Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 13, 12
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Everything blowing up around you, buildings collapsing, bloodthirsty soldiers rushing at you with machetes, bullets whizzing past your ears, tanks appear over the horizon, choppers flood the skies, RPG fire, grenades exploding in your face, rifles firing in your face, blood gushing in your face, screams echo, more tanks and choppers, armored trucks and wild horses. Zombies are all that's missing. Oh wait, they have those as well. Call of Duty clings to its traditional FPS formula. But that's not all. Of course, one part of the formula means that they intend to included absolutely everything, as I've tried to imply at the beginning of this review. This familiar recipe is something Black Ops firmly relies on. The previous Black Ops game was a fast-paced, ludicrously directed rollercoaster ride with just about any combat scenario you could think of. It seems that Black Ops 2 takes all of that and then multiplies it by two.
Never go into battle without a bad-ass tattoo.
I think I spot a bird up there. Let me get it. There!
As you dive into the single-player campaign, you'll start to go through two connected storylines, with one set in the 1970s through 1980s and the other in 2025. Players get to continue to story of Alex Mason, who's caught in the worst possible moment in the worst possible place during the very height of the Cold War. He'll be going up against Raul Menendez, an incredibly tough narco-boss and terrorist from Nicaragua. The other portion of the game, as we've said, takes us to the future, when Mason's son David is caught in the middle of yet another Cold War between China and the United States.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 does its best to take gamers through an intricate narrative. At least that's how it seems for the first hour or so. Of course, you'll soon realize that the story isn't not as complex as you were lead to believe. The way that it's being told might be slightly confusing, since a lot of unexpected things happen throughout the campaign and shifting the setting from past to future, is sure to puzzle you at the outset. It's just one way of telling a tale, so either you like it or you don't. As far as we're concerned, Black Ops 2 has a slightly more engaging tale to tell and a bit more interesting characters than we've seen in the previous iterations of the franchise. In the end though, it's all just one glamorous and hectic spectacle, focusing, as ever, on pure action and the thrill of the ride, rather than exceptional storytelling and an incredibly complicated plot structure.
The gameplay is where Black Ops 2 attempts to take a few brave steps away from the standard CoD formula. In this instance, the idea was to add something to sort of stir things up a bit, and that's where the Strike Force missions come in. These missions are a welcome change of pace, allowing players to command a larger force, complete with CLAW (Cognitive Land Assault Weapons) units and troops. The CLAW is one nasty piece of machinery and a pretty useful ally in combat. Don't know what's more fun to send it into action and watching it mow down rows of enemy soldiers or just taking the damn thing for a nice little stroll on your own and just fire away. Anyhow, Strike Force missions are a mish-mash a real-time strategy and first-person action. The players can issue orders to any unit on the battlefield and instruct them to eliminate specific targets or simply defend a marked area. Moving units about is fairly straightforward. You can assume control of individual units in first-person, and move them about to your heart's content, carefully coordinating your squad and eventually accomplishing your goal.
Another enjoyable aspect of the Black Ops 2 single-player campaign is the moment where gamers get to witness the world from the perspective of Mendez, the game's arch-villain, who seems almost impossible to hate after you've played this particular segment of story. Without revealing too much, we can say that Treyarch did a good job on shifting the narrative away from the perception and egos of the well-known main protagonists Mason and Woods. Despite some of the atrocities committed by Mendez and all the destruction he intends to cause, it really is difficult to side with the heroes at times. When you draw towards the end, things become a bit more clear and you face a story that actually makes sense (unlike the previous game). You're even forced to make some tough moral choices, so that's another cool component of the whole ride. It may not be the best video game story ever written, although it's certainly a step forward.
8.2 Very Good
Concrete improvements and changes in a long-running FPS franchise, the Strike Force missions are fun and a nice change of pace, and even the story's starting to make sense, the direction is top-notch, the music kicks ass - thank you Trent Reznor and Jack Wall;
You know what to expect and that's what you'll get, despite the few innovative components.