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The annual release of yet another Call of Duty game has arrived once again, smashing sales records and deriving us from our social lives to beat our buddies to the level cap in multiplayer. And that's all there is to it. The formulaic sequence of events that has happened every year since Modern Warfare is now what defines not just the series, but its fan base following as well.
We wake up at midnight to get our copy of the game, stay up all night playing online, call off work, and press reset when he the level cap, prestiging through all the levels once more. The only difference in the game being a few minor tweaks to the gameplay engine, a few different weapons to choose from, and some more maps to play on.
Call of Duty deserves a breath of fresh air. The franchise needs a break. When we look back at arguably the single greatest video game franchise in history, do we want to relapse upon the fact that we kill it off? Milked it for all the money it could offer?
Black Ops 2 is a good game, there is no doubt about that fact. But, it feels like a stale game that was only held down by its highly over-saturated nameplate. I appreciate the effort Treyarch put forth into trying to evolve the Call of Duty brand into something else, to make it feel new again. Unfortunately, they dabbled with ideas that they weren't yet the masters of providing, and they ultimately fell short…
A lackluster campaign fixated with an interesting plot
The single player campaign, more like your Saturday's afternoon given it only takes roughly 5 hours to complete, was the weakest in the series to date. While the story sounded good on paper, a terrorist assuming control of the newly reformed, nearly completely drone United States military and using them against the government, none of that actually happens until you get closer to the end of the game.
The plot building up to the interesting stuff is one large, jumbled mess that often left me confused about what was happening. In a sense, I was just a soldier following his orders if that was the angle Treyarch was going for, but I'd bet against that…
You assume the role of multiple protagonists, hopscotching through time from past (1980's) to present (2025) to build up a back story to explain why everything that was happening was for a reason. The whole scope of the plot was weighed down however by poor voice acting and a creepy elderly man who talks like he's twenty years-old.
Treyarch did try to snuff up the basic, set in stone linear single player campaigns that have become a common ground in Call of Duty games by allowing your actions to shape and modulate the outcome of the story. The decisions you'll be presented with are pretty basic, the most common choices you'll make will be “Do you want to kill him or not?"
While the weight of your actions may not make as deep of an impact as they may in a game like Heavy Rain, it is definitely an interesting new system that has never been done before in the series that I hope to see improved for the future. For the time being, they'll just change a few in-game scenarios or cut scenes for your viewing pleasure.
Interwoven into the single player campaign are five Strike Force missions, that while are a relatively weak concept, play an intriguing role in how your game will wrap up in the end. The missions have you assume up to three squads of AI squad units or drone-like machines to command with RTS like components, or you can switch into each individual unit to jump into the action first-hand if you don't like to orchestrate the battle from the tactical map. The missions you'll undergo will have you protecting presidential convoys, assassinating foreign war leaders, and defending military bases under attack.
Zombies make a lackluster return to the franchise
Ever since World at War, Treyarch has made sure to make their famed zombies mode one of the centerpieces for their games. Unfortunately, some of the fan-favorite features, such as survival mode, had to be stripped down to make way for the massive new mode called Tranzit. of which shuttles players across a zombie-infested town on a bus, but is sadly only available on one map.
Survival mode and grief mode, where two teams of four players fight for survival on one map and the last team standing wins, can be played across three different, yet small maps (Green Run: Bus Depot, Green Run: Farm, and Green Run: Town). I miss the massive maps of the past two games that had you unlocking area after area, gradually uncovering a very large map. Yet the maps to be found in Black Ops 2 are small, cramming you into very small areas that are very hard to defend for a prolonged amount of time.
A tweaked and rehashed multiplayer mode
Black Ops 2 doesn't do much to alter the game's multiplayer mode, the trumping success behind the franchise, other than a few tweaks here and there. But there were enough changes done that should keep fans of the series occupied until the inevitable installment next year.
Stat tracking elements from Call of Duty Elite are now free, new league matches should excite the e-sports community, the map rotation is the best in the franchise to date, and the new pick ten and scorestreak systems are my favorite features to ever sprout up in the Call of Duty games.
The new pick ten system gives players 10 points to spend in their weapon load-out classes, where each item you select, whether that be a weapon, perk, or some sort of attachment, is worth one point, a maximum of ten points can be used at one time. the system allows players to better choose how they want to play than ever before. If you don't like to carry sidearms, why not beef up your primary weapon with a bucket load of attachments and perks? Now you can!
The new scorestreak system replaces the old killstreak system that relied upon how many consecutive kills you got before dying. The scorestreak system gives you those same "killstreak" rewards from before, without the need for getting any kills. Capturing points in Domination or holding down the given site in Hardpoint will award you points, and the more you build up in a row before dying, the faster you'll get your three different scorestreaks.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 succeeded on the forefront, offering up yet another fantastic multiplayer experience that is my favorite in the series to date. Treyarch's push to carry out change into the historically stale singleplayer campaigns of the franchise fell flat on its face, that in the end, produced one of the weakest campaigns I've ever played in a Call of Duty game. But singleplayer isn't what the fans of the franchise buy the game for, its the multiplayer that draws everyone in, and because of that, I'd recommend any fan of the Call of Duty games to go out and buy Black Ops 2.
Replay Value: Very High