‘Black Ops 2’ concentrates on two perspective for its storyline, ‘Alex Mason’ from the original ‘Black Ops’ and his son ‘David Mason’. How will these two characters intertwine I hear you ask? Well Alex’s story will be set in the past during the decades of the 1970’s and 80’s and he will be reflecting on events from the ‘Cold War’, which was the main focus of the first ‘Black Ops’. For his son ‘David’, his story will be set in the not too distant future of 2025 where the method of war has changed, we rely on robotics and unmanned vehicles, in theory it’s for the better as the casualty loss should be far less than using the traditional infantry we know of today. But if this technology was to fall in the wrong hands, the results could be truly catastrophic.
So you never guess what? There just so happens to be a bad guy who is willing to take advantage of this technology for all the wrong reasons, his name is ‘Raul Menendez’ and he is the leader of the ‘Cordis Die’, an organisation that claims to be the champion of the victims. Following a cyber attack on the Chinese Stock Exchange, China bans the exports of extremely rare earth elements which results in a conflict between China and the USA and ‘Raul’ is all set to use this potential conflict to his advantage and start a full scale world war! A new Cold War of 2025.
It’s also worth a mention that the story of ‘Black Ops 2’ was written by none other than ‘David S. Goyer’, who was involved with the storyline of ‘Christopher Nolan’s’ amazing ‘Batman’.
The visuals for ‘Black Ops 2’ is quite possibly the best in the franchise, the jungle environments look lush, the character animations are top notch and there is plenty of over the top cool looking explosions. There is certainly alot of good in this department, but also so minor issues too, I’ll start with the good. ‘Black Ops 2’ does run at an impressive 60fps and with alot going on in many of the games scenes; it’s a good job, because with so many explosions and enemies on one screen, most games would suffer from a little slow down. But in all fairness, so far during my campaign, I am yet to notice any slow down as of yet, perhaps that’s a benefit of running the game on an older engine? That’s not a direct knock at Call of Duty’s engine, they can still make the game look good, it runs with no slow down and it’s a formula that works.
It’s also worth mentioning that the character animation is arguably the best that I’ve seen in the franchise by a country mile. You can almost feel a characters emotion, just from a glare in their eyes. Whether it’s an emotional scene, agony or anger, you can read their faces in an instant and this aspect goes a long way in Black Ops 2’s storytelling. Speaking of the character animation, there are two well known actors that are instantly recognisable in ‘Black Ops 2’, namely ‘Tony Todd’ (Candyman and Final Destination) and ‘Michael Rooker’ (Merle from The Walking Dead); you may even remember ‘Michael’ having a cameo role in the awesome ‘Black Ops 1’ DLC ‘Escalation’.
It’s no secret that the ‘Call of Duty’ runs from an older engine, like I said it runs at a nice 60fps, whether it’s ‘Treyarch’ or ‘Infinity Ward’, they both make the game look slightly better each year (or two years going by when each developer releases their instalment) and ‘Black Ops 2’ is quite possibly the best looking ‘Call of Duty’ to date. But the engine is starting to show signs of its age more than ever now and it may just be running its course. There were moments that some of the textures looked on the bland side, one little scene in particular which involved a lock picking scene in the jungle sticks in my mind. It was a very, very minor scene and only involved a door lock, but in essence getting the texture right on a door lock should be a very easy task when compared to the much larger environmental textures. You may know what I’m going on about if you have already played this scene or you may even notice it when you come to it, but there were also quite a few other moments when I started to question the engines visuals. Nothing major, as 90% of the game looks nice and polished, but there are a few minor questionable environmental textures that do make me think that the engine is on borrowed time, though I know there are many of you out there that believe this has been a long time coming.
It may come as a shock to many, but ‘Black Ops 2’ is a First Person Shooter! (Slight hint of sarcasm), so with this particular genre, you can’t really go expecting too much in the gameplay department. Arguably the biggest appeal to this genre is the fact that it’s something that is easy to pick up and play, it’s the video games answer to the ‘Popcorn movie. Over complicate something in this genre and it can be off putting to some, but that doesn’t mean that the gameplay can’t be of a good, fluid standard. The ‘Call of Duty’ franchise has always been that pick up and play game, something to jump into and just rip sh!t up! Thankfully ‘Black Ops 2’ falls into that category, along with its action packed storyline, we have some action packed gameplay to boot. The gameplay to ‘Black Ops 2’ is pretty much what us ‘Call of Duty’ fans know and love, but with much of the storyline in ‘Black Ops 2’ being set in the year 2025, we can expect a few additions here and there.
