Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 11/18/12
Those unfamiliar with Activision’s extremely popular Call of Duty series probably don’t play video games. At all. Even with that said, the series has been such a tremendous success, within the realms of the hobby, that it has transcended its title of being the top dog in the realm of interactive entertainment, and has become a viable source of marketing with everything from soda and high definition televisions to retail stores in general. The latest edition of this record breaking game series comes by way of a sequel to 2010’s Call of Duty installment, Black Ops. While released early this month on existing consoles, this review will take a look at the action juggernaut’s high octane war shooter on Nintendo’s new Wii U platform.
Black Ops 2 continues to follow the endeavors of the first game’s protagonists, with the titular character of Frank Woods, now spending the rest of his day’s in a combat retirement facility, acting as a storyteller to many of the campaign’s events that take place during the Cold War. During these flashback missions, the narrative explains, often in extremely graphic detail, the motivations of the game’s antagonist Raul Menendez, and his rise to power. The present day missions detail the work of the son of one of the prior game’s characters, Alex Mason, as he tries to avert the threats put into motion during the events of the Cold War.
Whether the plot is unraveling past events via narrative, or putting the player head first into the consequences of the present, BO2 maintains a strong sense of drama, intrigue, and urgency throughout. Through the expert scripting, many of the scenarios seem all too possible, even against the backdrop of the common science fiction themes of cyber-terror that this particular plot makes considerable emphasis on. To further the dramatics of the events at hand, there are several scenarios in the campaign that will require the player to make a seriously heavy choice, with the results creating some very serious consequences. Most of these revolve around actions taken during the Cold War missions, and greatly impact the outcomes of the missions taking place during the future missions. It’s all really serious, believable, intense, and extremely effective.
The campaign storyline present in BO2 is easily the best this series has seen. Though quality scripting and pacing are synonymous with the solo campaign plots in the franchise, this game achieves a new level of war drama with the stark and melancholy story it weaves across both the past and present.
The Wii U version of BO2 is a slick and sharp as any of its other console counterparts. Animations are fast and fluid, and regardless of the degree of on-screen carnage unfolding, the frame rate never suffers. In place are all the terrific fire, explosion, and shrapnel effects one would expect whilst attempting to remedy the world from terrorist schemes. Weather effects kick up desert sand, just as rain coats the battlefield with an effectively glossy sheen. Some minor texture issues may mar the game’s otherwise stellar visual performance from time to time however, but it’s certainly not enough to detract from the overall presentation of the game. During the numerous cut-scenes, character faces portray emotion in great detail, and while this caliber of quality is nothing new for the COD series, it’s important to appreciate these detailed aesthetics, given the dramatically charged plot of the endeavor. Anything less would be a disservice to such an astounding script.
BO2 looks great on Wii U, either on your standard HD-TV, or even while playing any one of the game’s many modes on the Wii U controller screen. Playing the game on this small screen is an entertaining experience in and of itself, and should definitely be on the checklist of things you need to check out if you’re planning on giving this edition of COD a whirl on Nintendo’s new machine. Besides the ability to take your session onto a more personal size, this, much like any of the Wii U games that utilize this feature, will free up your standard TV for other things. At times it can be hard to pin-point certain things that may be very tiny on this display, but I was still able to effectively snipe dudes at considerable distances with the same accuracy as I would on my 30 inch TV. The font for the in-game subtitles can also be tough to read for those who struggle reading small print, but besides these minor gripes, BO2 almost literally explodes on your Wii U pad.
A war-torn battlefield involving dudes with guns, shooting at other dudes with guns, would be pretty underwhelming if the appropriate sounds of ricocheting bullets, bullets piercing armored vehicles, bullets tearing through some unlucky grunt’s desert camo, bullets break-dancing… well, bullets doing anything didn’t sound right. Fortunately, as with the story telling and visual departments of the COD series collectively, one should not be surprised to have their ears assaulted in the same fashion as the rest of the parts associated with the senses while hunkering down in the COD trenches.
A commercial spot for both BO2 and a specific 3D television manufacturer plays into this series staple by depicting a group of bros heeding their own individual calls to duty, where one decides that the walls of their apartment and the utterly intense gaming session taking place within can no longer masquerade the truth. The bro in question channels all the testosterone he’s managed to store up during his current COD marathon, and sends a fierce kick to the back wall of the aforementioned domicile. BLAM; all four walls give way as if they were being held together cubically by duct tape, and suddenly the bros come to realize that this is no mere video game. There is a REAL war going on around them, but the unbelievably realistic sound effects and the mind blowing visual depiction of hardcore war on their 3D TV had made them completely ignorant of the fact.
Wait, what was the point of this tirade? Oh yeah. The sound effects in BO2 are equal parts ballsy and awesome.
