll unlock. If you’re the kind of player that prefers just using a primary weapon, you’ll even be able to add up to three separate attachments to your weapon. You’ll have to make sacrifices in other areas, but this is another way that Treyarch has done a fantastic job at letting you play the game that you want to play it.
New to this year’s edition is the introduction of “League Play.” For the first time, gamers are able to participate in competitive matches that open up the full arsenal of perks and weapons to their disposal. The most important part of League Play is that after playing a few matches the system matches you up with enemies of your own skill level each time you enter the mode. Various levels dictate which division you’re in and help you better gauge your current level of play. Periodically, Treyarch will announce and issue different individual seasons to allow gamers to stay competitive and climb the multiplayer leaderboards.
Once you’re actually in a game, you’ll find that Black Ops 2 begins to showcase just how strategic you’ll need to be in each match. While previous entries in the series have given certain combinations the ability to dominate, Black Ops 2 allows you to build a class to elevate your gameplay while still neutralizing a pesky opponent. Gone are the days when the majority of players could load up similar classes in their custom slots, only swapping the guns and possibly a perk. The new emphasis on allowing players to skillfully build classes adds a strategic element that the series has sorely missed at times.
There’s a ton of lasting appeal here as you’ll be able to Prestige ten different levels and then work your way towards maxing out your rank by earning the Prestige Master emblem. Treyarch has also added the ability to prestige your weapon, which allows you to add your clan tag to the gun and a few other gems that keep your trigger finger happy. If you’re a fan of the multiplayer, you’re going to have plenty to work towards and unlock in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
At times, the single-player campaign can feel like you’re reliving war stories with your grandfather in a nursing home. As Woods takes you through previous situations and current events that help shape the story, you’ll find that you’re allowed to actually choose different paths in the story in certain situations. A first for the series, Treyarch has added the ability for users to decide different actions within the story to give them a slightly different ending and experience. Don’t expect the level of choice that you would find in a Mass Effect title or Heavy Rain, though. Instead, you’ll have a few key moments within your campaign that let you leave your mark on the adventure. Is it groundbreaking? Not necessarily, but it’s a nice addition with potential to add depth to the series as a whole.
After completing each mission, you’re taken to a “briefing” screen of sorts that allows you to pick a loadout for the upcoming mission. Recommended weapons are highlighted to ensure that you’re not completely destroyed, but this option both hurts and helps the story. While it’s great to be able to pick weapons you’re most comfortable with, the inclusion of this screen made the story feel incredibly fragmented. Call of Duty titles typically have relatively short campaigns, and this break in immersion can almost kill your desire to play on to the next mission.
Within this same screen, you’re also given the opportunity to play an RTS-style version of certain missions known as “Strikeforce.” These specialized missions allow you to play as a soldier or pull back to a top-down perspective that allows you to control various groups of soldiers. You’re given a tutorial to help acclimate you to the mode, but they ultimately prove to be too tedious for you to go out of your way to play them. After completing the first mission, the additional missions that show up throughout the rest of the campaign are optional. Even for the most hardcore Call of Duty fan these missions hardly provide enough entertainment and satisfaction to be desirable to play.
As with most campaigns in the series, you’ll find quite a bit of excitement and enough explosions to satisfy your hunger for such things. The setting of the year 2025 provides a handful interesting gadgets that will surely put a smile on your face when you have the chance to use them. It’s a solid delivery by Treyarch, but it’s a shame that only the last portion of the adventure proves to be worthwhile for gamers.
If the popular Zombies mode is your bloody, gory cup of tea, there’s a chance you may be somewhat disappointed by this iteration’s contribution. While the new Tranzit mode is an interesting idea, it doesn’t seem to flow as smoothly as one might hope for. The traditional zombie game is there, and Grief may be the best addition to Zombies this year, despite getting the least publicity. Teams go head-to-head in a 4v4 style match that includes cpu-controlled zombies. Rather than working to kill one another, each team fights to survive the zombie onslaught. The catch? The each team can earn rewards that make it incredibly tough for the opposition to survive.
For $60, it’s hard to argue against the value that Black Ops 2 provides. The multiplayer is incredibly deep, the campaign wraps up nicely despite a few mistakes, and if you’ve loved the Zombies mode in the past you’ll more than likely love it again this year. First-person shooter fans have a lot to be happy about this year, and the value they’ll find in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a big reason for that.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was developed by Treyarch, and published by Activision. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.