Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Launch Reveal Gameplay
A first look at Black Ops 2’s explosive gameplay.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is a first-person shooter set in two different time periods, both involving Cold Wars: one campaign takes place during the Cold War of the 1970s and 1980s, and the other is set in the future against the backdrop of a hypothetical Cold War between the United States and China. The futuristic Cold War campaign features unique “Strike Force” missions, in addition to a “permanent death” mechanic that ensures the deaths of your AI-controlled teammates become meaningful events. Call of Duty: Black Ops II continues some aspects of the storyline from the original Call of Duty: Black Ops, by tracing series antagonist Raul Menendez’s meteoric rise to infamy.
A first look at Black Ops 2’s explosive gameplay.
Black Ops 2 multiplayer trailer.
Who is Raul Menendez?
Treyarch’s Call of Duty franchise is like marmite: you either love it or you hate it. In some ways that makes it kind of pointless to write this review because haters gonna hate and fanboys will be all over Call of Duty no matter what. Call of Duty: Black Ops II turned me into a Call of Duty convert, so if you’re a hater, read this review and take a moment to reflect upon your experiences with this massive franchise and decide whether you think Black Ops II might be worth your time after all. Treyarch has changed their game pretty radically, and for the better.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s storyline is among the best in the series. Skipping between the Cold War of the 1980s and a sparkly new Cold War of 2025, you’ll play as two separate protagonists, David Mason and his father Alex Mason, who was the hero of the previous iteration of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The two storylines converge on the game’s antagonist, Raul Menendez, a terrorist who got screwed by Alex Mason during the Cold War and was subsequently driven insane. In 2025, he’s the head of a Twitter-using terrorist cell called Cordis Die who are dedicated to engineering a second Cold War between China and the US; they ultimately succeed in doing this by launching a cyberattack on the Chinese stock exchange, leading China to cease its exports of rare earth metals which initiates a global conflict. What’s really amazing about this storyline is how eerily true-to-life a lot of it is: these things could conceivably happen. Yikes.
The campaign runs about six hours and is divided into regular first person shooter missions and special “Strike Force” missions. There’s plenty of variety: you’ll find yourself running through jungles, flooded cities, Perfect Dark-style military science complexes and more. There’s even a level where you’re riding around the desert on a horse wielding a giant rocket launcher. It’s a bit of a jump-the-shark moment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. This is a video game after all, and when were they ever supposed to be realistic? The Strike Force missions are a bit different, combining FPS gameplay with real-time strategy gameplay. You’ll direct a squadron of soldiers from above, and also have the ability to take control of any soldier or drone weapon and control it in first person. This mode is certainly fun and unique, but it can be frustrating to watch your teammates run straight into enemy gunfire or grind up against a wall forever, especially since the Strike Force missions are what determine the story outcome. Call of Duty: Black Ops II has a ton of different possible endings depending on the ways you choose to tackle the Strike Force missions, and to have your attempts to do things a certain way thwarted by stupid computer teammates is both irritating and unnecessary.
The ever-popular “Zombies” mode returns and it’s big enough to be considered its own separate campaign. There are four different game modes in “Zombies”: Grief, Tranzit, Survival, and Custom. In Tranzit (ha) you’ll be traveling between four different areas (the store, the gas station, the power plant, and the farm) on an armored bus, blasting zombies and looking for hidden items which can be hard to find, not because they’re cleverly stashed away, but because they look slightly too innocuous and interacting with them is a fiddly process. Grief Mode has you battling waves of zombies in two teams, with each team fighting for their own survival while trying to get the zombies to eliminate the members of the enemy team. You can do this by stabbing people into crowds of zombies, or by throwing chunks of meat to redirect the zombie horde. It’s essentially a tug-of-war scenario, and it’s a lot of fun. In Survival you’re obviously surviving waves of zombies—this mode appeared in the first Black Ops—and Custom lets you tweak the game settings, such as only letting you kill zombies with headshots or enabling/disabling certain powerups. While the “Zombies” storyline is a little directionless, it’s definitely a lot of fun to play.
And now for the section that’s probably the most important to Call of Duty players: multiplayer! Gameplay hasn’t changed a lot from the previous game, but the game’s strategic load-out options have been massively improved. You can basically create a custom character however you want now thanks to the brilliant new “Pick 10” system, which lets you mix and match a number of perks and weapon choices. Find you’re underusing your secondary weapon? Switch it out for another perk. Can’t decide between two perks? Use a wild card and combine whichever perks you like, from faster reloads to increased sprinting distance to more powerful map awareness. They’re all really well balanced, but I’m sure after a period of time the Black Ops II community will establish a setup considered “optimal” and consequently “overpowered.” It always happens! Matchmaking in multiplayer has been substantially improved too: new players can train against bots for an indefinite period of time until they’re good enough to compete in the Big Leagues. Or start competing, anyway. Pro players (or anyone really, but you probably shouldn’t do this if you’re no good) can stream their matches online instantly through a new CoD-casting system (lol).
