It’s that time of the year again, where what is now quite arguably one of the biggest gaming franchises around gets its yearly release. For the past few years people have clambered into shops at midnight and torn back the cellophane on their newly bought copy of the latest Call of Duty. However, while millions are sold within hours of being on sale, fans have been crying out for change within the template. Everything was beginning to grow stagnant, there was a lack of drastic innovation in the Hollywood-esque template. Now though, it’s back in the hands of Treyarch and they’ve set out to prove people wrong. The question is, have they succeeded? And is it still the franchise people know and love?
Jumping between various time periods, the Black Ops II‘s campaign sees the return of Alex Mason and Sgt Frank Woods, as well as the introduction of Alex’s son David. Despite one storyline taking place during the Cold War, and another in 2025′s New Cold War, each of the main characters are connected to antagonist Raul Mendez. If you’re wondering how the tales tie together, David Mason’s misson in 2025 is to lead a group of elite soldiers to a location known as ‘The Vaut’ where Sgt Frank Woods is hiding. Woods is so important because he holds information to the rise of Mendez, and thus the key to his downfall. It’s here where things begin to ramp up and Black Ops II steps into its own.
Spanning a wide variety of locations, campaign levels now contain special missions during the 2025 arc known as ‘Strike Force missions’. It’s in these missions that you can make choices that affect how your story pans out. If a someone dies during during one of these missions they’ll be dead for good, which will change how things move along. By the end of the game you’ll have different outcomes and you could well see a different outcome to the end of the New Cold War. Clearly, it’s nice to see that Treyarch have implemented such a mechanic to urge you to go back and replay the campaign again – after all most people only ever play multiplayer. Saying that, no matter how good they make the single-player, people will only pick Black Ops II up for some online fun – and thankfully it’s much better than that of Modern Warfare 3.
Changing a few things, while also keeping some stuff the same, Black Ops II’s multiplayer is a refined experience that’ll please fans of new and old. First things first, the create a class option has been changed once again. Now you’ll unlock guns as you go, but – in a similar way to Halo 4‘s system, you have to purchase the items you want with the points you earn. Each class can have up to 10 items equipped too, therefore making it the most customisable system the series has seen. Fancy having 2 perks so you can stick an extra attachement on your gun? Well, you can. Fancy just having a single primary weapon? Then you can use all that extra space to fill up with perks, attachements and the new Wildcard system – which work in a similar way to perks.
Multiplayer maps, however, aren’t the best in the series, but there’s a handful that really stand out: Turbine, which is rather similar to Afghan from Modern Warfare 2; Hijacked, which is a close quarters map that takes places on a cruise ship – and is quite possibly the best I’ve played on. Express is another great map that takes place within an active train station – meaning you best watch out for moving trains. The other maps on offer are fun, but they don’t live up to whats come before. This is most likely because Treyarch are planning to release four DLC packs, so thats where the good maps, and the classics, will probably arrive. Those grabbing the game from new also get Nuketown 2025 to play on. It’s exactly the same as Black Ops‘s Nuketown map, except it’s had a makeover to drag it into the future.
For some reason, multiplayer has a level cap of 55 this time around, but you can still Prestige if you throw down enough time. You don’t really get a lot for hitting Prestige, but it’s a reason to keep going at the multiplayer and you get some callsigns in the process. Along with the return of callsigns is the reintroduction of custom emblems, which this time around allow for even more layers to be used and for some new items too.
The, probably unexpected, runaway hit that is Treyarch’s Zombies mode is back once again and this time it’s bigger than ever before. Now there’s new game modes that flesh this once bonus mode into a fully fledged pastime. You’ve got your basic Survival that can be played across one of three maps: a bus station, a town and a farm. These maps are rather small and, quite honestly, aren’t not that fun to play on. Grief Mode is a new addition to Zombies and takes place across the same three maps, but this time it’s four versus four in a last one standing setup. Interestingly, you can’t kill the opposing team, they have to be taken down by Zombies. However you can stun them by swiping at them with your knife, which is a tactical approach to things.
The biggest new addition to Zombies is the meaty Tranzit mode. Playing out in a similar way to survival, it takes place on a huge map – on that Treyarch say is their biggest yet. It’s so big that you’ll actually have to jump aboard a bus to reach other parts of it. Down along the bus route are four different stops, three stops are the levels you play in every Zombie mode – except with more to do there. Now there are workbenches that allow you to build items from scavenged parts on the maps – it’s very similar to that of Dead Rising 2. You can use these parts as protection like riot shields, or for door parts and items to help you through the level. Without a doubt, Tranzit is the best part of Zombies in Black Ops II. It’s hard to fault something that offers so much compared to its last iteration.
Overall, Black Ops II is the best Call of Duty title in recent years. It wipes the floor with Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 and topps Black Ops in may ways. Its story is very impressive for a shooter that’s become known for its linearity and short length. New game modes also breath life into the multiplayer aspect that everybody really want to grab the game for. It’s hard to say that this is the best Call of Duty game ever, but it’s a fantastic first-person shooter that offers up plenty of content and is well worth a go – even if you’ve become tired of the series so far.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Looks great and the sound is top notch to, and the great voice acting is a plus.
Gameplay – 4/5: Fun and addictive as Call Of Duty has ever been, it’s just like before but somehow Treyarch have managed to improve upon it.
Innovation – 4/5: The addition of choices to the storyline and new create a class options mean it feels like a much more personal game than before. Zombies has also had quite the genius overhaul too.
Value – 5/5: Packed with content and replay value, not to mention the multiplayer, you shouldn’t ever be questioning its worth.
Final Score: 4.5/5