Another year, another Call Of Duty. It seems that the Call Of Duty games are as much of a yearly franchise as all the major sports titles. Gamers can almost pinpoint a release window for the next title, from the moment the previous has been released. So it is no surprise then that Call Of Duty: Black Ops II has found its way to a November release.
This time development is handed back over to Treyarch, as it was for the original Black Ops on 2010, as they look to carry on the roaring success of the previous titles. Call Of Duty is a juggernaut franchise these days, so much so that like certain actors, musicians and sports stars, it stands above its own field as a name in its own right. Often referenced by the media whenever a story breaks about the gaming industry, good or bad. It heaps a fair amount of pressure on the teams working on the games, just because of the name.
Here in Black Ops II there is the usual mix of single player campaign, online multiplayer action and Treyarch’s own stamp on the series, the zombie mode. It is once again quite an impressive package, that offers plenty of content across the various modes on offer. Is there anything new to bring to the table, or is it just more of the same?
The single player part of the game takes place across a campaign mode and no matter what you think of the story, no matter how convoluted it is, it is impossible to argue with the way it is putt together. It is incredibly linear, a far cry from the classic shooters of yesteryear. However, Call Of Duty isn’t about options, it isn’t about choosing how you play. It is all about playing out scenes of all out action, set piece after set piece, with action that would make even Michael Bay feel a bit dizzy.
Just like top Hollywood blockbuster action films, the campaign is made of pure action, with segments of story interjected in between. The story parts are told via cut scenes which essentially just set the scene for the various fire fights you’ll find yourself in. As with previous efforts in the series, the story isn’t exactly told in a linear fashion either, as you play different character in different times, taking you from the eighties, to the near future. Everything is loud and the action is non-stop. There seems to be an assumption too that those who will be playing have played a Call Of Duty before and starts off with a bang and never lets up.
It does work though and while it can be easy to look back at the campaign and pick holes in the story and moan about the shooter essentially being on rails compared to other FPS titles, such as Doom, it is an experience that does leave you feeling satisfied during your time with it. However, the campaign in a Call Of Duty is pretty much the warm up act, as it is in the online multiplayer where the core fans will spend most of their time.
For those who are veterans of the series, then they will be familiar with what is on offer. Various modes including, Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Capture The Flag and Search & Destroy are all there in core mode. For those who prefer something a bit more challenging, some of the variations are also included in a hardcore mode. Where it takes less to get a kill, or be killed, players no longer feel like bullet sponges. In fact, it actually feels like it offers a better balance to the game than core.
For those new to Call Of Duty, or that find online a frustrating experience, getting killed all the time, without getting the kills, there is Combat Training, that offers players the chance to play with other newcomers and less skilled players. While you can still earn XP here, the challenges that can be earned in other areas cannot be obtained here. Hopefully working in a way to stop better players preying on the supposed lesser players for easy gain.
Playing online is what you make of it, just as it is in any online game, especially one like Call Of Duty. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll get better and have a much more enjoyable experience. That being said, despite the Combat Training mode, it can become a frustrating time for new players, as players seem to learn the maps inside out very quickly. Call Of Duty online still has a lot to learn from Battlefield, where you can get be part of a team, with a set of skills other than being a good aim.
It is very well put together though and in all the games played so far, there hasn’t been any noticeable lag, even when things get frantic. You know that your own deaths and the kills you earn are down to your skill, rather than some lag or a dodgy glitch. Which apart from preferences to how online should be, you cannot ask for more than that.
It’s not just the action online where there is plenty to be found, there are the options for League Play, which adds a level of competition to the game beyond just levelling up. There will be various series across the games lifespan, where you compete to earn you place in a league, then finish as high as possible by getting wins and kills. It is an excellent addition for those who find themselves getting bored with simply turning up to games and levelling up with no real end goal.
Making another return to a Treyarch game is the zombies mode which sees players either team up online, or play alone to take on hordes or zombies. Staying true to the previous zombie modes, this is a wonderful side distraction from the campaign and online modes. It is simply kill to survive, for as long as humanly possible. There is more of a Left 4 Dead feel to zombies this time around, as you can team up with up to three other people to take on the various maps. There is even a bit of a story type affair thrown into the mix. Even though it is influenced (putting it kindly) by Left 4 Dead, it is certainly a welcome influence.
This is Call Of Duty, nothing more, nothing less. Fans of the series will lap it up, those who didn’t like the previous games will not be swayed by anything it does. It has a target audience and Activision know what they want. Black Ops II doesn’t disappoint, it just doesn’t push the series on any further.