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is visually stunning, but it’s not as impressive as games like Resident Evil 6 or Halo 4. People look kind of weird and… grizzled, which is maybe the aesthetic Treyarch was going for but it goes to places in the uncanny valley at times. This said, the game runs at a solid 60 FPS at all times, which is worth it especially in multiplayer when the game relies a lot on twitch reflexes, and it still looks great regardless. The sound design is really good: characters are well-acted if a bit overly macho at times, the environmental effects are very realistic, and the sound design in general gives a good sense of what it might be like to be in a futuristic combat setting.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a hit, and definitely ranks among the best FPS games ever created. While the characters models could look a little more polished and the Zombies mode could use a little more narrative direction, neither of these things really detract at all from the gameplay experience. Treyarch has done a great job of evolving the Call of Duty franchise in all the right ways. It doesn’t depart from the formula too heavily in terms of gameplay, but why should it? This game is bigger than Harry Potter. Instead, Treyarch has improved on aspects fundamental to the user experience, expanding on the title and padding it out in all the right places without making their additions seem like padding: this, my friends, is masterful game design. And I didn’t even really like the other Call of Duty games. Call of Duty: Black Ops II gets a Z-Score of 94%, and is available now on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The Wii U version is available on November 18th, launching as a release title for Nintendo’s new console.
Perks: You can you can choose a total of six perks, but this limits the amount of customization you can do for your class. You can also choose no perks from the perks list, and instead focus more on equipment and weapon attachments. By default, you can choose three perks for your class, one for each slot. Wild cards allow you to choose one extra perk per slot for a total of six perks. However, this will use all your Wildcards and take 3 + 3 + 3 allocation points, which leaves you with only one weapon without attachments and no equipment. Perks do not affect your weapon stats. For example, you will have to use attachments to increase accuracy or deeper bullet penetration. There are also no Pro perks in the game.
Scorestreaks: Killstreaks have been replaced with Scorestreaks, which are earned by killing enemies, assisting teammates, and completing different objectives. For example, a normal kill gets you 100 points, but capturing a flag gets you 200 points. You will also get points when your teammates kill enemies while your UAV is active. For example, the UAV can be called in at 375 points, but you will need 1,200 points to call in the VTOL Warship. You can equip a maximum of three Scorestreak rewards at the same time. Your Scorestreak resets to zero when you die. The equipped Scorestreak rewards can be earned multiple times in one life, but they need to be used before the Scorestreak loops around for the second time or each Scorestreak reward will be replaced/wasted with the same reward again.
Wild cards: You get 10 allocation points to use on weapons, equipment, and perks with each Create-A-Class. Each weapon, weapon attachment, perk, and equipment use 1 allocation point, but you can only spend 10 allocation points per class. If you do not use any perks, that will save you three points, which can then be used to equip more weapon attachments or grenades. You could also carry only a secondary weapon with two attachments, have four perks, and one grenade. You could also optionally choose up to three Wildcards for your class, which in turn give various options to customize your class even further. For example, by default your primary weapon can be equipped with two attachments, but with the Primary Gunfighter Wildcard, the weapon can be equipped with three attachments. Each Wildcard uses 1 allocation point. Some Wildcards, like the Perk Greed, require you to select an additional perk, which also uses 1 extra point. If you want to have six perks, the first three perks require 3 points, and after that each additional one requires 2 points (1 for the Wildcard + 1 for the perk), for a total of 9 allocation points. However, this would leave you with only 1 point to spend on a weapon.
(Perk 1): Allows you to earn bonus points for each action you take, which in turn earns you Scorestreak rewards faster. For example, capturing an enemy flag gives you 200 points, but with Hardline you get 250 points.Lightweight (Perk 1): Allows you to move faster than normal. You also take no damage from falling.Cold Blooded (Perk 2): Makes you invisible to enemy targeting systems, which include equipment such as the Dual Band, Target Finder, Sensor Grenade, and MMS. Enemy player-controlled air support Scorestreak rewards also cannot target you normally.Toughness (Perk 2): You flinch less when shot by the enemy.Dexterity (Perk 3): Makes you climb ladders and mantle over obstacles, such as gates, 50% faster than normal. You can also aim faster after sprinting and recover quicker from melee strikes.Extreme Conditioning (Perk 3): Allows you to sprint 2x longer than normal.Perk 1 Greed (Wildcard): Allows you to choose one extra perk to the Perk 1 slot.Grenade (Lethal)Semtex (Lethal)Concussion Grenade.