First things first: if you’re expecting Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 to be some world-changing revelation from the previous versions of the Call Of Duty franchise, then you should probably stop reading, and get back to playing some of your older first-person shooters. It’s not going to make you spit out your drink, go on a 14-hour playing binge or even change the way you think about video games. But when you can sell $500 million in your first 24 hours on the shelves, as this game did last week, then it’s quite obvious you’re doing something right. And while Black Ops 2 will be familiar to most longtime Call Of Duty fans, it does bring a lot of satisfying new ingredients to the table.
It’s been nearly a week since the game’s release, and I’ve heard just about every conceivable thing/opinion/excuse someone could use to justify not playing it/not buying it/not liking it. So if you’re still on the fence about the game or are one of those people still trying to decide between Black Ops 2 and Halo 4, this review should help you out. Activision gave me this game to try out, and I spent the past week getting friendly with it.
Now I know at least half of you frenetically jump into the multiplayer when you first rip off that packaging, but here, I’m starting with the campaign mode because quite simply – it brings elements to the table that I haven’t seen in a while with this franchise. The story is AWESOME, and it’s much more engaging than any first-person shooter single player mode of the past few years.
The story, which shifts the point of view from both sides of the battle and alternates between 2025 and a period in the 1980s during the Cold War, was written by Oscar-winning screenwriter David S. Goyer. Following the lead of the original Black Ops, the campaign mode draws you in almost immediately through familiar characters, and a backstory that has you feeling intimately connected to those involved. Family. Loved ones. Those themes are at the base of the entire story, and while that takes things to another level – seriously, there are points in the game where you feel like you’re fighting for more than just yourself… you feel like you’re out there protecting those closest to you – your own player choices can take the story in a number of different directions.
The characters of Frank Woods and the villain, Raul Menendez, help to bridge the gap between the time traveling, but even their shady history together can’t stop this: you’ll have specific points throughout the mode where you can choose to pull a trigger or not, and for the first time in the series’ history, this’ll affect who lives and who dies. Even the outcome of the entire campaign mode hangs in the balance.
Another part of the story that makes it so engrossing is the way it weaves in and out of differing missions. You’ll go from deserts on horseback to slugging through swamps in a rescue mission to even ending up in the middle of a laser-lighted club looking for a girl. Every mission is unique with a different scenario and setting. Then there are Strike Force Missions, new to the franchise. These are like mini sidebar missions, and depending on their success or failure, the real storyline changes along with them. They allow a player to control drones and robotics put into the field with them, and issue commands from an overwatch. In a sense, they’re taking the place of Modern Warfare‘s Spec Ops, one of my all-time favorite modes in any first-person shooter I’ve ever played.
As for the zombie mode, I’ve never been a huge fan of mowing down half-dead corpses who aren’t really bringing anything tactically-speaking, but rather just overpower through sheer numbers. But one of my close friends is (for some reason) obsessed with the zombie mode, and thanks to him, I end up playing it a lot. In Black Ops 2, the developers definitely stepped it up. The pace is more frenzied. The foes are more numerous, and while it isn’t necessarily scary, it does feel more like a zombie mode should. They are other cool add-ons as well, like fire that drains your health, and varied maps that all force you to bring different strategy to the table.