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Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

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*Warning: Review does contain language of a mature nature

Chances are 70% of you reading this review have already gone out and bought this game anyway. You don’t give a fuck what we think about it, in fact, you’re probably only reading this to do one of two things: A) Validate your own opinion or B) Tell us that we’re wrong. I’m willing to make a bet that at least 30% of that group were so confident in your purchase of Black Ops II that you were at a midnight release with the other eager beavers, jittery from energy drink and bilious from fast food. 10% of you were probably licking the case as you left the store, whispering sweet nothings and dreaming of new prestige, but hey, whatever gets you off, it’s your money.

Finished licking the case now? Yeah, we’re looking at you, ten percent. We’re all looking at you. Sit down, pause the game, and read my opinions, then you can form your own opinions of my opinions and we’ll all be one big opinionated internet family.

I feel it’s probably best for all of us if I point out that I don’t usually play Call of Duty (My interest stopped when MW2 ended on a cliffhanger), so I’m coming into this blind and somewhat cynical. To me, CoD is nothing special on either side of the quality spectrum, so what does this new near-future shooter have to offer by itself?

CAMPAIGN

Let’s start with a look at the campaign. You play two soldiers, father and son, one caught in the middle of a Latino-American conflict circa the 1980’s, one spearheading a series of anti-terrorism operations in the year 2025. Both of these have their merits and both feel distinctive, which is a real credit to their design. The storyline itself is surprisingly rich and satisfying, which left me feeling slightly guilty as if I’d just eaten an entire New York cheesecake by myself. It puts you in the shoes of Typical American Soldier Bastard decimating undeveloped nations because there might be a terrorist hiding in there somewhere (Sorry Obama). It paints a pretty obnoxious picture at times of America’s opinion of itself – the sole super-soldier carrying the weight of the world on his mountainous shoulders, ending every threat with bullets and never really showing things from anyone else’s point of view. But hey, no-one went to the movies to watch Transformers or whatever because they wanted an immersive, important story, and no-one bought Black Ops II for an introspective look at the morals of the American military. You bought this for guns, explosions, and explosion guns, and oh boy, you’re going to get them.

There’s a vast choice of weaponry to explore within the campaign and you can experiment with loadouts at will. Got an inner gun nut? Satisfy it now. Satisfy it in the deepest way possible with sexy future guns and old-school pin-up guns, satisfy yourself before you go buy a real gun and do something stupid like join the army, because this is in no way an authentic military experience. This is a full-on action movie experience complete with thrilling set pieces and just plain incredulous moments. One moment you’ll be gliding through a mountain range with a wingsuit, the next you’ll be riding a horse alongside whooping revolutionaries, killing Russians with an AK-47. Ah, the good old days. It’s worth mentioning that at one point you can pick up a Stinger missile launcher, grab a nearby horse and run head on into a tank with it without blasting yourself or the horse into Black Ops III, and it’s totally unscripted. When the game gets that over the top and it’s not even trying, you know what you’re in for.

MULTIPLAYER

Ah, here it is. Time to prise Modern Warfare 3 out of your disc tray (After you’ve uncaked all the dust from the eject button), plug in your headset, open up your dictionary of ridiculous insults and start yelling, fucknuts.

A lot of the continuous issues haven’t been addressed yet. Grenades are almost entirely useless unless you’re fighting bots or people without analogue sticks and your hitbox feels much too large sometimes. There are a few guns (Like the rapid fire shotgun) that feel quite point-and-win. Things in the CoD online arena haven’t changed much, but that’s what they think you want, so that’s what they’re going to keep giving you. The standard maps are great, taking place across a real range of environments tailored to different kinds of warfare – the Hijacked map in particular is one chaotic slice of nooks and crannies complete with cover dotted wide open spaces. Another one takes place in a linear but challenging train station. My main complaint about multiplayer – and this is something that carries through all three game modes – is that feedback is generally terrible. Grenades, bullets, drones – they all feel pretty lightweight. It feels the same firing a pistol as it does firing a shotgun, nothing has any heft to it and kills are rarely satisfying unless they’re hard fought for. It might be a little twisted to want to feel like my bullets are actually hitting someone instead of just phasing through them and leaving polite little holes, but dammit, it would make the game considerably more immersive.

In my honest, unbiased opinion, there are better multiplayer games out there – but none of them have the massive, dedicated following that CoD effortlessly maintains. It’s the WoW of first person shooters, and like WoW, if you want a constantly changing and challenging environment to play in with no end of players to put to the sword, this is where you go, and this is where you stay (Until the next game, obviously). It’s usually the mainstay of the major gaming competitive players and that’s not going to change until something huge happens within the industry. What it does have going for it objectively is an expansive class system and a respectable amount of maps, so it’s worth a look.

ZOMBIES

Black Ops II’s zombie mode is fucking good. Review over.

I spent more time with Zombies than I did in multiplayer or campaign. It doesn’t have a hell of a lot of variety but it makes up for that in sheer playability. You can play objective-based modes or plain old survival in a handful of different maps. That trademark surreal vibe dominates most of the modes but is especially prevalent in Tranzit – a challenging traipse through a zombie infested bus line driven by a chattering automaton. You weren’t prepared for zombies on buses, I don’t care what you say.

You earn points by killing zombies, securing objectives, or rebuilding barricades. You spend the points on new guns and opening up new areas within the maps which leads to greater weapons and more intense challenges as the waves increase. It’s a simple but satisfying formula and great fun if you can bring together enough friends to get stuck into the four-player splitscreen. It’s way more enjoyable if you’re all in the same room, especially as the challenges begin to mount and defending yourselves becomes more and more reliant upon teamwork, but the option to go online is still there if you need it or everyone stopped playing Zombies with you last time because you always hogged the random box.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Black Ops II is exactly what we all expected it to be: Another slice of gung-ho mayhem that’s going to dominate Xbox Live for a very, very long time. Treyarch must be doing something right, because this series keeps outdoing and evolving itself. I can’t fairly compare it to anything other than MW2 but visually at least this game has come on in leaps and bounds, treading a fine line between realism and the extraordinary. The 1980’s sections, oddly enough, feel much more fleshed out and enjoyable than the 2025 missions, which seem to rely upon particular gimmicky gadgets to keep you playing. I replayed several of the 80’s missions and still enjoyed them just as much, but the near-future missions just don’t have that replay factor.

By itself, this should be considered a videogame just above average. It’s nowhere near as atmospheric as it could be or as weighty as war should feel. As a CoD game, it’s probably the most cinematic it’s been in recent years, with a varied multiplayer selection and some genius maps to choose from. Get it if you love Call of Duty, wait until the masses of copies start hitting the shelves when all the kiddies have had their fun with it if you’re not chomping at the bit for multiplayer. That’s all there is to it.

Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.


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