It's taken us a little while to get through this review but to be honest, we wanted to go through as much of the game as possible in order to give a fair review of everything that Call of Duty Black Ops 2 has to offer. So hit the jump and get into the whole review and see what we think of the latest entry in to the Call of Duty franchise.
Lets get the important stuff out of the way first, Activision was nice enough to send us a review copy of Call of Duty Black Ops 2. And boy oh boy, are we grateful because this game has already taken over the majority of my Xbox time and has even managed to knock of Borderlands 2 as my go to game at the moment. The game is the latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise, and the newest from development team Treyarch.
The game takes hints from the last Black Ops and brings them in to the year 2025 instead of focusing on previous wars, or "modern" wars like other entries into the franchise. The initial thought of moving the series into the future put some question marks around this title - how could it work, what would they do, is this just a step towards the Terminator? Well Treyarch jumped in full force on this game and made it honestly one of if not the best Call of Duty to date.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2, takes everything that is loved in these games and pushes them farther. The flow, the story, the challenges, everything just gets taken up a notch instead of resting on what has already been done. The story absorbs you while you're playing, you're interested in the characters, and the plot, you actually find yourself playing through it quickly like a good book that you can't put down just so you can find out everything about the story.
The online experience is everything that we love about Call of Duty, the guns, the action, the intense battles. It can easily be played in 20 minute breaks, or for hours on end and you just don't get enough of it. If you do happen to get tired of the multitude of game modes in standard online play, well you can jump into Zombies for what is a completely different experience and game that adds hours more fun in a completely different way.
The gameplay is what we've come to expect from the Call of Duty franchise: the single player is challenging and engaging, the multiplayer is hectic, fast paste and sucks you in, and yes there is zombies. It has everything that you know and love (or hate) about Call of Duty games, and brings back one thing that after the first Black Ops felt sorely missing in Modern Warfare 2, diving.
The story mode missions can seem familiar at times, but that's to be expected considering we've been playing Call of Duty games for a long time now. The story itself is what you're playing for now and this game doesn't let anyone down in that department, it is probably the most in-depth story so far.
Even though there isn't anything new running behind the scenes in Black Ops 2, Treyarch has done a lot to polish the look of this game. The character models are improved and the levels are more inviting. You actually want to be able to go off path in these levels and explore more. The weapons are more polished and there are now skins that you can equip your guns with for a slightly "customized" feel, which is a nice addition but nothing over the top.
The graphics improvements aren't just in the single player mode, you notice the improvements in the multiplayer as well. The character models are different depending on your weapon choices and factions obviously. The gun models are improved and look different based on the attachments you equip, which isn't anything new, but they look better and smoother.
Single Player Campaign:
The story puts you in the shoes of David Mason, the son of the protagonist Alex Mason from the first Black Ops game. Treyarch has done a great job of reaching into the future in a way that invests you in it, instead of just throwing you in it. You are drawn in to the story line, the characters pull you in and makes you want to play through the next mission so you can under stand more about what it is that got us here.
The campaign plays similarly to other Call of Duty games, with jumps between stages and events. You play through learning different points of the story through each mission and encountering different challenges and enemies. An interesting twist between this game and previous installments is time; the game is set in the future but the events that put everything in motion occurred in the past. This means that you play through different acts in different times utilizing different weapons and play types. It certainly adds to the gameplay because in "future" missions you have better technology and equipment at your disposal so you can play through differently in those missions.
During your play through you still have to find "intel" and do little challenges that don't necessarily change the outcome of the game, but you get more points for completing them all and you can compare your play through score against your friends to see who did the best. It is nice that Treyarch included a stats screen so you can look at that and see how many pieces of "intel" you missed or other elements that you can try to accomplish during future play throughs to get more points, but in all honesty this is only for completionists out there and doesn't really change your game.
Call of Duty multiplayer is either loved or hated by players, and sometimes hated by the people who love it. It feels like coming home, but like coming home after someone has actually done some improvements around the place. The game is faster than before and everything feels better than it did in previous entries.
You have your standard game modes, both core and hardcore. There is also league play now, which is an additional perk for having purchased the season pass. You have your standard games, demolition, capture the flag, death match, there are also the individual modes like gun game, one in the chamber and sticks and stones. There is a little something for everyone: whether you want larger scale battles or quick hectic free-for-all, you can find what you're looking for.
Right now, the servers still seem to be fighting to keep up, if you're in a larger party you can get dropped or lose your party. You also have times where you wait around for a lobby to fill up, or you crash out of a game. You also have to deal with the host migration during games which can get annoying, but it's to be expected with influx of players hammering on the game day in and day out.
The only thing that this is missing is larger area maps. Everything is tight and confined, every map has the normally annoying corners to camp, and there are trap corridors where you're never going to get through alive. There isn't really anyway to "snipe" because there are so many cramped areas so you better be ready to run and gun. Hopefully this will be resolved with future maps, but at launch, get ready for close up fighting.
One of the major selling points of Black Ops 2 was the return of Zombies and it doesn't let us down. Initially, there was some concern (at least from me) that this would be a lighter version of Left 4 Dead, but it isn't, it is a completely different experience. The zombies get harder with each wave, and if you don't work with your team you're certainly not going to survive. There is also now the zombie bus, it takes you from area to area with in the map to open up different guns. If you're not on the bus when it leaves the town, well you're in for hard times because your team mates probably aren't stuck with you.
The weaker side of zombies even with the new introductions is that the zombies come from reliable locations, and you can do the standard circle kill routine to rack up a lot of points. It can get very repetitive and lose its appeal especially when you have people in the game who are just doing the circle kill point grab. The best bet is to play with friends and make it a fun romp through zombie mayhem and make it a closed match so you don't have to deal with this down side.
This little draw back doesn't take away from the fun of Zombies, but it does make you long for the challenge and gameplay of Left 4 Dead, but hey, one game can't be everything can it?
All in all, this is the best version of Call of Duty to date and really makes you remember why you love this franchise. There are games out there that appeal to different types of gameplay and players, but this game reminds you why Call of Duty is the king of them all. The story is the most evolved, the mechanics are the most refined, and the game it self makes you wonder if there is anywhere that this franchise can go without new hardware for the developers to push.
Buy, and get the season pass too!
Thanks again to Activision for sending us a review copy, we're still enjoying it!