If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seven simple words that one could argue is the driving force behind this billion dollar franchise. These days a new first-person shooter is announced every month and Call of Duty has earned a reputation of playing it safe, leaving many players hungry for innovation. In comes Black Ops 2, Treyarch’s newest edition to the Call of Duty series. Has Black Ops 2 got what it takes to break the stigma of being a copy and paste job of previous editions?
Along with a myriad of things that Black Ops 2 does the same, there is quite a bit of new content here that makes the game feel less like an expensive add-on and more like a full fledged standalone title. That isn’t to say that Black Ops 2 is without it’s fare share of faults, but as someone who has played every iteration of Call of Duty since 2007, I must applaud Treyarch in their efforts to create something different, if not better. If you’re in the mood for a change of pace, the solo campaign is a great place to start.
Treyarch has done something really special this time around with Black Ops 2, truly making the title a breath of fresh air. Most gamers who buy a new Call of Duty title move straight into multiplayer and completely overlook the solo campaign. Players will surely miss out if they choose to skip the campaign this time around.
The story picks up where Black Ops left off. You are once again in the boots of Alex Mason, fresh out of his Cold War operation and onto tracking an international terrorist with a hot temper known as Raul Menendez. The game switches between characters and also jumps back and forth in time between 1980’s and the year 2025, all the while keeping the storylines intertwined. In the year 2025, you play as David Mason, Alex Mason’s son.
David is a special forces op who is tracking the same Raul Menendez (yup, he’s still pissed) from starting a new Cold War between the United States and China. Menendez is the product of a tragic past and is plotting some serious revenge against the world. Treyarch did an excellent job of making his character more three dimensional as you get to experience these tragedies with him as they unfold.
Newly introduced to the campaign are branching storylines which allow you to make different choices, accommodating multiple scenarios. This small change enhanced the campaign’s immersive experience, adding a dimension of narrative to the action. Don’t get me wrong, the campaign is full of mindless run-and-gun, which I found myself using as a tactic to blow through the levels as quickly as possible.
The solo campaign is truly a highlight of Black Ops 2 and fans would be remiss if they left it untouched.
Thankfully, Black Ops 2 has broken the mold and delivered a near perfect port for the Wii U, this time in HD. Controls are slick, graphics are crisp, and apart from the occasional drop in frame-rate during heavy shootouts, we get a Call of Duty port for Nintendo that can finally hang with the big boys!
Gameplay hasn’t changed much from the familiarity that made the previous games so easy to pick up and play. With the inclusion of some futuristic weapons that can see though walls and soldiers touting cloaking suits, you’ll find yourself taking down enemies in a variety of ways. Technology seems to have made some serious headway in just 13 years time.
Black Ops 2 wasn’t without its classic “Call of Duty moments,” but for the most part I felt underwhelmed by the absurdity of just how indestructible your character is and how many times you can escape death by mere inches. For instance, one mission puts you in the desert where you proceed to go into Chuck Norris mode and destroy multiple tanks and attack helicopters with a rocket launcher all while riding a horse…seems legit.
Treyarch has also included a customization feature that allows the player to tinker with their loadout, much like the mulitplayer loadout system. Unique and more powerful weapons can only be obtained by completing certain single player challenges.
Also new to the franchise are Strike Force missions, which allow the player to command and/or take control of individual soldiers and automated drones and use them to do your bidding. The missions give the player an overhead view of the battlefield to aid in planning attack as well as ordering squads to different locations. While this idea was ambitious, Strike Force, unfortunately, fell short in my opinion . With clumsy controls and an unintuitive tutorial, I felt it wasn’t implemented smoothly into the flow of the gameplay and was more of a distraction from the campaign rather than a complement. Thankfully, these missions are optional (except for one).
From a strictly Wii U standpoint, Call of Duty multiplayer has improved drastically. No watered down version this time around, with everything you’d expect out of the console/PC version of Black Ops 2 with the exception of COD Elite. Unfortunately, the Wii U community is still quite stark compared to their console/PC cousins. Be prepared to wait a minute or two to get into a full game, which in the video game world is an eternity, while other game modes shouldn’t be attempted at all.
Along with the classics, there are a few new game modes–as well as the introduction of the brand new Pick 10 point system–where each attachment to your loadout counts as one point in the system. This gives the player complete freedom to mold their character completely to their liking. There are also Wild Cards that allow the player to attach up to six perks at once.
Even with the new implementation of points system and customization options, Black Ops 2 refuses to innovate more than imitate. Much is familiar in the world of Black Ops 2 online, even though hardcore fans will pay no mind, I couldn’t escape the feeling of boredom while traveling the map.
Zombie mode is back and bigger than ever. There is now a competitive game mode named Grief in which two teams try and outlast one another by fighting off hordes of undead. Throwing meat at the opposing team attracts zombies toward them, while zapping the opposing team can prevent them from resurrecting an ally.
Transit mode is another new addition that allows the player(s) to travel to different locations via school bus and gives the game more sense of urgency to get to the next location. I was a little confused by the fact that the Transit map seems to have been set on top of an active volcano with random rivers of lava all around. Even with with the introduction of a few new game modes the formula is still quite the same. Shoot. Run. Build fences. Buy new gun. Rinse and repeat. With all the attention from fans that zombie mode gets before a release one would think Treyarch would try and expand the experience further.
Call of Duty on the Gamepad
The Gamepad is my number one choice of peripheral for Black Ops 2. Although you can play the game with just about every other Wii input device, the Gamepad offers touchscreen options that can enhance your gaming experience. My favorite Gamepad option is when playing multiplayer, you can call in killstreaks with a touch of a button. Or change your class without pausing the game. The Gamepad also allows for the player to display the full minimap during multiplayer–while it’s a nice touch– it does require you to take your eyes off of the screen for a moment. In a game that appreciates lightning fast reactions, it can surely ruin that killstreak you were working on.
Perhaps the greatest thing the Wii U has to offer with Black Ops and any Wii U title for that matter, is that the entire game can be played from the Gamepad. Pausing the game when using the restroom is now a thing of the past thanks to the Wii U. Moreover, the Gamepad can even take place on a second screen when played in split-screen mode with a buddy. You can still play split screen on a single TV if you wish, but with Black Ops, the Gamepad can be used as a full fledged second screen.
Treyarch did a great job of trying to bring something new to the franchise that some have considered to have lost its luster. With the exception of Strike Force mode and an uninspiring zombie mode, Black Ops 2 does more right than it does wrong. Fans will once again be hooked on the deep multiplayer, but should really give the single player campaign a go-around this time. Black Ops 2 takes advantages of the Gamepad as a peripheral, and gives the game a whole new experience. Even though the online community is a relative ghost-town, Nintendo finally has a full fledged HD Call of Duty title on its hands, and if you plan on using the Wii U as your preferred gaming device, Black Ops 2 is worth a look.
- Good use of Gamepad
- The game looks great
- It’s Call of Duty on the Wii U
- Compelling singleplayer
- Lack of online community
- No COD Elite
- New game modes still need ironing out
Final Score: 7.5/10