Firstly I’ll get onto one of the new features of ‘Black Ops 2’ and that is its ‘Loadout’ menu that greats you before the start of each mission. This does borrow from the awesome ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’ and before the haters start witch hunting ‘Black Ops 2’ for being a copycat, there has been many games that has borrowed from the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise, especially when it comes to the multiplayer. Before each mission begins you will have before you a ‘Loadout’ menu, by default you are already given the recommended weapons and extra’s that you may want to take when embarking on your next mission. But if for whatever reason you was not happy with the default selection, you can change anything from the ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ weapons, ‘Equipment’, ‘Perks’ and more.
The essence of the gameplay remains the same, whether you are playing in the past or during the year 2025, but the biggest change that you will come to know with the future setting will of course be the weapons and gadgets that you will have at your disposal. You will have improved version of each gun available to you, each with their own futuristic modifications, an example of this would be the way in which you use the grenade. In the year 2025, instead of throwing a grenade in the conventional way, you will have a grenade launcher attached to you wrist, much like how the attachment would be on a gun. This gives you a little more accuracy and it makes it even more fun when blowing stuff up! I don’t want to go into too much detail with the kind of weaponry and gadgets that you will have to play around with in the ‘Treyarch’ version o f 2025, so I’ll just name a couple more for now. Fairly early on in the campaign, you will come across two kinds of gadgets, one being a cloaking device similar to that of the iconic ‘Predator’ movies and a personal favourite of mine, the ‘Wing Suit’, which can only really be best described as gliding it like the ‘Batman’.
While there are many welcomed editions to ‘Black Ops 2’, there is one in particular that I don’t find quite as welcoming and that is the ‘Strike Force’ missions. These missions are set in the future and it sort of works as the ‘Call of Duty’ take on the ‘RTS’. Now I know that ‘Treyarch’ are trying something new with these ‘Strike Force’ missions, but for me they don’t work. If I wanted to play and ‘RTS’, I’d go and play a game from the ‘Command & Conquer’ series, I play ‘Call of Duty’ games because I want to play an ‘FPS’. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it when developers try something new, sometimes it works and other times it may not, in this case and in my personally opinion, the ‘Strike Force’ missions do not work well. Obviously this is just my own personal opinion and you may in fact like them, but for me, I will be avoided them whenever I can.
But one the changes that I did like, though it’s not quite as drastic as I originally thought, is the more open missions. Before I got a chance to play ‘Black Ops 2’, I was under the impression that the missions would be open world (so to speak) and I wondered how that would work. As I found out, the missions are not all that open, but they are bigger and they do allow you to take more varied routes with some optional side objectives to accomplish along the way. But it does still work well and feels less ‘on the rails’ like previous instalments.
Now I cannot talk about a Treyarch ‘Call of Duty’ game without talking about the insane and much loved zombie modes, especially with ‘Black Ops 2’ as this mode has also had a few adjustments of its own. The zombie formula that we all know and love is here and you can still play the more traditional map/level version of the game, but what you can now also do is play ‘Zombies’ with an open world element. How it works is that you have one big map and scattered throughout this big map are smaller maps with their own distinct setting. You can stay in one particular area fighting off the hordes of ‘Zombies’, but you can now also travel from various locations to “search for clues to the truth of what lies ahead”. To travel to the various locations on this big map, you will not have to do it all by foot, no, no, no, you will have the luxury of travelling from location to location via a coach, but as you’ll soon find out, the coach journey may not be as luxurious as you first thought. Because whilst travelling to each location, the coach will still come under a heavy attack from hordes of the undead, so you have to keep your wits about you and namely your shotgun in hand.
Playing the ‘Zombie’ modes has always been about working well together as a team and it still is under the traditional ‘Survival’ mode, but ‘Treyarch’ has added another new addition that will have a new spin on the word teamwork. There is a new and very competitive mode called ‘Grief’, which will require two sets of teams of four to battle it out against the army of the undead, but the twist here is that there can only be one winning team! So this mode will add an all new meaning to the term, ‘battle to the death’.
There has also been a slight change to the more traditional multiplayer modes too, as ‘Treyarch’ have tweaked around with the ‘Perks’ and ‘Streaks’ system. You will still have your selection of ‘Perks’ to pick from, but now you will also have a selection of Wildcard’s to pick from too. It still works similar to the old system, apart from its been split into two different categories, with the Wildcard’s you can pick luxuries such as extra ‘Perks’, ‘Attachments’ and more. Also now have gone the ‘Killstreaks’ and it’s been replaced with the ‘Scorestreak’. In principle it works similar to the old ‘Killstreaks’ system, but instead of totalling up the body count to get your just rewards, you will have to accumulate a certain number of points to set free that ‘Apache’, so to speak. I think Treyarch’s way of thinking is that it will encourage us all to concentrate more on the teamwork side of things and worry less about your personal ‘Kill Ratio’. I don’t know about you, but I will always have on eye glued on my much loved ‘Kill Ratio’.
