Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review
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A new height for storytelling in Call of Duty games paired with a remodeled multiplayer component that is as addictive and rewarding as ever makes for really attractive package, despite its shortcomings.
- New height for storytelling in Call of Duty games
- Multiplayer has aged with us, remodeling an addictive competitive online component to prioritize customization
- There's quite a bit of game here, and something for everyone
- Strike Force missions bog down a surprisingly good Single-Player campaign
- PS3 version doesn't run as well as its Xbox 360 counterpart
- We miss Spec Ops
(continued from previous page) ...make each level much more personal than ever before. You might be surprised at how different the outcomes of your choices can be; depending on your decisions some characters may ultimately live or die, accordingly.
As surprising as it may sound to hear that a new gameplay archetype has been introduced into Call of Duty with the Strike Force missions, you shouldn’t get your hopes too high. This was the single weakest aspect of the campaign mode seeing as I didn’t enjoy any of these missions—they weren’t fun, only frustrating. It’s important to mention that these missions are totally optional, but choosing to ignore them will drastically alter your ending and make things grimmer than they need to be.
The Strike Force missions add some non-linearity to the flow of campaign mode, as well as a new take on how Call of Duty can be played. In most of them (there are about half a dozen), you’re tasked with commanding a squadron from “Overwatch Mode,” a bird’s eye view of all units where you can order troops to move around, attack, or defend an area—just like an RTS! That’s not nearly as fun as it sounds, however; AI pathing and movement was often pretty broken, as I sometimes encountered problems with certain members of my squad getting stuck while walking to a waypoint. AI was never easy to deal with; they’d usually take way too long to take down an enemy and in turn die, making me wait for new units to respawn.
You can, however, assume control of any soldier/drone/robot that you have at your disposal. This ended up being the only way I played the Strike Force missions, since relying on the bird’s eye view Overwatch Mode never worked as well as I hoped it would. See, in Overwatch Mode, buttons have been remapped and ultimately not very intuitive when used to control multiple individual units. Even the first Strike Force mission, which acted as the tutorial, was a mess of broken AI, confusing objectives and repetitive gameplay. Again, it was much easier to play these missions as a First-Person Shooter—using one soldier to do everything.
It seems as though Treyarch wanted to add a twist to the campaign this time—separate from the branching paths—and failed. While I see the potential in the Strike Force missions, their execution was poor and this resulted in them being frustrating and not very fun. Standing beside the new, more dramatic story and what they’ve done with the branching paths (both the best parts of Campaign mode), Strike Force missions are easily the worst addition to this year’s Call of Duty game.
Now, when you think “Call of Duty,” most think of how it revolutionized online competitive multiplayer this generation. CoD fans largely flock to Black Ops 1 for its critically–acclaimed multiplayer component, however, it now seems as though Black Ops II has dethroned the original in terms of having the best all-around multiplayer. Black Ops II's multiplayer is so refined and fun that it’ll keep you coming back night after night—if multiplayer is your thing, anyway.
Treyarch has once again stripped the nuts and bolts out of multiplayer and rebuilt it so that you can customize your loadouts more than ever. Starting from level 1, you never feel like you don’t have access to any powerful weapons; everything feels just as balanced, familiar and new as it should. Levelling up and creating your classes is noticeably more addictive and fun, thanks to the new way you equip your weapons and perks. Instead of having a set amount of item you bring with you into battle, you can choose how much equipment you bring with you versus how many perks you have. Want to focus on having a god-like primary weapon with three attachments and perks to complement it? No problem, but you might have to leave your lethal/secondary grenades behind, or even your secondary weapon. You can even go into battles without any weapons equipped (except your knife, obviously) but have a large amount of perks equipped, practically making you a superhuman when you do actually pick up a gun.
Scorestreaks have also been reworked and balanced, with all-new futuristic rewards like the Dragonfire, a flying robot that you control in the air and use to shoot down your opposition, ... (continued on next page)