The score in place for BO2 is appropriately thematic, utilizing a number of very competently orchestrated pieces that would not be out of place in the most lofty of action films. Academy award winning composer Trent Reznor, who I believe is also associated with some other kind of musical act people care about, is responsible for the somber and delicate theme song that plays behind any of the main menus in BO2. This piece in particular single handedly captures all the campaign’s dramatics and emotions, and sentimentally reminds you of them prior to starting the actual game and getting into the thick of things.
Over the years, the COD franchise has made itself into the â€œgo to guyâ€ for fast, effective, and precise first person shooter action, and BO2 is no exception. Aiming, running, and shooting (especially shooting) feel just as good as they did in previous COD games, and as always, there is no shortage of badass weapons to use against the opposing forces. Air strikes are called in, bombs are remotely detonated, and crazy technology like the self-adhering gyro gloves and the wing suit are put into play during the campaign’s futuristic missions. Most guns feature some kind of alternative fire mode, which makes picking up and firing a few rounds with every new one you come across a good time in and of itself.
Besides the white knuckle shooting action, BO2 makes use of quite a few â€œnoveltyâ€ situations as well. Some make drastic alterations to the typical combat situations, such as taking to horseback in attempts to thwart invading enemies trying to lay waste to an allied compound, or hacking into a mounted gun to turn it onto unsuspecting soldiers. Other instances involve the likes of the previously mentioned wing suit, and see you utilizing its features to literally soar across the mountain tops and quietly infiltrate the enemy’s base. There is no shortage of quality COD entertainment to be had in BO2‘s campaign.
BO2 features a vast array of game modes that cater to both solo, and the series staple multiplayer.
BO2 offers up an interesting Combat Training mode that allows players the chance to test out the various multiplayer arenas and modes against computer AI bots, without any hits or pluses to their online career record. All of your standard multiplayer modes, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, headquarters, and so on are packed into this one, leaving you with a virtual buffet of ways to potentially own dudes. Experience points are granted based on your online performance, and these can be used to unlock new equipment and skills for you to use in any of the games multiplayer modes.
One of the most noteworthy additions to COD‘s ever popular multiplayer extravaganza is something called League Play, which exists entirely on its own, in addition to the normal online component. This mode doesn’t require spending points to unlock new weapons and skills, but instead, makes all of them available right off the bat. Also, in lieu of the traditional experience point system that is in place in the other multiplayer modes, League Play tallies your personal statistics and files you into divisions with other players, essentially turning things into a worldwide tournament based solely on your ability to effectively play. Unfortunately, given the presently small community for the Wii U version of the game, not much can be done with this mode presently, as most seem to be busy with the traditional multiplayer mayhem, and in regards to that, there is no shortage of new Wii U owners to merc.
The theater mode is present again, and its function, like in other recent COD games, allows you to edit a multiplayer match you participated in and create highlights, clips, and even static screenshots from your session. You can in turn upload these tidbits to COD TV, an online community that showcases media shared by COD players worldwide. Again, given the fact that the Wii U is not even a month old yet, there isn’t as vast of a library to peruse as there is on other versions of the game. I personally believe that this lack of participation will change in time, much like the League Play mode. In the intern, and in a more optimistic light, one can consider the virgin battlefields of Wii U BO2 to be a good head start on possibly becoming a dude-owning online legend.
Speaking of the Theater mode, the new â€œCodcastingâ€ addition is definitely worth noting as well. This new interface essentially acts as a more advanced editing tool than the one available in the theater mode, and includes a wealth of options you can use to piece together your own video, shot by shot, of an online match you’ve participated in. Sadly, as of this time, there isn’t a way to put your masterpiece up on COD TV, so taking the time it would take to edit and arrange something really sharp is probably better spent simply owning dudes. Again, I think this feature will eventually take off, and through demand, Activision might make use of media created with this editor more readily.
Last is the infamous Zombies mode, which, even with not knowing anything about COD as a game series, is easy to discern that it’s about shooting zombies. This mode made its debut in the original BO game, and remains virtually untweaked this time around. This mode can be played either solo, or with a group, and is paced quite differently from the other gameplay offerings BO2 has available. Unlike other dudes online, AI bots, or campaign grunts, the computer controlled zombies take a considerably large amount of shots to take down, and their touch is deadly. As you fight them off, you earn points which can be used to buy ammo refills, new weapons, or a strategically placed barricade in hopes of holding the undead horde off for a bit. A good number of maps and a few different kinds of matches are available in this mode, some with some truly quirky deviations from the expected, like the Tranzit mode or the competitive multiplayer modes, but fighting to survive against the lurking people eaters is the same battle of attrition in any of them. It can be fun, especially with a group of friends, but more likely than not the monotony of the endeavor will make most want to return to the instantly gratifying battlefields of the solo campaign, or any one of the alternative game modes.
Perhaps one of those most exciting features of BO2 on Wii U is the amount of controller options available to play any of the game’s many modes with. For those who’ve accustomed themselves to any of the versions of COD that appeared on Nintendo’s previous console, the option to use the Wii remote and Nunchuck, or the classic controller are here in addition to the normal Wii U play modes of using the Gamepad. Given its surprisingly light weight, using the standard Wii U tablet controller feels quite good, and not at all bulky.
