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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

by Alex Culafi - November 26, 2012, 9:25 am PST
Total comments: 9


One of the least surprising launch titles may also be one of the best.

Black Ops II on the Wii U aims for a bigger and better experience, but also attempts to give its freshman outing on the new system an edge over other console versions. After playing through the campaign and spending some quality time with multiplayer and Zombies mode, the game is easily one of my favorites in the Wii U launch library.

Following the first Black Ops’ Cold War fascination, Black Ops II mainly takes place in 2025, a near-future setting previously seen in the Modern Warfare series. While maintaining most of its mannerisms, the new backdrop allows Treyarch more room for creativity. Despite its modern-day hooks, the game likes to play with the concepts of near-future gadgetry (Fun fact: NSMBU isn’t the only game in which the protagonist dons a flying squirrel suit!) as well as the power of social media.

The plot follows the efforts of David Mason (son of Alex Mason, protagonist of Black Ops) to track down the nefarious Raul Menendez. A charismatic villain out for revenge, it’s difficult to dislike him even in spite of his crimes. Meanwhile, the game often flashes back to the 1980s, where Alex Mason tries to do something similar, though under different circumstances. With these particular plotlines, one uncovering Menendez’s motives, and the other exploring what those motives have become, Black Ops II’s plot is by far the most interesting in the series. Though it tests the limits of believability at times (one mission tasks you with destroying helicopters with a bazooka while riding horseback), the game’s set pieces are well constructed and the story is engaging.

In an interesting campaign tweak, certain player choices can determine the outcome of the story. An early sequence has you interrogating an enemy; choosing not to simply kill the character means you get valuable information about the enemy, while acting otherwise has complications of its own. Black Ops II has a surprising number of these choices, and although their implications are fairly transparent, there’s often a thrill in not knowing what kind of choice you’re making.

The story also incorporates the new Strike Force missions, optional strategic affairs that have you maneuvering units around a map to defend positions and attack enemies. These missions are well designed and add a twist of real-time strategy to the experience, though they often didn’t strike my fancy. If you neglect to do them (or fail them), your campaign-based relations with China shift (the story reflects as such), though the implications are less life-and-death than story decisions.

Zombies mode returns in Black Ops II, though with a new main mode. Called Tranzit, it takes players to different locations to complete objectives and kill zombies. Though the mode is appreciated for its attempt at novelty, it lacks a meaningful narrative reason to keep going, and I didn’t see much reason to play it instead of the traditional horde-style modes or the competitive Grief mode that tasks you with trying to survive waves of zombies longer than an opponent.

Multiplayer, while as mechanically addictive as ever, shows its age in Black Ops II. Apart from new weapons, maps, and general expected content with a new game, the multiplayer component doesn’t share the freshness of the excellent single-player campaign. Its biggest changes come with the new Score Streaks (like attack drones) and futuristic weaponry that give multiplayer gameplay a feel different from Modern Warfare or the original Black Ops. Smaller changes come in new methods of class customization, such as new perks, weapon attachments (including the “Pick 10” system that allows greater customization of weapons and loadouts), and gadgets. I appreciate all of the tweaks Treyarch has made, but I think this may be the last game that can succeed without sweeping changes to the multiplayer.

GamePad support is rather minimal, allowing you to play from the screen and manipulate basic settings on the fly. The game’s local multiplayer allows one player to play on the GamePad and the other to take the full TV screen, which works well and adds tension to matches. The GamePad as a controller is serviceable, but I highly recommend playing with the Wii U Pro Controller if you have one, because the game benefits from its higher level of comfort and more focused rumble.

Graphically, the game’s engine shows some wear, but its decent graphics are complemented by a tremendous art design. Featuring minimal brown and bloom, Black Ops II is a surprisingly colorful game, moving from lush jungles to bright deserts and futuristic compounds. It’s a wonderful change for the series, and I hope it sticks in future installment. The game runs fine on Wii U, though I experienced some occasional slowdown during cut scenes.

Black Ops II on Wii U may amount to the same experience as on other systems, but it remains an impressive game. The aging multiplayer could use more of a twist, but the campaign is top-notch, and even Zombies mode manages a few new things. In the first of what will likely be many appearances on Nintendo’s new system, the franchise delivers.


  • Best Call of Duty campaign ever
  • Great art design
  • No cut corners on the Wii U version
  • Tries hard to change up the formula
  • Use of the GamePad for local multiplayer
  • Limited GamePad use overall
  • Multiplayer could stand for a few more changes


MrPhishfoodNovember 26, 2012

A boy and his blops

EasyCureNovember 26, 2012

I'm offended the reviewer didn't try, or at least mention trying, the wiimote controls. :-P

seriously, i didn't bother with the gamepad on this one because ir controls are just better in my . For anyone who feels the same, blops gives you plenty if tweaking options but its a shame that:

A. in this day and age you still have to go in and out of menus just to test it out.
B. There is no such tutorial option to get a feel for the controls. The game throws I right into battle.

minor stuff really, but once I find your prefered settings, the controls are smooth

HardcodeNovember 26, 2012

EasyCure: The WiiRemote settings can be adjusted using the GamePad touch screen.  There is no need to open the menus on the TV.

EasyCureNovember 26, 2012

Quote from: Hardcode

EasyCure: The WiiRemote settings can be adjusted using the GamePad touch screen.  There is no need to open the menus on the TV.

Thanks! I actually turned off the gamepad screen because it was a single image with only one option at the time, and the battery was dying.

ShyGuyNovember 26, 2012

Golden battered COD BLOPS, mmm mmm mmm!

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusNovember 26, 2012

Does the story seem mostly 'MERICUH OO-RAH or is there a twist?

CericNovember 27, 2012

Nintendo Free Radio 9 Broodwars talks extensively about the Single Player because he doesn't play the Multiplayer.

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusNovember 28, 2012

Okay, but are there any comments from a guy that isn't wrong about everything all the time?

broodwarsNovember 28, 2012

Quote from: S-U-P-E-R

Okay, but are there any comments from a guy that isn't wrong about everything all the time?

Says the guy who bases his entire worldview on the interests and motivations of the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the gaming community.  :-\

I'm about halfway through Black Ops 2, and so far I don't think it's very "America! **** Yeah!", at least compared to other CoD games.  It seems much more interested in individual character motivations and interactions, with just the usual "America vs. X" fight as the backdrop.

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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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