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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

by Tom Malina - October 7, 2012, 6:17 am PDT
Total comments: 8

Past, present, future... it's never a bad time for zombies and slow-motion explosions.

With last year's Modern Warfare 3, the Call of Duty franchise seemed to be lingering dangerously close to a state of diminishing returns. Not commercially, of course - the series continues to break sales records with each successive annual installment. In the creative sense, however, there is an argument to be made that this style of shooter design has hit saturation point. Even though one might postulate that Call of Duty is as good as it has always been, a number of people are starting to feel like it's the same set piece-laden campaign and predictable multiplayer options year after year. Leave it then to Treyarch, once thought of as the "B-team" of the franchise, to finally make significant changes to the formula with Black Ops II that, if they all pan out, could put Call of Duty back on top of the echelon of great first-person shooters.

The single-player campaign is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the game, given that Call of Duty has become known for flashy but very linear campaigns that you complete in an afternoon and are then done with. For Black Ops II, Treyarch is approaching things a little differently, building upon the unique, introspective story elements of the original Black Ops. 

The game is set in 2025 and plays out a not-too-unrealistic scenario in which the United States of America and China become locked in a Cold War over rare earth minerals used to manufacture all sorts of technology. Suddenly, the US drone fleet is hacked by an unknown enemy, conflict breaks out and the stage is set for your playable character, David Mason, who is the son of the previous game's protagonist, Alex Mason. Alex is still involved in the sequel though, via flashbacks to the 1980s; these sequences set up the backstory for the major antagonist, terrorist leader Raul Menendez.

In the future, drones rule the battlefield. Pray that they're not against you.

It's quite a different direction from where the franchise has been before, and with Hollywood writer David S. Goyer, known for his work on the Blade trilogy and Christopher Nolan's Batman films, penning the story, there is a strong pedigree behind these ideas. Where the campaign really seems to mix up proceedings, though, is in the brand new Strike Force missions. In these levels, the player will control an entire specialist squadron, switching between ground troops, field robots, helicopters, jets and other vehicles as they try to complete strategic objectives for the war effort.

The catch is, if certain objectives are not completed, or if the whole squadron is eliminated, the game will continue, but there will be significant consequences to the story. It's the first time a Call of Duty campaign looks to be offering true replay value, with different missions and plot resolutions opening and closing depending on how successful your Strike Force is throughout the game. With multiple paths to the end of the game, there might finally be an incentive to play the single-player content more than once. Plus, although little is known about how it will use the Wii U GamePad, the act of dynamically swapping between units on the battlefield sounds like a perfect fit for the new controller.

When in doubt, run headlong into a firefight with akimbo pistols.

I won't belabor the point, because at the heart of it, the campaign in Black Ops II is unlikely to completely reinvent the wheel. You can still expect an action movie-esque roller coaster with showy set-pieces and enough explosions to make Michael Bay proud. However, with the original setting and premise, plus a whole host of cool futuristic gadgets and weapons to use, the single-player mode looks more interesting than it has in the series for a long time.

Of course, the thing that keeps millions of players coming back to CoD all year round is the online multiplayer. Black Ops II still features this hallmark of the series to full effect, albeit with a few potentially key changes, such as the Score Streak system, and the way in which the Prestige leveling tree works. At least in my opinion, the multiplayer in this series has become a bit stale, with pretty much the same suite of options every time, but with the core tenets of the game getting refreshed at last, this might be the time that I finally get back into it. Local multiplayer is also present, and it is here that the Wii U version could really shine; two players can go against each other without the need for split-screen, as the GamePad controller can effectively function as a second TV screen.

Kills aren't the only thing to earn you your streak rewards this time around. Capturing flags will help you, as well as your team.

Last but not least, the acclaimed Call of Duty Zombies cooperative mode will be appearing in full on a Nintendo platform for the first time, after it was conspicuously absent or reduced in scope for the Wii versions of both World At War and Black Ops. This is doubly good news, as Zombies is now bigger than ever, even taking some fairly explicit cues from Valve's Left 4 Dead series. Unlike before, it now has its very own campaign called Tranzit, in which a group of survivors moves from one environment to the next, all the while mowing down hordes of undead, although the endless Survival mode from prior installments also returns. 

Finally, there is a new competitive mode named Grief, otherwise known as "4z4". The idea is that two teams of four fight against each other as the zombies continue to pour in, but the teams cannot kill each other conventionally - rather, they must interact with the levels themselves in order to make the zombies attack the enemy. Time will tell how well all this can stand up to a certain other zombie game coming to the Wii U on launch day.

