Call of Duty: Black Ops II review

The Call of Duty franchise is becoming a bit like U2 these days; both are massive, both will make a ridiculous amount of money with a new release and you are always hard pressed to find a genuine fan of either. In fact, you are most likely to come across a CoD hater, barking reasons why the franchise is terrible like a rabid dog. Leading up to the release of Black Ops II, you would have been forgiven if you thought it was going to be more of the same, but unlike Bono and crew, Treyarch have found a way to inject some excitement into a series that is in danger of going stale, and delivered one of the best shooters in years, and quite possibly the best in the series.

For a few years now the single player campaign in each new CoD game has been overlooked by many and even regarded as just being a glorified training mode for multiplayer. Treyarch has clearly set itself the task of fixing this and has decided to change things up with Black Ops 2. Instead of going back in time they have set the action in the not so distant future (the year 2025) as you attempt to stop idealistic terrorist Raul Menendez. The campaign mode links the lives of original Black Ops protagonists, Alex Mason and Frank Woods, with Mason’s son and the hero of Black Ops II David, through flashback sequences set during the cold war.

Setting the scene

From the moment you start Black Ops II, it makes it very clear that this is a game with a story to tell and features one of the most brutal introductions in the series. With a story penned by David S Goyer (who also has story writing credits on the Dark Knight trilogy), Black Ops II has a campaign mode with a genuinely interesting story, filled with some of the best characters featured in a CoD game and a villain that really makes you question at times if you are on the right side.

Now I won’t spoil what happens over the course of the story, but needless to say Black Ops II has remedied the failings of past campaigns in the series and features a great story that isn’t just corridor filled bad guy shootings with the odd world landmark thrown in for good measure. Black Ops II proves that the shooter behemoth can deliver thrills in the storytelling department as well.

Treyarch have also included some new additions to the single player that really makes you wonder why they were never included before. For the first time there will be consequences to the choices you make in single player which all result in a different ending. These effects are heftier depending on whether or not you complete the new Strike Force missions. This new addition features some of the games more challenging missions and lets you play with some of the great new war machines in the game. Limited to the amount of Strike Teams you have, the tension is ramped up considerably and is a welcome addition to single player.

This and the ability to customise your load out before each mission makes the campaign mode feel more complete than it has ever been in recent years, and it links the multiplayer experience to the campaign and hopefully will be making a return in future instalments.

16 is better than 1

Now as with any other Call of Duty title it is the multiplayer that is the lifeblood of its success and Black Ops II is no exception. The multiplayer content has never been better and Treyarch have made this experience more accessible than ever before. Players who are new to multiplayer or who find themselves being cannon fodder to the more experienced need not worry thanks to Boot Camp mode, where you can get to grips by playing a mix of new players and bots to ease you into the action.

This is an optional mode of course; if you are a seasoned CoD player then you can get straight into the action with players of a higher level in the standard modes. Black Ops II certainly tries to balance the multiplayer with more focus on the hardcore modes and standard modes, and after a few hours I didn’t find myself waxing lyrical about how sick I was of being placed in games with unbalanced teams, each game felt competitive and fun and I quickly became very aware of my social life dwindling away to it.

Back from the dead

Making a return in Black Ops II is Zombies mode. With a lack of any Spec Ops/co-op mode this is the mode for you to play with your buddies if multiplayer isn’t your cup of Tetley. From its first appearance in World at War, the Zombies mode has come on leaps and bounds from its beginnings as an added bonus and is available to play from the moment to start up Black Ops II.

This mode no longer feels hollow like past inclusions and Treyarch have managed to make a solid mode that is definitely one that needs to be played with friends. My early attempt to tackle the undead alone was in vein and is much more manageable in a group. However despite the improvements, Zombies still feels out of place in Black Ops II and you do wonder if they would be better making this a standalone title on consoles.

In the future there will be more shooters like this

All three of the modes in Black Ops II feature the same solid mechanics the CoD series is renowned for. The gunplay is responsive and the new futuristic weapons/attachments are all the more satisfying to use. It does leave a lot to be desired in the graphics department, but the 60FPS still keep Black Ops II looking fresh throughout.

Black Ops II on a whole is a blast to play and is one of 2012’s best shooters. Treyarch have tweaked the formula just enough to give us one of the most fun and engaging CoD titles since MW2, whilst the decision to set the action in the future has proven to be just what it needed to elevate it  from the shadow of the Modern Warfare era. With an excellent campaign mode and addictive multiplayer options, Black Ops II is the most exciting CoD game in years and a reminder why this behemoth franchise is as successful as it is.

Game details

Game title: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available for: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Strengths: Brilliant campaign mode. Setting is refreshing. Addictive and balanced multiplayer.
Weaknesses: Graphics are beginning to show their age. Zombies mode, albeit improved, still feels disjointed.
SCORE: 9/10

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