Call of Duty: Black Ops II is finally here and with it the continuation of the story from Treyarch’s 2010 title, Call of Duty: Black Ops. In Black Ops II you mainly play as Alex Mason (returning from Black Ops) and his son that is all grown up. Some crazy events have transpired between the end of Black Ops and the beginning of Black Ops II and you relive some of those events with Alex Mason while tackling the “near-future” missions with his son David. Along the way you’ll see some old friends and come across a new enemy. In a first for the Call of Duty series there are multiple endings for the campaign and the decisions you make will decide which ending you get to see. What is interesting here is that, in my opinion, there really isn’t a “good” or “bad” ending. Each ending has its own share of pros and cons, however, with that said you will definitely be able to tell the difference between the worst possible ending available and the best case scenario. The zombies have returned as well and Treyarch has upped the ante once again. Of course the multiplayer is going to be the focal point for a lot of people and that is back and better than ever.
The story for Black Ops II starts in the year 2025 and everyone that is still alive from the original Black Ops is now a lot older. You’ll run across Sgt. Frank Woods in a wheelchair and he will help fill in the blanks on what has happened since the last time we saw him. He flashes back to a mission in Angola where he had been captured and Alex Mason had to come out of retirement to save him. Much like in the original Black Ops you will play in two different time periods with them using flashbacks as a way to relive what happened back in the 1980s as well as what is taking place in 2025. A new addition to this year’s campaign is the use of Strikeforce missions. These are optional missions (except for the first one) that can help determine part of the story as well. These missions are also only available for a limited amount of time. When a new one becomes available it will tell you how much time you have to complete the mission. If you fail to do so then you will no longer have access to the mission. This new addition to the Call of Duty campaign also marks the first time you can actually fail. In year’s past when you would fail you would simply restart at the last checkpoint. In Strikeforce the story continues no matter the outcome. If you failed then you are going to have to live with the consequences and see how it unfolds in the story. The Strikeforce missions are a hybrid between RTS and FPS. When you first start a mission you will want to zoom out so that you can see the map of the battlefield. Once you do so you can choose where your troops are going to go. You can send group A over to defend an area while sending group C over to another part of the map to engage the enemy or simply have all of the units at your disposal converge on one place.
What is interesting here is that as you are directing your troops where to go you can highlight one at any time and with the press of the back button everything will zoom in and you’ll be back to playing an FPS. You can do this at will and everything works seamlessly. There were times where I would control one of the soldiers for a few minutes and then zoom out so that I could assume direct control over one of my flying units and take out my enemies from the sky. I also really appreciated the fact that each Strikeforce mission was different. I won’t go into mission specifics so as to avoid spoilers but there was one mission where you had to defend an area, one mission where you had to help escort a convoy from one point to the other, one mission where you had to rescue someone and more. It was a great change of pace from the normal campaign and the variety is something I really enjoyed. It should also be noted that the Strikeforce missions are not handled like the main campaign missions. What I mean by that is that the Strikeforce missions are more open. You can run around freely (similar to how you do in multiplayer) and try to achieve your objectives as you see fit. This offers you a nice bit of flexibility and allows you to get things done the way you want to.
Zombies also make their return to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. New playable characters as well as new types of zombies and three different zombie modes have been packed in to this year’s offering. Tranzit is 1-4 player co-op in a large open world with brand new characters and a variety of locations. There are new elements such as the bus which will take you from place to place and new buildable elements that will help you out against the horde. These help you move through the area(s) and gain access to different locations so that you can find out why you are there and what you must do to survive the ordeal. There is also a grief mode where you can team up with friends to challenge another group of up to four people. This is essentially a humans vs humans vs zombies scenario where the team with the last human(s) standing wins. I had a lot of fun with this one trying to employ a bunch of different tactics and strategies to not only outsmart my human opponents but the zombies as well. The survival mode should be pretty self-explanatory. This is the classic co-op zombies gameplay where up to four people are tasked to survive never ending hordes of zomies to see how far you can get. There are also custom games as well where you can essentially make the rules. If you don’t feel like playing online there is also the system link option and local gameplay option available as well.
