RETRO – Slowly, but steadily I feel the franchise is flattening itself with its annual releases. Sure, you can have separate developer teams making these games, switching between each other every year, but once Activision ends up with a game that will still sell very good, but from the point of critical’s view it will be a disappointment. It did not happen this year… yet. But Modern Warfare 4 next year better bring something new to the table, or the unavoidable wall will be hit earlier than expected.
Two storylines clash together in the – very short, less than 7-8 hours long! – single player campaign: one of them runs in the age where disco ruled, while the other one goes in the game’s present time, II0II5. The Mason family (Alex and son David) is in some deep trouble in two warfares – and your decisions will have effects on the gameplay. Oh yes, the gameplay. The game is feeling a little like an interactive movie at once, but suddenly it turns into an adrenaline pumping FPS.
The story is not bad, and most of the time you won’t even realize that killing that certain enemy actually triggers the game to do something else in the background. Was it a good idea to implement these changes? Yes. Another great, great addition is to choose your loadout before the mission. Yes, finally you’re able to “pre-customize” your soldier into that killing machine you’d think it can be.
This is interesting: the Strike Force missions felt like I’m playing an RTS game, and not a good one at that – the AI is ridiculously random. Once it’ll do perfectly as I ordered it to do so, but then it might just screw the entire team over, not moving away from the crossfire… so I believe this part of the game can be labeled as “annoying.”
You’re not forced to play them, buuuut… the ending could be a different outcome, depending on whether you managed to complete them, or not. Raul Menendez is waiting. (And no, I am not going to say who that is.)
“In your head, Zombie, zombie…”
You’ll also get the Zombie mode to play, again, bringing you to the skin of teeth. Depending on your skills, you might be able to defeat those brain-starving zombies, but you might end up as mince meat.
This is something that Treyarch always brings to the table when it’s their turn to produce a Call of Duty game. Tranzit mode, go: you, the zombies, the town, and the bus. Go figure out the rest; it is an excellent addition to Black Ops II.
Let’s face it: this is why the Call of Duty games sell so well. Many of the casual gamers probably never really even take a sniff at the campaign and go straight into the multiplayer. But come on. It just feels more of the same.
This year, Treyarch didn’t improve the multi-aspect. Instead, the focus was on the single player. It is a good thing, I admit. But as I already mentioned in the lead: changes are BOUND to come soon, otherwise, face the inevitable.
The IW engine
This engine that Black Ops II uses is based upon the IW engine, which itself is based upon id’s Tech 3 engine (don’t forget: id’s latest game, RAGE is using id Tech 5…), and that was used in Quake 3 Arena! Sure, the engine since then is slowly developed up (“reveal mapping”, DirectX 11, lens flare, texture streaming, and so forth), but here we are, at the dawn of the new console generation era – speaking of which, Black Ops II will be on Wii U as a launch title… -, and it’s about time to develop the engine either further, or start a new one. I mean, since Call of Duty II (!) it’s always an IW engine iteration, except the console-only CoD 3…
“The writing’s on the wall…”
It’s an omen… Black Ops II is good, in fact, it’s better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter. But it’s not the best either. I believe this might be the weakest link in the Call of Duty line since 2007. That is not a good sign. You should try the game, though: the story is interesting, however, even on Veteran, you’re able to finish the game in less than 7 hours.
Add the weak Strike Force missions in. Add the stable, “standard’ multiplayer in… and you’ll see: Black Ops II is nothing special. The FPS game of the fall is Dishonored so far, even if it has no multiplayer. If you need that, get Black Ops II instead…
+ Excellent story and setting
+ Both future and past warfare and setting
+ Tactical elements
– Multiplayer is nothing special
– Same old gameplay
– Some tiresome new features
Release date: November 13, 2012