Tea and crumpets. More tea please. Fish and chips. That is what I was expecting to hear when I booted up the multiplayer to this year’s Call of Duty offering. To my surprise, my headset was silent.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is this year’s game from the Call of Duty Series. Each year (since 2006) we have been given a Call of Duty game, where the licence is shared between Treyarch (the developer behind this title) and Infinity Ward, the team behind the more popular Modern Warfare franchise.
The main draw for most players to these games has been the multiplayer and as I had pre-ordered the title to get the Nuketown 2025 map I chose to play some multiplayer first. It was surprising that there was so much silence as I had expected to encounter a lot of 14 year old Americans taking the piss out of my English accent, but in fact there was nothing. While this was nice at first it fast became a bit of a disappointment as there was no real sense of community, and the party and lobby were so silent I could have been playing with bots rather than real people.
The Nuketown 2025 map was a nice touch and brought back a lot of fond memories, but as I found with a lot of other aspects of the game, after a short while I grew bored of the lack of innovation and variety, realising I was playing a re-skinned version of a game I had bought years ago.
Where Treyarch have succeeded is with the pick 10 class system, a create-a-class system that lets you tailor everything to your choice. If you would rather not take in a secondary weapon you could do so to free up a slot that you could add another perk or another helpful attachment for your primary gun. The options that this lends to are great and add variety, but there is not much beyond that. As soon as you jump into the engine it feels old and the level design tired.
Perhaps it was wrong for me to tackle Black Ops 2 from the multiplayer aspect first because it gave me a real sense of the game failing to deliver on the potential. As I went to tackle the main campaign I already felt that the game had not progressed or developed from previous incarnations, which is a shame as this is the first game to feature a storyline based in the future. It was good then to see that with the main campaign, Treyarch were trying to do something new.
The main campaign of the game sees you tackle two storylines that run parallel to each other and involve the same group of characters. One storyline is set in the past as you reprise your role of Black Ops protagonist Alex Mason. Alex has retired from active duty but gets roped into another mission during the cold war, where he helps locate his captured team mates. In completing the mission he comes across the game’s main antagonist, Raul Menendez.
The second storyline is set in the future, in the year 2025, as you control David Mason, Alex Mason’s son. This plot thread focuses on stopping a new cold war that has broken out between China and The United States of America, and as you play through the story, you find Menendez has links to this as well.
The futuristic parts of the game are different to what the series has delivered before, but it doesn’t feel revolutionary in what other games have offered to players previously. The idea of unmanned vehicles and drones is new for Call of Duty, and we should not discourage that, but it still feels slightly stale in today’s marketplace. On the flip side of that, there is a mission set in the past where you have to ride a horse, which is something I never thought I would do in a Call of Duty game.
Continuing on with the new features Treyarch have added: the team have created four Strikeforce missions, which are optional missions throughout the campaign, unlocked in the 2025 plot strand. In these sections it is more about strategy and planning as you control different troops and weapons such as drones, turrets and vehicles. Your success and failure on these missions also has a direct result in the ending you experience, as Black Ops 2 has multiple endings that a player can unlock depending on various outcomes in certain missions. If a player dies during a Strikeforce mission, this is a permanent death, you won’t be able to restart the checkpoint or mission, and it could impact the final outcome of the game. So no pressure then.
I did enjoy the Strikeforce missions, but I found them to have a much higher difficulty than the normal missions in the campaign, which was surprising and perhaps more of a reflection on my strategic thinking and commanding than anything else. Or it may be the fact that Treyarch had conditioned me into being a player who didn’t mind dying multiple times to push through to the next checkpoint (which I couldn’t do with the Strikeforce missions).
Finally if all of that wasn’t enough for you, Treyarch have brought back their Zombie mode for a third outing, following on from World of War and the original Black Ops. This time around, they have invested some more time into fully realising the Zombie mode, with improvements such as 8 player co-op (previously this has been 4 player) and new game modes, one of which is player controlled zombie vs zombie.
There is a lot contained within Call of Duty: Black ops 2 and I am glad I bit the bullet and made the purchase. The team at Treyarch definitely feel like they are winning the race in terms of trying to bring innovation to the series compared to the very worn-out Modern Warfare franchise. The multiplayer experience is starting to feel old now, even with the fact that when you prestige you don’t loose all your weapons. However with multiple endings for the campaign, Strikeforce missions, and an improved Zombie mode, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was worth the wait and was an enjoyable game. The single player campaign is short at about 6 -8 hours, but there is plenty to keep people interested if they enjoy the multiplayer aspect of the game.