+Missions are varied thanks to side objectives
+Strike Force missions are intense
+Lots of new features in Zombies and multiplayer
-Story is complex at the beginning
-Strike Force AI is quite dumb
-Graphics aren't so great
Final score: 9 / 10
Controller support: Yes
OS: Windows Vista SP2 or Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core2 Duo E8200 2.66 GHz or AMD Phenom X3 8750 2.4 GHz
Memory: 2 GB for 32-bit OS or 4 GB for 64-bit OS
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512 MB or ATI Radeon HD 3870 512 MB
Hard Drive: 16 GB HD space
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
Additional: Broadband connection required for activation and multiplayer gameplay
While the Call of Duty series was developed by Infinity Ward, some could argue that recent titles made by Treyarch have matched and sometimes even surpassed the quality of the Modern Warfare installments in the series.
After the pretty impressive Black Ops back in 2010, Treyarch is now back with Black Ops 2, a sequel that takes place in the near future of 2025 and promises to take the series into bold new directions.
With new features, like multiple choices during missions and, as a first for the series, special Strike Force levels where you command your forces through different scenarios just like in real-time strategy games, the game is set to differentiate itself from previous installments.
Throw in the special new features in multiplayer, like the Pick-10 system, or the ones for the Zombies mode, where you take a bus from level to level, and the game should have something for everyone.
Does Black Ops 2 manage to bring some much-needed innovation or should we not answer its call? Let’s find out.
Travel around the globe ...
... to stop Raul Menendez
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s story begins right before the start screen, as it features a short yet extremely confusing cinematic after seeing the Dolby, Treyarch, and Activision logos. After that, you’re treated with incremental bits of exposition until the pieces fall into place.
Basically, you play as David Mason, the son of Black Ops 1 protagonist Alex Mason, who needs to stop a rampaging tyrant named Raul Menendez from destroying the world. His motives are unclear but, with the help of an old and rather senile Frank Woods, you learn that Menendez has some big reasons to take revenge on the world and on David Mason in particular.
What follows is a series of missions both in 2025, as well as during the 1980s, as Woods has quite a few flashbacks from his last few missions with Mason Sr., as they both tried taking out Menendez before he became a Messiah for millions of people around the world.
The whole plot is quite impressive and has more than enough twists, especially since your actions in the regular missions, as well as in the Strike Force ones, determine plenty of things. From guaranteeing the allegiance of certain countries by successfully completing the Strike Force missions, which can be failed, to using special weapons by uncovering side objectives during regular ones, Black Ops 2 has more than enough variables to warrant a second playthrough of its story.
While the overall campaign might be a bit short, complex, and can end in some pretty awkward ways, depending on your choices, it tries to add a lot of new things to the series, which is quite commendable.
Call of Duty: Black Ops doesn’t add that many new things in terms of core gameplay, as you still go around shooting enemies with an assortment of different weapons, alternating between certain special sequences where you control military drones or mechanized walkers.
There are some all-new gameplay sections where you take control of actual vehicles or even horses (yes, true horses) and they provide a welcome change of pace, despite still accompanying missions in which you follow squad mates or protect certain targets.
Without a doubt, the biggest change in terms of regular missions is related to the new side objectives. In most levels, you’ll find certain areas that you can access. These can net you special weapons, like Molotov cocktails, provide special ammo or flak jackets that protect from explosive damage, or even give you extra strategy options, like sending walkers on the roof of buildings so that they can pick off your enemies as you advance through the streets.
What’s more, one of the major new features added by Black Ops 2 to the series is the special Strike Force mechanic. During these unique missions, you command special squads that need to complete certain challenges in countries all around the world. From protecting a power plant, to escorting a convoy or securing a VIP, you can embark on these missions, but be aware that you can fail them if you’re not careful.
Failure is quite likely, as if you opt to guide everything using the Tactical View, just like in real-time strategy games, your troops won’t really handle themselves in battle. As such, it’s better to take control of certain soldiers or machines and guide them yourself towards the objectives, while battling waves of enemies.
While the command mechanics and the AI still need work, the Strike Force missions are quite interesting and make a lot of changes to the story depending on how successful you are.
Enemies are quite capable in the game and the near future setting allows them access to special weapons and even tactical camouflage that renders them almost invisible. Fortunately, you also have some enhanced weapons, including ones with a sort of built-in sonar that, when you look down its sights, shows all opponents, even cloaked ones.
Jump into battle ...
... and command in Strike Force
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s online mode is split between the cooperative Zombies one and the regular competitive multiplayer.
While you can still play the Zombies one just like in previous Treyarch games by trying to withstand waves of zombies on certain maps thanks to the Survival mode, there are two new ones that aim at adding some spice to the experience.
The first is Tranzit, which basically adds a sort of story campaign to the co-op mode, as players embark on a derelict bus that transports them from level to level, where they need to scavenge for resources and withstand the undead before progressing to a new area and learning more about the zombie outbreak.
While Tranzit’s idea is quite good, its execution isn’t that great, as some areas barely have enough resources for one player, let alone more, and you have no idea what items you need to scavenge for your goals. As such, running around a level clicking on things while trying to fend off the undead with limited supplies gets tiring fast.
There’s also a special Grief mode that pits two teams of up to four players with surviving against the undead. While the squads can’t hurt each other, they can alter their opponents’ chance of survival through different ways or decide to work together. The last team standing is declared the victor, so don’t expect that much teamwork in this mode.
If you really want to prove your skills, then you can jump into Black Ops 2’s multiplayer which, despite offering some new mechanics, like the Pick-10 one, doesn’t stray that far from the franchise’s norm, probably to prevent players from abandoning it.
During matches, you now earn scorestreaks that allow you to unlock special weapons and attachments, which can then be chosen when you customize your character. You’re no longer stuck to predetermined loadouts, which is great if you want to experiment.
Besides this, you’re still going to experience much of the same mechanics seen in previous games, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re still in love with the series. Veterans, however, might still feel a bit of fatigue after all these yearly installments.
The Call of Duty engine may still be able to produce some impressive 60fps shooter experiences, but its graphics are quite up to par with what’s being delivered by other shooters nowadays, including Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
While some enhancements have been made to the lighting system and there are plenty of impressive scenes that happened throughout the single-player campaign, many textures still look low-res and the in-game cut scenes show the age of the technology.
You should definitely upgrade the drivers for your graphics cards on the PC, as after we have installed the latest beta drivers for our Nvidia 560 GTX Ti, we have registered a pretty impressive boost in performance.
In terms of sound, Black Ops 2 shines, as not only is its soundtrack a great blend between orchestral scores and more alternative tunes, courtesy of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, but there are also some subtle themes that accompany the main characters, including the villain, Raul Menendez.
Voice acting is also top notch, with Sam Worthington reprising his role as Alex Mason, while Rich McDonald brings his son, David, to life. Props go to Kamar de los Reyes as the villain Menendez, as well as to Michael Rooker as Harper, one of your main squad mates.
Drive cars ...
... and ride horses
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tries to implement many new things into the old Call of Duty formula, from side objectives, to Strike Force missions, to the revamped strategy for the multiplayer. While some work out better than others, Treyarch’s actions are commendable.
You’re in for a great multiplayer shooter as well as for a pretty good, albeit a bit complex, single-player campaign. Throw in the Zombies co-op mode and there’s plenty of content in the game to keep you happy for quite some time.