First there came Modern Warfare, which sky-rocketed to become a phenomenon in the gaming landscape. Then came World at War, which repeated what its predecessor had done only decades in the past. After that came more entries in the Modern Warfare series and the beginning of the Black Ops thread, each with their own developers.
Fast-forward to now and Black Ops 2, the latest Call of Duty game and the latest Treyarch offering, hit the shelves last week. As is always the case with Call of Duty games of recent, some people love it, some hate it and some (few) have no opinion on it. Nevertheless, the Call of Duty franchise is still going strong but while that may be the case in the sales, is the quality still there?
As with the last two weeks, this post is a collection of thoughts on the game divided into categories pertaining to the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Your thoughts on what I mention here and on the game itself are encouraged in the comments section below.
+ Although I have yet to finish the campaign, I can safely say that it’s better than the first Black Ops story. It’s not perfect and it regularly veers into cliche territory but it’s far more engaging than last time, with a villain at the centre of it that feels more interesting than any bad guys featured in any Call of Duty game to date. Yes it’s undoubtedly a short affair once again and is as linear as you can get but one expects nothing less from Call of Duty. The focus is on the multiplayer but the campaign is an enjoyable affair for when fragging human players becomes tiresome.
+ Black Ops 2’s campaign introduces the ability to select a loadout for yourself before the mission begins, bringing some of that multiplayer customization into offline territory. It’s pretty good, not to mention useful, to be able to select what guns and equipment you head into battle with and I hope it’s a feature that returns in future Call of Duty titles (but not IW games, because they love to leave out the good things that Treyarch introduce).
+ We’ve had Call of Duty in the past, in the present and now it’s infiltrated the future setting, to decent effect. Being set several years in the future clearly allowed Treyarch some degree of freedom in introducing concepts that would’ve felt nonsensical in a present day setting, such as attachments that see through walls, funky little controllable drones and so forth. But don’t worry that being in the future changes things too dramatically because guns still go pew pew, people still go boom when you throw a grenade at them and the enemy AI is unfortunately still as unintelligent as ever.
+ As I mentioned earlier, I have yet to complete the campaign but there are different endings that change depending on several actions you commit during the campaign, which offers some degree of replayability to it, albeit small. Such examples of what may affect what ending you receive are the Strike Force missions – optional levels that you can choose to do if and when you like, if at all. While they may be utterly dreadful, I appreciate the effort in trying to make this Call of Duty campaign less of a play-once-forget-it-afterwards experience.
+ Zombie mode is back, bigger than before and brimming with new ideas. Gone are the traditional levels of before and making an introduction is the excellent, and much fun, Tranzit mode, which sees your team moving between locations on a moving bus and fending off the undead as it travels. There’s also a new ‘Grief’ mode, which pits you against another four-man team to survive but also sabotage in order to win. You can throw meat at them to make them more attractive to nearby zombies, or slash their teammates when they’re attempting to revive each other so that they remain incapacitated. It’s not my preferred mode of choice for Zombies but it’s an interesting and potentially hilarious inclusion for when the traditional survival experience becomes tiresome.
+ Zombies has also received its own ranking system and theater mode compatibility (finally!). All of these changes and additions to the experience make it feel somewhat fresh but definitely exciting, even for somebody like me who has never really been a massive fan of it. The DLC typically introduces even more levels for Zombies so there’s sure to be plenty of fun on the horizon.
+ Now we come to the multiplayer – the biggest and most polarizing part of each Call of Duty package. After hating Modern Warfare 3 last year, I wanted something that played better and didn’t feel unbalanced to the point of nausea. In some ways, I didn’t get that but most of the time, I did. How Black Ops 2 will ultimately be perceived depends on the multiplayer component and for the week that I’ve played it so far, I think it could potentially be one of the strongest in recent entrants…with some tweaks.
+ Although some people have issues with the map selection this time around (when don’t they?), I generally find it a strong offering. There are some I loathe (Carrier) and some that I may potentially dislike further down the line but the rest appear to be above average. I’m particularly fond of Hijacked, Plaza, Express and obviously Nuketown. Map fatigue has to kick in at some point, however, so I don’t expect that I’ll feel the same way about some of these maps months ahead but for now, I’m satisfied.
+ Killstreaks have been done away with and replaced with Scorestreaks, meaning that killing your enemies is no longer the only way to unlock that powerful chopper you want. Points given for assists, objective captures and so forth all count towards your Scorestreaks, encouraging a style of play that doesn’t rely solely on raking in huge kill totals. I really like the way the system works, especially in objective modes. It makes capturing flags etc. feel rewarding whereas in previous games it sometimes felt like you were merely putting yourself in the line of fire for nothing while your team-mates enjoyed more success by simply camping said objective.
+ Wager modes from the first Black Ops are back…kinda. Because there’s no CoD points system like before, you don’t gamble or win anything but all the modes are back and just as fun as ever. I will say that the lack of a gambling element removes some of the enjoyment to be had from them but they’re a welcome break amidst the regular game modes.
