November 16, 2012
First Impressions—Call of Duty: Black Ops II Is More of the Same…With A Few Twists
I’m a huge fan of the Call of Duty franchise. Yes, I know; shocking. The internet punching bag of the past few years, jaded fanboys typically bag on the Call of Duty games, for no reason other than the fact they are the most popular series of video games in the world. If you went online any given day and saw the reception for the Call of Duty series, you would never guess that they are great games (not now anyways.) But they are…a fact most gamers seem to forget about in this day and age.
All that said, I can’t say I was looking forward to Black Ops II when it was first announced. I love the Call of Duty games—specifically, the Infinity Ward developed Call of Duty games. The Treyarch iterations of the franchise always felt like lesser entries to me, from the lackluster and repetitive Call of Duty 3 to the simply “meh” World at War. And the first Black Ops game was no different. A fun game sure, but it was lacking a certain “oomph” that made me love the Modern Warfare series. I can’t quite explain it…but the Treyarch developed Call of Duty games always felt second rate to me.
So for the rest of this article, I’m going to try and not compare this to the Modern Warfare games. The love I have for that trilogy (or at least the first couple) is pretty biased, so I think it’s unfair to compare the two. Honestly, Black Ops and Modern Warfare seem like two entirely different series at this point, Call of Duty games in name only. So well I’ll willingly compare the game to Black Ops, I’ll try my best not to with the Modern Warfare series.
Anyways, onto the game! So far I’ve gotten through two missions into the campaign for the game and, I must say, I’m surprisingly impressed. I had no expectations going in, but it’s clear that Treyarch is trying their best to craft a Call of Duty game worth remembering. The gameplay is as polished as ever but, c’mon, it’s Call of Duty; they have an established gameplay formula, and Treyarch knows not to change too much of it.
That said, the controls aren’t really the thing that sets Black Ops II apart from every other Call of Duty game that’s ever existed; that’s the setting. The game takes place in both the 1980’s and the far off year of 2025, and it becomes quickly apparent that this is one of the biggest positives about the game so far. It feels like a fresh experience, and using all of the new guns and technology available to you is simply a blast. Well the story hasn’t quite picked up yet and I’m already questioning the timeline a bit (if Alex Mason is seven in the 80’s, shouldn’t he be approaching his fifties in Black Ops 2?), I’m so far having a great time with the campaign. It feels like Call of Duty, but different enough to still make more of an impact.
But of course the big thing about the Call of Duty games is the multiplayer; hell, that’s evident in Black Ops II alone by the choice to put the Multiplayer option FIRST on the main menu, with the campaign right below it. The Call of Duty online experience is a phenomenon—why do you think these games sell so well all the freaking time? Why do you think there’s always millions of people playing the game over Xbox Live and PSN? Hell, I’m sure most people don’t even give a shit about the campaign of Black Ops II; they could release the disc with just multiplayer on it and the general consumer would be happy.
And for good reason too. I’ve never had a better online experience than when I play Call of Duty—and that streaks continues with Black Ops II. I’ve played about two hours of the multiplayer so far, and I’m already back on the Call of Duty train. I’m obviously a biased fanboy when it comes to this one though, so enjoyment of non-fans might vary.
Treyarch introduced quite a few new things for the multiplayer this time around…both good and bad. My experience with the custom class has thus far been a mess, mostly due to the lackluster menu system. They changed the entire way classes are formed, introducing a “Pick 10” format that lets players choose a combination of 10 guns, attachments, perks, grenades, and other tools to kill people with. And well I like the concept of “Pick 10”, the execution is pretty messy.
Honestly, the difference in interface feels very similar to the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8; everything feels different, and I’m having trouble finding what I’m looking to change most of the time. Everything is represented by images in Black Ops 2, and the Create A Class page takes up the width of the entire page. In time I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but I which the menu was more streamlined than it actually is.
I haven’t played a lot of the maps yet but, for the most part, they feel great. I’m a Domination guy myself, and so far I’ve already noticed two maps that are perfectly catered for that mode; the train based map Express, and the airplane based map Turbine. I’ve had a blast playing on these two, and I hope the maps just get better from there.
Right now, Black Ops II seems to be a fun Call of Duty game, featuring most of the things we love about the franchise; the great gameplay, the stellar graphics, and the always addictive multiplayer. The big question mark for me at this point is the game’s replaybility. I played Black Ops for a solid two months, but burned out before my third prestige. On the other hand, I played Modern Warfare 2 up until the release of Modern Warfare 3. I don’t know how things will work for Black Ops II…but I’m hopeful. Whatever the case, stay tuned to Geek Binge in the near future for our complete review of Black Ops II. In the meantime, make sure to check back Monday for the review of the OTHER huge FPS released in the past two weeks; Halo 4. Until then, see you on the battlefield!