It probably won't go sparking any revolutions in the genre, but in my view, Black Ops II stands as the most progressive title in the Call of Duty series since it made the radical switch into Modern Warfare. Moreover, now that Nintendo has entered the HD era with a much more powerful console than before, this is easily the most refined and fleshed-out the series has ever been on a Nintendo system. If you are a cynic of the FPS genre like me, you might want to pay attention to Call of Duty: Black Ops II in the run-up to the game's release on Wii U on November 18 in North America, November 30 in Europe and December 20 in Japan.


UrameshiGUOctober 07, 2012

Umm.. Zombie Mode is in Black Ops for the Wii. Granted the only available level in the Wii version is Kino der Toten, but the mode is certainly there.

In relation to Black Ops II, I'm really looking forward to this game. The Wii didn't really have any good FPS games; Conduit/Conduit 2 were both sub-par and World at War/Black Ops ports both had a significant amount of content removed from the game. Despite this, I had a blast using the Wiimote for these games. Considering that Black Ops II has Wiimote compatibility as well as all the content the PC/PS360 versions will have, this game is a must buy for me.

OblivionOctober 07, 2012

Did you not play Goldeneye 007 on the Wii? Because if you did, you wouldn't be saying that.

thedefalcosOctober 07, 2012

I heard Treyarch is opening up the levels and making more open in its gameplay style. Is this true? Because I gotta say, one of my biggest gripes about this series and Medal of Honor has always been the linear gameplay. I like the idea of the consequences for not completing objectives or letting teammates die, but man the game still looks too linear. They care more about showing you the cool, pre-scripted car wreck than they do giving you a variety of ways to complete each mission.

That's why I liked Goldeneye. Oblivion's right. Goldeneye is the best shooter on the Wii. Part of that is because of its excellent Single Player. Most missions give you two to three ways of completing it and harder difficulties add objectives which gives the game far more layers than anything that I've played in CoD.

If they fix this, I might buy it. Cuz I ain't paying for a game just to play multi-player when there is SUPPOSED to be a full single player experience.

OblivionOctober 07, 2012

Did anyone ever play the Goldeneye 007 Reloaded? I've been wanting to playing it to see how they improved it, and I'd want to check out the online, but I'm afraid no one is on it.

Chozo GhostOctober 07, 2012

Quote from: Oblivion

Did anyone ever play the Goldeneye 007 Reloaded? I've been wanting to playing it to see how they improved it, and I'd want to check out the online, but I'm afraid no one is on it.

I've played the PS3 version of it. I found it extremely frustrating and time consuming to be able to get into an online multiplayer match. It isn't like COD where you can get into multiplayer games quick and easily. I mean there are people playing it and you can get into the matches, but you might have to wait awhile.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)October 08, 2012

I appreciate Treyarch's efforts in this series over Infinity Ward's because of their willingness to try new things. The ideas don't always pay off with the greatest execution, but when a series is this popular, any attempt to mix up the usual formula is worthy of praise. And given how conservative Call of Duty has gotten in recent years, I really feel that Black Ops II may be on to something. Here's hoping.

OblivionOctober 08, 2012

What the hell is Infinity Ward gonna do after this? WWII has has milked to death for years, and so has modern times. With the BO series having done various times within the 60's and now the near future, what the hell can be done now? WWI? 500 years in the future? The Civil War (oh god yes)? Another Modern Warfare?

thedefalcosOctober 08, 2012

I would welcome WW1 but it can't be a run n gun like the others. Considering most soldiers didn't even have machine guns, it would be incredibly boring.  But, mix in some RPG leveling mechanics and make it more of an adventure game, it could work. Same with Civil War.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Call of Duty game, would it? No way fans would go for that.

You are right, though. Neither studio has anywhere to go after this. Here are some possibilities:

1. They go multiplayer only. They stop the pretense of actually having a single player campaign and they pour all of their resources into MP.

2. They start borrowing heavily from other genres or franchises. BOPS 2 is already looking like Ghost Recon. Include more and more vehicles and they'll be looking Battlefield. Start sucking more and they'll look a lot like Medal of Honor. More squad based? More objective based? Who knows? I'm all for option 1 though. I'm done with linear storytelling and gameplay.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II Box Art

Genre Shooter
Developer Treyarch

Worldwide Releases

na: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Release Nov 18, 2012
jpn: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Release Dec 20, 2012
PublisherSquare Enix
eu: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Release Nov 30, 2012
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