The multiplayer portion of the game is where a lot of people will be spending most of their time and there is a lot to keep you busy. There are four different playlists to choose from with “core,” “hardcore,” “combat training” and “party games”. The “core” playlist has your typical set of games with deathmatch, free-for-all, kill confirmed, capture the flag and much more. The “hardcore” playlist is where there is no hud on the screen and you have limited health. There aren’t as many choices here with team deathmatch, free-for-all, search & destroy and capture the flag. Combat Training is something new where you can test your skills against a mixture of humans and bots. There is “bootcamp” where you will earn level and gun xp at the normal rate and “objective” where you play in a “moshpit” of game modes versus a mixed team of humans and bots. Here you can earn level and gun XP however only at ½ the normal rate. It should also be noted that you can only participate in “Bootcamp” if you are between levels 1-10 so be sure to do that one early if you are interested. Lastly there are party games that feature games such as “One in the Chamber,” “Sharpshooter,” “Sticks and Stones” and “Gun Game”. These games are obviously a bit more light-hearted that you can have fun playing with friends while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the other modes. Much like in previous titles you can create your class as well as set up your scorestreaks.
Call of Duty Elite is featured throughout the multiplayer component with Call of Duty TV available front and center as soon as you open the multiplayer mode. Call of Duty TV will host official Call of Duty videos as well as the some of the best content from the community. You also have the Theater option where you can create clips to watch with your friends and share with the community. New this year is the League Play where you find opponents at your skill level and battle it out for top position in League Ladders. There is the “Moshpit Series” and the “Champions Series” and each one has different requirements. The “Moshpit” series is a mix of team deathmatch and objective modes that will utilize standard rule sets. This is solo rank, 6v6 and split screen is not permitted. The “Champions” series is a mix of objective modes that use a more competitive rule set. It has team and solo rank, 4v4, no tactical insertions allowed, no care packages allowed and split-screen is not permitted. Your basic goal is to finish as high as you can on your ladder by the end of the season. It is a great idea that should keep people on their toes and I like the idea that there will be different seasons so that there will be an equal playing field for everyone at the start of each season.
During my time with the different multiplayer modes everything ran very smoothly. I didn’t encounter any hiccups and it ran really well like Call of Duty usually does. One of my personal favorites is still the Kill Confirmed mode as it adds a bit of strategy to the mix having to claim dog tags from people you have killed or save the dog tags from a fallen teammate before the enemy can get to them. The overall multiplayer works just like in years past where different weapons and perks will open up to you as you level up and you are able to create your own specialized class. The matchmaking seemed to work well and I never really had to wait too long before players were found and I could get in a game and start playing.
While writing this review I was trying to think of if I had any complaints about the game and I really don’t. The Call of Duty franchise is known for running smoothly and Black Ops II is no exception. The campaign was fantastic and I loved the different direction Treyarch went in with the Strikeforce missions and the multiple endings. I would love to see more of that in the future whether it is in Black Ops 3 or whether Treyarch decides to go in a new direction altogether. What is really great is that both studios (Infinity Ward and Treyarch) seem to be utilizing each other’s great ideas. Infinity Ward came up with the Kill Confirmed mode last year and Treyarch put it in Black Ops II. I wouldn’t be surprised if Infinity Ward now borrows from Treyarch and utilizes something similar to Strikeforce in their next Call of Duty title. Overall if you enjoy Call of Duty then by all means pick up Black Ops II. I had a lot of fun with the game and look forward to playing it for a while. If you aren’t a Call of Duty fan I don’t know if this title will win you over but you should definitely try it out to experience the new things that Treyarch experiments with. Call of Duty: Black Ops II is Treyarch’s best title yet and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
- A really fun campaign with six different endings.
- Zombies are back better than ever.
- New multiplayer additions enhance an already great product.
Summary: Treyarch tried something new with the campaign and it worked out really well. The zombies are as fun as ever and multiplayer is a blast. This is their best Call of Duty to date.
- Format: Xbox 360
- Developer: Treyarch
- Publisher: Activision
- Release Date: November 13, 2012