As mentioned before, the campaign mode follows a dramatic and powerful storyline that offers several path splitting choices within the five or so hours it lasts. These moments alone are worth revisiting the campaign for, just to see how things turn out, and they are indeed interesting and, at times, unexpected. Since this is the new COD game, fans will most likely be at the multiplayer for months upon months, and with plenty of reason to keep coming back. Given the non-established online community with the Wii U version of the game, players might not get enveloped into the multiplayer madness dudes on the game’s other console versions are already neck deep in, but the tools are all in place.
The single player campaign in BO2 offers a satisfying action experience throughout, and constantly demands attention and reflexes. Things are never too easy or downright frustrating while playing on the game’s default difficulty setting. Getting the initial hang of some of the various technologically advanced weapons may raise an eyebrow at times, and the same can be said about a few of the non-shooting oriented novelty pieces, but it does little to throw off the very tight swing of things.
As feature packed and slickly presented as BO2 is, the game offers little in the way of originality over any of the other recent editions in the series. Though the campaign’s story is emotionally griping and the gameplay fast and satisfying, BO2 stills boils itself down to dudes shooting dudes under the tried and true canopy of political unrest. The inclusion of advanced weapon technologies was a new twist when it was first introduced in COD: Modern Warfare, and even the most diehard fans can agree that the games at times can run together. New features in the multiplayer this time around are a nice touch, but they still aren’t really enough to say â€œWow, look what they added in.â€ COD collectively follows the sales tested mantra of â€œIf it’s not broken, don’t fix it,â€ and while I can’t deny the silliness of something like â€œCall of Duty: Alien Overlordsâ€ I also can’t deny the fact that I would find the concept interesting.
The campaign is a riveting action experience with pitch perfect storytelling, and a ton of badass guns and gizmos to play with. Even if The Hurt Locker isn’t one of your favorite movies ever, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be hard pressed to step out of Mason and son’s virtual jungle boots prior to the game’s gripping conclusion, and then there is the multiplayer. If you find yourself thinking about owning dudes while you’re slicing deli meats at your job at the grocery store or what have you, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you just how addictive the concept of owning dudes, unlocking new guns and skills to help you own dudes, and ranking up from owning dudes can be. BO2 offers more ways to own dudes online than ever before, and if you are anything like the millions of other COD fans, BO2 won’t disappoint you, and will be worth every dollar you spend on it. As with previous installments, however, it’s important not to expect much new conceptually, and in regards to this specific Wii U version, the online community of potential dudes you can own will need awhile to get moving.
Gamers collectively spent around the neighborhood of five hundred million dollars on BO2 within the first twenty four hours of its release. At this time, it’s safe to say that there isn’t anything more appealing to the majority of gaming enthusiasts outside of the COD series. It’s a record breaking milestone in interactive entertainment. That said, this particular Wii U version of the game comes handicapped with the fact that it’s on a brand new console. Fans of the series have most likely already contributed to the game’s amazing first day sales by purchasing the game on either the PC, PS3, or Xbox 360, and given the extreme social draw that comes with each new addition of COD, even those fans who planned on getting a Wii U at launch probably have already put a good number of hours into an existing version.
Though a game series with as much popularity as COD can make an impact on whatever console it chooses to be available on, BO2 is not a Wii U exclusive, and as competent of a version as it may be, there is little reason to buy the game again for those that already have. If you don’t have another medium on which to play BO2, and are interested, this Wii U version will deliver the goods without a hitch, incorporates several controller options, and the ability to play the game in its entirety on the Wii U tablet screen.
The game doesn’t suffer from any obvious technical flaws, but beyond the tablet abilities there’s not much to say about this version of the game over its console brethren. If you’d like to earn more XP, pound Mountain Dew and redeem the codes online for some XP boosts? That’s about it here.
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is everything you’ve come to expect from Activision’s insanely popular military themed shooter. The campaign is expertly written, paced, and emotionally charged from beginning to end, and by incorporating some truly intense player choices that alter the game’s outcome, it is the best the series has come out with to date. The multiplayer is bursting at the seams with content, and while truly not breaking any new ground when compared to previous games, the few tweaks and polishes present provide more than enough initiative to move up the ranks this time around. The novelty of the Zombie mode is showing its wear this time around, and just doesn’t come into its own as a unique thing enough to make it a quality alternative to the frantic action of the other available modes. The Wii U version offers the ability to play the game in its entirety on the tablet controller screen, as well as a bevy of physical controller options to suit pretty much anyone. The downside of this version in particular comes by way of a virtually brand new community, and in turn, League Play, possibly the most interesting of BO2‘s new multiplayer features, can’t really be utilized at the moment. Getting down to it technically, BO2 doesn’t miss a beat on Nintendo’s new machine and feels right at home.