Since Call of Duty has become a yearly franchise like FIFA or even Assassin’s Creed for that matter, expecting something drastically new in this year’s iteration is kind of foolish. It follows the commandments laid down by its predecessors to a tee, so you know exactly what you’re getting into even before you boot the game up. That being said, Black Ops 2’s campaign is solid entertainment and it even introduces a few new gameplay mechanics that are a welcome addition to this series. It’s a pity then that the multiplayer doesn’t hold up that well.
Black Ops 2 is a direct sequel to Black Ops and shuttles between multiple protagonists in the past and present (that’s the future by the way). This allows Treyarch to introduce new characters like David Mason, Alex Mason’s son, but lets players reacquaint themselves with older veterans like Mason, Hudson and the crazy but totally awesome Frank Woods as well. I have always liked Treyarch’s take on the Call of Duty universe. It’s gritty and brutal. yes, but it isn’t all black or white. Sometimes the good guys have to do really bad things and sometimes, you find yourself empathising with the bad guy even though he wants to annihilate most of the human population. Black Ops 2 may not have the deepest plot in the world, but it’s definitely an entertaining ride that will keep you hooked till the very end.
New to this series are Strike Force Missions, optional missions peppered throughout the campaign. In these, you’ll be tasked with different objectives like protecting a base against incoming attacks from a top-down or first-person perspective, or blowing up a ship’s defence system in a stipulated time period. Successfully performing these missions will change the final outcome of the game. Of course, you can completely skip all of them and get a different ending as well. Besides the Strike Force Missions, you’ll be forced to make hard decisions that will decide the fate of certain characters, once again affecting the end. It’s not an unheard of concept, but it’s nice to see it in a Call of Duty game.
As much as I enjoyed the campaign, it definitely has some pacing issues. It takes a while to get going and feels extremely scripted at times. I know this is a linear shooter, but it does get annoying when I’m killed by invisible enemies just because I deviated from my (predetermined) path by about ten feet. On the other hand, the game encourages exploration (to a certain extent) as you can find alternate routes, hidden supply caches or friendly drones behind closed doors that’ll give you additional backup in the heat of the battle. Of course, all this ends in about five hours, the average lifespan of any COD campaign post-Modern Warfare.
If competitive gaming is not your thing, you can head into the game’s four-player co-operative zombie mode. You can chose to play zombies the conventional (horde mode) way, where you hold off a certain area from the undead, or you could try out the new TranZit mode that has you and four other people travelling from one zombie infested location to the next on a bus. It’s a nice touch to the tried and tested formula and can make for some pretty intense moments, especially when you’re surrounded by enemies and have to make a mad dash for your bus as it’s about to leave. There’s also a Left 4 Dead style-survivors vs zombies mode, but I can’t comment on that since I never got to play it.
What I did get to play for most of the weekend was the game’s multiplayer, something I was really looking forward to, and boy, was I disappointed. Black Ops was lauded for its large(ish) multiplayer maps that allowed players to exercise a certain amount of tact on the battlefield. Sadly, with Black Ops 2, Treyarch has gone in for smaller, claustrophobic maps like Modern Warfare 3 did. It can get annoying if you’re actually trying to work towards the objective while half your team’s running around spraying bullets with reckless abandon like they were on fire. It’s even worse when your reflexes aren’t as sharp as they used to be.
I could have somehow dealt with my diminishing COD skills, but the game’s God awful matchmaking system doesn’t help at all. It supposedly pairs you up with the best possible connection based on latency and ping, but it really doesn’t. Nearly every server I played on was a horrible lagfest, where I had just one red bar, while most of the opposition had three or more green bars. It also takes ages to connect to a game, no matter what search parameters you chose. Granted I do not have the best Internet connection on the planet (thank you MTNL), but this is same connection I played Battlefield 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter and older Call of Duty games on with no serious issues. So why Treyarch, why for the love of God, did you go ahead and remove the server browser you had in Black Ops?
Connectivity issues aside, the game just doesn’t click for me. Don’t get me wrong; it is Call of Duty, but it’s just so geared toward quick skirmishes, your life span in each game will probably be all of three seconds. Plus it takes ages to unlock the good assault rifles so pretty much everyone on the planet is rocking out to SMGs. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but for some reason, SMG’s are insanely overpowered in Black Ops 2, especially with the smaller map structure in place. Slap on a laser sight onto one of those, and you’ll be topping the scoreboard in no time. If you’re cool with that kind of run-and-gun gameplay, Black Ops 2 will deliver, but if you prefer a bit of tactical action, you’re in the wrong game.
Killstreaks, something the Call of Duty series had popularised and perfected, have now been replaced by Scorestreaks. This means players are allowed to call in for perks based on their score and not their kill count. This is meant to encourage team play, discouraging those who simply prefer personal glory over team objectives. It does work to a certain extent, but it also makes UAV’s a tad overbearing since it can be called in the fastest. In a matter of minutes, the sky will be blotted out by UAVs and your enemies will know exactly where you are, while you still flounder around to learn the map.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is not a bad game, but it’s not terribly ground-breaking either. The campaign turns out to be the most appealing aspect, and while it does take a few levels to really get going, you won’t stop till you finish. Sadly, the same cannot be said about multiplayer, which is pretty much a rehash of older COD games with an emphasis on turbo-charged, chaotic gameplay. I’m down with chaos, but this game is a bit on the excessive side. Factor into that an insane amount of connection issues, and you’re bound to get frustrated, especially after spending such a hefty sum on one game. All said and done, if like me, you are a bit saturated with the formula and were expecting something new, don’t bother.
- Engaging campaign
- Solid gunplay
- Solid entertainment
- Match-making issues
- Terrible lag (PC version)
- Small, cramped maps
- Weak multiplayer
If you are a bit saturated with the Call of Duty formula and were expecting something new, don’t bother, especially at this price.