I was laid off from my full-time job the day after Call of Duty: Black Ops II was released, so the question I needed answered while I played it was a simple one. Would it take my mind of my real-world worries? Between sessions of job hunting and fretting about the bills, could Black Ops II help me shut out my problems for a while and unwind?
Hopefully most of you aren’t asking yourselves the same question. But if you are, I can attest that Black Ops II does an excellent job of making the real world disappear for a while, despite the fact that it draws upon reality more than any other Call of Duty game before it. It may include the presence of real-world figures like Oliver North, Jimmy Kimmel, Manuel Noriega, and the recently disgraced David Petraeus, but Black Ops II can easily let the player turn off the outside world.
I can think of no better way to review the game. After all, with Bit Creature taking a week off for Thanksgiving, this review is coming extremely late by the standards of the internet. But the larger point is that if you’re interested in Black Ops II, you probably already bought it. As with every Call of Duty release since the fourth game, each new entry shatters video game sales records, and the hundreds of thousands of players online at any given time demonstrate that buyers are actually playing their purchases (Unlike a Wii U. Zing!).
Like most players, I’ve been spending the bulk of my time in multiplayer. Let’s face it, that’s been the real draw of the series for some time now. That’s not to say that Black Ops II’s campaign is weak – I’d actually say it is one of the best in the series thus far. Featuring actual defined characters and strong ties to the first Black Ops, Black Ops II has a much more compelling narrative than any of the muddy Modern Warfare games. The fact that several choices along the way determine which of the game’s multiple endings you see has got me considering going back through the story a second time – something I haven’t done since probably Call of Duty 2. Of course, it helps that the campaign features a nice variety of missions with various locations, star characters and even timeframes. It is generally well-paced, with the final third of the game featuring the most memorable setpieces. Longer than the lean Modern Warfare games, there is fat that could have been trimmed, but the key word of this Call of Duty release seems to be “quantity.”
Branching narrative. League play. Elite Integration. A rebuilt custom class system. An expanded Zombies mode. Streaming options. Black Ops II packs a ton of content onto a single disc. Like many players, I’ll never touch some of these options, like league play or the live-streaming feature. For me, it’s all about the core multiplayer. I put over 80 hours into the original Black Ops multiplayer, and while I don’t know if I’ll hit that number again, I’m already in double digits. The core of multiplayer is largely unchanged, although there are several refinements. The new “pick 10” system replaces Black Ops’ currency-based customization system, and I for one prefer the old model. On the other hand, I love the new Scorestreaks system, which replaces the old Killstreaks model. Anything that earns points now counts towards a streak reward, such as capturing a flag or when other players get a kill while you have a UAV in the air. As a player that has always functioned as more of a supporting role than a pointman, the new system has made me more useful (and more deadly) than ever before.
I have yet to truly fall in love with any of Black Ops II’s maps, but the entire rotation is solid. Black Ops featured some great maps and a couple I loathed. Black Ops II’s maps feel solid across the board so far. Nothing stands out as much as Black Ops’ beloved Nuketown or even Summit, but stages like Hijacked are almost up to that level.
I had to restrain myself from truly geeking out and breaking down every one of Black Ops II’s multiplayer stages, a dissection I run through with each game in the series. I could write about the subject at length, something that illustrates how deeply this series sucks me in with every release. And like I said at the outset, that’s something I truly needed recently. Escape. Distraction. After all, that’s why we play games.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a headline title in its genre.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Jeremy Zoss has written for Game Informer, Wizard Magazine, Village Voice Media and more. He has several published works of fiction, but his dogs are not impressed with any of that.
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