wildmatt's Call of Duty: Black Ops II (PlayStation 3) review

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Rinse & Repeat But Still A Treat

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A Call of Duty release is always a monumental event in gaming, and this one is no different. Lately, the questions have been 'When will Call of Duty sputter out?' 'Is this one the last hurrah?'. This one looked like the next leap forward for the series, in both gameplay and aesthetics. Let's get on with answering those questions and finding out if this is indeed a step forward for Activision.

The campaign has a large assortment of gameplay styles, settings & missions.
The campaign has a large assortment of gameplay styles, settings & missions.

I don't think I need to explain Black Ops 2 to anyone, but just in case, this is a first person shooter developed by Treyarch, formerly the B team of the COD games. We don't exactly know what will become of Infinity Ward's next game as that remains to be seen, but either way, Treyarch's games have came a long way since the Call of Duty 3. The game features 3 modes such as Campaign, Online Multiplayer and Zombies. It's been known to be over the top, and sometimes repetitive, which many speculate could be the downfall of the series. BLOPS2, the public dubbed nickname, however has gotten me excited for this series again. Everything from the gameplay, to the setting, to the weapons just seemed delightful. Activision did a great job of advertising this game pre-release.

We'll start the discussion with the Campaign. The first Black Ops had a fairly interesting yet convoluted story. It was kind of all over the place, but the way they tied the chair Alex Mason was bound to, into the crutch of the adventure was smart. Not only that but the whole alternate universe where Fidel Castro, JFK among other historic figures were involved was fantastically implemented. This time around though, the story focuses on David Mason (Alex's son) and Frank Woods talking about the past, specifically the Cold War era. The reason this happens is because David wants answers about the game's main antagonist, Raul Menendez, who he's hunting down currently in 2025. The story lines interconnect nicely. One of my favourite characters was actually voiced by Michael Rooker, you may know him from Mallrats or The Walking Dead. It has nothing to do with the actor; however, simply put Harper has the most personality, the most spunk and is the most likable.

The gameplay of the campaign matches the awesome story as well. There were so many great moments and I would love to tell you all of them, but I won't in spite of spoiling you. I will share with you my favourite stuff though, such as the LA scene which was shown off at E3 earlier this year. Everything from driving vehicles on broken apart bridges, using a futuristic sniper rifle to shoot through walls and objects, to flying jets was the best part of the game. Other notable moments were riding horses while hell was falling around you, any moment you got to take control of Raul Menendez was great and there's many more. The ending was also delivered to you in a first-class manner. It was very familiar, yet came out of no where and surprised me. All this while the game still looked great, especially the explosions and ran at a constant 60 frames per second. I would make a recommendation to everyone to check out this ridiculous campaign.

There's a wide array of weapons to choose from.
There's a wide array of weapons to choose from.

Some of my gripes with the gameplay were minor. If you think COD is a played out series, this will not change your mind. The campaign still has bland sneaking missions that aren't entirely controlled by you, you just have to follow someone and you're in "stealth". The AI is still worthless for the most part as well. It's all things that should be expected from a game in the series by now. I did experience a game breaking bug at one point, where I switched to a CLAW and it probably missed the scripting where it should have switched me back to David. I was stuck controlling this robot and had to restart the entire mission.

The campaign does include an entirely new mode called Strike Force Missions. It makes the game a little more tactical, almost turning it into a real-time strategy. You start out with some troops, a CLAW (a big robot) and turrets. You can direct your army all from the first person view, but you can also press select and direct them from an overhead view. Actually, you may play the entire mission from this overhead camera. My problem with this new mode is that it's not fun. In theory I wanted to love these missions, but it just felt bland and uninteresting. Whether you love them or not, you can decide to just skip out on them entirely, as they don't really affect the main story-line.

Let's now talk about the visuals for a bit. I was hoping they would be a little better than what they were, however the variety they are able to give you in terms of settings is amazing. One second you could be ridding horses in the desert, the next you're shooting people on the street in front of the LA Convention Center and the Staples Center. The explosions do really stand out as the best looking part of the game. Not only that but buildings fall over, floors collapse, faces get burnt and it's all awesome. They added in quad attacks, CLAWs and it's all aim-able which is highlighted with a blue grid, a cool effect. Some of the new weapons also have cool stuff such as reticles that allow you to see through walls, or tell you who are targets which comes in useful as sometimes it's hard to tell who's friend or foe. Overall it's a marvelous package and it all runs at a smooth & constant 60 frames.

It's not all good when it comes to the graphics, there are problems. Sometimes in the campaign when it transitions from in-engine to pre-rendered cut-scenes, it flickers between them in an odd way. There's really obvious pop-ins in sections, such as the driving scene coming out of Menendez's camp. In the same area a bit earlier, there was a radio tower that completely disappeared while I was looking around and came back when I refocused to it.

The sound is a little underwhelming, I don't feel like the guns resonate violently enough. There are better audio experiences out there, however let's not focus on it because it's really not bad. Where this game's audio shines is in it's campaign dialogue and voice-overs. Menendez sounds like a crazy mofo, both Mason's are great and their interaction together are believable and I love Harper's personality. The voice-overs in Zombies though are another thing. Some of it is actually funny, like the song about revives, but most of the characters one-liners are terrible. They're just too cheesy for they're own good.

Zombies pleasantly surprised me this time around.
Zombies pleasantly surprised me this time around.

The online is still a blast to play. There's not much I can say about it that's not already common knowledge. The maps are fun to play and have sweet locations such as a cruise ship, a train station and more. The score-streaks are back and have some interesting new items such as lightning strikes, microwave satellites, drone attacks and much more. The split-screen support is fantastic, and I believe this is the first game to support multiple PSN accounts to be signed-into a PS3 simultaneously.

The Zombies are also making a return and it's engaging to say the least. I have never been a fan of this mode in past iterations but for some reason I had a great time with it. Some of the locals reminds me of The Walking Dead, which is a zombie series I adore. The bus depot is wicked and has a future robot driving you from spot to spot. Then there's a school and farm location which has 2 teams of 4, rather than the 1 team of 4 in the bus depot, which adds a competitive aspect to a zombie game unseen (to me) before. Coming from someone who didn't play much of Zombies before I rather enjoyed myself with it.

My score for the game is 4/5, it could have been lower, but the campaign and zombies mode were great experiences and if you have no interest in the competitive multiplayer, I would still recommend you consider picking up Black Ops 2.

*Original review can be found @ http://megascorcher.com/site/?p=134400

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