+ The traditional Create-a-Class system from CoD4 onwards has been redesigned to become the new ‘Pick 10’ system. The idea is that you now have complete control in creating the classes you want, even if that means completely doing away with perks or even weapons in order to use something else. After using it, I wouldn’t want to go back to using the old system because it works far too well. I was a little skeptical of how it would compare before the game launched but all doubts were erased the minute I used it.
+ Treyarch have added some excellent pieces of equipment into the multiplayer this time around, including the return of the trophy systems from MW3 (excellent in objective modes), the shock charges that attach to a surface and engulf an enemy in electricity when they trigger it, the Black Hat that can capture enemy, and friendly, care packages from afar and hack enemy equipment from a distance and more. Personally, running with a class carrying trophy systems during a mode like Domination is much fun, even more so when you get a guardian to put up as well.
– As I said previously, although the campaign is largely better than the first Black Ops game, it’s still a small, linear and hand-holding experience. Yes, I didn’t really expect nothing else seeing as this is a Call of Duty game but with the obvious desire to stray from the formula with the inclusion of the Strike Force missions, I was hoping they would at least attempt to make it less of an FPS-for-dummies campaign. Unfortunately they did not.
– It may just be me but the weapon selection available in the multiplayer seems smaller compared to previous titles. Perhaps not much so but with few guns truly standing out amongst the rest, it feels smaller than it actually is. Also, the Submachine guns and some of the assault rifles particularly dominate above all others, hipfiring is sometimes insane with you literally being able to kill someone across crazy distances without aiming, and the shotgun category feels redundant with ¾ of them being absolutely rubbish. The number of weapons available may or may not be equal to previous games but it doesn’t ‘feel’ like it is.
– Quickscoping is back in Black Ops 2 and arguably worse than ever before. Although I haven’t come across it as much yet, I know that it’s there once again and it pains me that Treyarch haven’t had the gall to do what so many of us want done. Quickscoping is a ridiculous concept no matter which direction you look at it from. Sniper rifles are designed for long-range combat, not to be able to beat a shotgun or an SMG at close range. Treyarch initially made it almost impossible for quickscopers to succeed when Black Ops 1 first launched but then they reimplemented it because of the crying that happened. As far as I’m concerned, this portion of the CoD community leaving the game would be a blessing as opposed to a concern, so quite why the reluctance to remove it exists is a mystery to me.
– Although the sound in Black Ops 2 is a vast improvement over the first title, it’s still not great. A lot of the guns sound identical to each other, the sound effects for the concussion and flash grenades are still crap, hearing enemy footsteps is pretty much non-existant and it’s clear that sound is something that Treyarch aren’t great at getting right, even if World at War was pretty fantastic in that department.
– UAV spam online. Because Ghost is now only unlocked at level 55 (the last level before prestige), people have no defence whatsoever against appearing on the enemy UAV aside from blowing it out of the sky. And because UAV’s are the easiest scorestreak to obtain, there’s rarely a moment when one isn’t in the sky. It contributes towards matches sometimes being a cluttered, chaotic mess and even though I thought that something needed to be done with Ghost, I’m not sure this was it.
– Another Call of Duty game means another rubbish spawn system, just as Black Ops 2 unfortunately has. The smaller maps are the worst examples of it, especially Nuketown, where you regularly find yourself spawn trapped at either end of the map by unfair players taking advantage of the system’s failings. I’ve spawned right near enemies countless times since playing the game and I’m starting to come to the conclusion that neither Infinity Ward or Treyarch really has a clue what they’re doing when it comes to making a spawn system that’s not complete rubbish.
— While the Strike Force missions are a good idea on paper, their implementation is complete garbage, as harsh as that may be. They’re confusing, the controls are bizarre, they feel pointless and they don’t fit in with a Call of Duty game. I’ve found myself having absolutely no enthusiasm for attempting to complete them because they’re just not fun. They’re like mini-games that are thrown into the mix purely because the developers thought they might leave an impression. They do leave an impression alright, it’s just one that’s shit.
— I know some of you folks don’t experience it, have never experienced it and think it’s a myth that’s used as an excuse for playing poorly, but I have a major issue with it, just as I did in Modern Warfare 3. That’s right, it’s the lag compensation. It was the biggest factor that contributed to me despising MW3 and it’s beyond tragic that it’s made an even worse return in Black Ops 2. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been unable to even raise my gun to shoot an enemy before I’m dead, whereas on their screen they saw me for longer than I saw them. Or I would be shooting an enemy, hitting them and then be killed in a few shots, and on their screen I was either not shooting as many bullets as I actually was or not shooting at all. It does exist, unfortunately. and it gets me all the time. Fortunately, since changing my search preferences to ‘Best’, I’ve had a much better experience but that doesn’t negate the fact that lag compensation is a huge problem for me, and others, a lot of the time.
Every Call of Duty game since 2007 has been divisive. Some love them, some hate them and others feel that the franchise is almost like a cancer in the gaming industry. Whether or not you like the series, you can’t deny that few other franchises have as many people discussing the games like Call of Duty does. As it stands, Black Ops 2 is a decent entry in the series, and far, far better than the dreadful Modern Warfare 3 ever was. Even though the game is miles away from being great, Treyarch have once again demonstrated that they are more capable of delivering a decent game than the franchise’s other developers have been for years.