Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops II (campaign)
- — 26 November, 2012 22:00
|Name||First-person shooter: Call of Duty: Black Ops II|
|Summary:||The best campaign since Modern Warfare, despite being by the numbers at times.|
|Games Info:||Developer: Treyarch; Publisher: Activision|
|Platform:||PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
Although Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is five years old now, I still vividly remember the amazing 'All Ghillied Up' mission, where you donned a camouflage suit and crept through a radioactive environment, ultimately assassinating an important target. It just seemed to capture what the series is about.
Black Ops II might not have missions as amazing as All Ghillied Up – although it comes close – this is the best CoD game since Modern Warfare.
The single-player game delivers the tried-and-true CoDformula: massive explosions, fast-paced action and a bad guy out to destroy the western world. It’s a Hollywood action movie playing out on your gaming machine.
Much of the game is a tale about cyber terrorism and bad guy Raul Menendez, who is out for revenge. It's played through flashbacks, retold by the former partner of your Special Forces father. The game’s ending can be different depending on the decisions you make in a handful of key moments, often whether you kill a character or spare their life. It seems that, without spoiling things, a decision you make during one mission can affect one key character quite dramatically.
The flashbacks create genuine confusion: one minute you’ll be in 1980s Afghanistan fighting Russian soldiers, the next you’re in present-day Myanmar taking control of modern-day soldier David Mason and being swung from cliff face to cliff face. Then you’ll be fighting to save the US president in modern-day Los Angeles, fighting alongside Manuel Noriega or even playing as a crazed Menendez.
What keeps BlOps 2’s campaign engaging is that it mixes up the gameplay too, so you might be on foot one mission infiltrating a secure bunker, in another you control an aerial drone that must blast a path through a fortified military camp – which you then escape in a jeep.
As you'd expect with a CoD game the action is adrenaline-fueled. It's also shockingly brutal and violent - but there's nothing as controversial as the No Russian mission from MW2.
BlOps 2 is crawling with future tech, from a remotely-operated spider that crawls through air ducts and zaps circuitry, to a suit that makes you invisible (although, realistically, not your weapon) and nano-gloves that let you stick to rough surfaces.
Developer Treyarch has been considered the Call of Duty 'B-team' developer by gamers, but with BlOps 2 it shown it can deliver a rousing campaign. Never is this more evident than in the ship mission. Mason and his companions masquerade as union reps hunting for evidence on Menendez’ whereabouts, but it all turns to custard with a shoot-out in a crowded nightclub. A backdrop of bright colours and dance music shows that Treyarch matches it with the big boys.
Alongside the campaign run missions where you control a strike force that defends installations from enemy attack but frankly, they seemed disjointed and confusing and I didn’t see the point. It was almost as if Treyarch felt the campaign needed a real-time strategy element to it – it doesn’t.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from BlOps 2 – for me, Modern Warfare set the bar for single player campaigns – but it surprised me. This is the best campaign since Modern Warfare, despite being by the numbers at times. The graphics engine is starting to creak under the strain of all the aciton that's going on, too.
If you’re not a fan of the series, this won't change your mind, no matter how good the campaign is.
But Treyarch has risen to the challenge with BlOps 2 and it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.