Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Back in black

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

I absolutely adored the original Black Ops. I actually think it's one of the Call of Duty series finest moments. Perhaps the best one alongside the first game or Modern Warfare. Black Ops had a magnificent storyline, with secret covert operations during the cold war, complete with all the experimental weapons and integration methods during that time period in history. It had an amazing plot twist and ending, hell it even had flashbacks to WW2 battles!

It came then, as a huge disappointment to learn that Black Ops 2 would be set in the future. So much in fact I decided to give the game a miss after seeing the E3 video at the Xbox press conference last year. Futuristic weapons, drones and the "unrealistic" setting just didn't intrigue me enough. Recently though, the game dropped in price and I decided to give it a spin. Turns out I underestimated the game somewhat, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Mike Hraper, one of BO2's main protagonists.
Battle it out online!
To my positive surprise Black Ops 2 follows very closely to the first game's characters and story. It shows Harry Mason as an old man in a home in a close future telling his son about black ops missions during the eighties. I love these flashbacks as they are in a similar realistic vein as the first game. These missions are related to the future events of a huge terrorist war. The game however, leaves the eighties after a couple of missions and stays in the future. Luckily these missions are very good and aren't as far-fetched as I feared. They turn out to be very entertaining to play.

In between the main story missions, there are a few side missions scattered through the storyline. These focus around controlling a small army of soldiers, drones and robots in a set area or map. Either you are defending or attacking multiple targets on a map, while enemy soldiers are making your life hard. These side missions add a lot of new ideas to the franchise, and a very non-linear compared to the typical CoD gameplay as they let you freely traverse the map. You can at any time zoom out for an overhead view of the battlefield, direct soldier and drones to attack of defend and take control over any of them.

You ill face drones and walking mechs in the future of BO2!
There are lots of gun attachments and sights to choose from.
Multiplayer, where most of the CoD players will be spending the time, is packed with even more unlocks and content than before. It helps keep you playing match after match waiting for the next gun attachment to be unlocked or another ability for your playing style. After so many yearly releases I feel the combination of all these are fairly well balanced. Some of the modern attachments to your gun are a little too good in my opinion  but they never feel totally unfair.

I like the large, detailed maps; they look fantastic. Treyarch have outdone themselves graphically on them, maybe it's the sharp lighting and bright colours that makes them look so good?! They are packed with small deatails and routes to get from one end to the other. They are also very balanced with anything from close combat areas to open sniper-friendly ones. The game opens up to different play styles on each map.

While playing the multiplayer, which once again captures the addictive Call of Duty player in me, I wonder why not use this gameplay in the singleplayer? It's like I'm playing the game in two different ways. To explain it better; I feel I explore the environments closer, and learn tactics in them much more than the "run from A to B" style of the storymode. I also find that the gunfights seem more intense and advanced, when your enemies are attacking from all different angles and hide around the environment  They need to learn from how people play in multiplayer and how the maps are free to roam, and implement this in the singleplayer. The side missions in BO2 kind of touch the essence of this, but could have been even closer to this. Getting to familiar with areas, make the gun battles even more fun and tactical.

Most of the future weapons aren't really that far from reality today.

Learning the maps and finding the playing style you enjoy most on each of them is key to getting better .
I enjoyed the main story in BO2, it sure isn't as well told or tense as BO1, and could have done with a much better plot twist, but it works fine. The multiplayer once again proves that having smooth 60fps gameplay and controls really make the game look and feel so much better than the competition. It keeps you interested with unlocks and XP hunting, it sure is a formula almost overused in the franchise, but it always somehow pulls you back in. Call of Duty delivers, once again.