If there’s one thing that the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise knows what to do well in more recent times, is knowing how to tell a blockbuster story, possibly even more so with ‘Treyarch’. Having a well written script is paramount in any forms of media story, but one crafty way of sucking in the gamer to their story, is to get a Hollywood ‘A’ lister on their project. The most obvious example that springs to mind was with ‘World at War’ when they casted the Leg End that is ‘Kiefer Sutherland’ to play the role of ‘Sgt. Roebuck’. This was a clever tactic employed by ‘Treyarch’ as many gamers instantly related to ‘Sgt. Roebuck’, thanks to the distinctive voice of Mr Sutherland.
Then for the first instalment of the ‘Black Ops’ in 2010, ‘Treyarch’ paid no expense as they pushed the boat out even more and enrolled the services of ‘Ed Harris’ to play the role of ‘Special Agent Jason Hudson’, ‘Gary Oldman’ to play the role of ‘Viktor Reznov’, ‘Ice Cube’ as ‘Joseph Bowman’ and ‘Sam Worthington’ as ‘Alex Mason’, as you can see this would be one hell of a cast for any blockbuster movie, let alone a video game. So who has ‘Treyarch’ brought in to top their previous instalment I hear you ask? Well firstly, it’s worth adding that there is not quite as big of a cast this time round, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome. ‘Sam Worthington’ returns to his role as ‘Alex Mason’ and in comes ‘James Hong’ as the ‘Chinese Prime Minister’ and as I mentioned before, also in comes ‘Tony Todd’ (aka the Candyman) and ‘Michael Rooker’ (aka Merle from Walking Dead). As you might expect with this quality of actors on the ‘Black Ops 2’ team, the storytelling from that viewpoint is extremely well done, as good as you going to get, especially from the video game industry.
Even though they might not be quite to the same household name standard as some of the voice cast, ‘Treyarch’ has also gone to town for Black Ops 2’s soundtrack which complements the storytelling perfectly. For those of you that were lucky enough to obtain a copy of the ‘Hardened Edition’, you would have received a digital copy of Black Ops 2’s soundtrack album, created by ‘Jack Wall’ and ‘Trent Reznor’.
‘Black Ops 2’ is full of replay value, once you’ve finished the campaign; you have the usual extra difficulty settings, hidden Intel and the standard achievements to acquire. Then of course you have the traditional multiplayer modes to lose yourself within for many, many hours or days/weeks for the hardcore gamer within you.
If that wasn’t enough then you have the awesome zombie modes, that can now not only be played with four friends in the fight for survival, but you can also have four vs four battle to the death, it certainly adds a new dynamic to the already much loved zombie modes and if that still wasn’t enough, you have ‘COD TV’ which allows you to live stream and upload you games to ‘Call of Duty: Elite’ and ‘YouTube’. To add an all new competitive edge to the multiplayer (likes that’s really needed), we also have a new mode called ‘League Play’. In this particular mode, you will be pitted against players of a similar skill level and you will battle it out for the top spot of your league. Many of the league matches will have different match types and objectives, the principle of earning the top spot is simple. Win matches, win more points, lose matches and you will lose points and your total amount of points come the end of the season, will determine your final league position.
People can knock this game all they want, after all it is there right and we are all entitled to an equal opinion, but one thing that can’t be disputed is that ‘Black Ops 2’ comes with a bucket load of ‘Replay Value’.
We all know what ‘Call of Duty’ is about, whether you like it or not, it’s a successful formula and with this instalment especially, ‘Treyarch’ are clearly doing something right to appeal to such a mass market. I for one have always been a ‘Call of Duty’ fan and this certainly still remains to be the case with ‘Black Ops 2’, despite the engine showing its age, it doesn’t stop the fact that it’s still a highly charged and highly enjoyable campaign.
‘Treyarch’ did try something new with ‘Black Ops 2’, some of it works and some of it doesn’t. For one, as I have mentioned, I am not a fan of the ‘Strike Force’ missions and I can’t help but think that it’s an unnecessary distraction. It kind of reminds me of that ‘Tower Defence’ like mode in ‘Assassins Creed Revelations’, I wasn’t a fan of that either and I found myself avoiding it at every opportunity and I feel the same about these ‘Strike Force’ missions.
‘Black Ops 2’ may not be as revolutionary is I first imagined, but it is a blast and with the improved Zombie modes and the new YouTube streaming to unleash the inner broadcaster that lies within us all, there is alot of bang for your buck and just like the original ‘Black Ops’ and ‘Modern Warfare’ games, ‘Black Ops 2’ will likely to remain in my collection and many others for many moons to come.
If you want some more ‘Black Ops 2’ goodness, then you can see my video unboxing of the ‘Care Package Edition’ by clicking here!