I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Call of Duty Black Ops recently. I mean, it wasn’t fantastic, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it definitely punched above my expectations for it, and proceeded to make me eager enough for more of the story to go out and purchase the second and third of this trilogy. So with Black Ops now a distant memory, and with me having some time to myself, I decided to give the second a go, to see if it manages to surpass the original or whether it manages to fall flat on it’s face.
My initial impressions upon starting the game were “who the fuck is woods, and who the fuck is this?”. Suffice to say, if I was having problems remembering characters from the first game when I only played in 2 months ago, i feel sorry for players who had to wait two years. It took a good hour or two (and a bit of Googling), but after a while, I was able to follow the story and find out why the game flashes between the 80’s and 2020’s.
You see, you play as “section” mason, Alex mason’s son (you played as Alex Mason throughout the first game). You’re trying to get to the bottom of why a terrorist is planning to destroy the western world, and how. So, in classic Call of Duty fashion, you have flashbacks to the 80’s in many weird and wonderful places that are central to modern history. Take Vietnam, Africa and Afghanistan for example. I’m not gonna complain too much, the variety of stages helps to really show the graphical prowess of this successor, and my oh my does it impress.
For a game that was still only released on last-gen consoles, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is quite the visual upgrade from it’s predecessor. Everything from textures, to lighting effects, to even character models all stand out as far more detailed than before. It’s crazy really, especially considering Black ops 2 continues to use the same engine. Treyarch deserve some recognition for what they were able to do with such a limited amount of resources.
The gameplay is the standard affair we’re all used to with Call of Duty game: namely great shooting and action sequences galore. I especially liked how much more “force” each gun seemed to have in this sequel, as I recall the previous guns feeling like pea shooters in comparison. Enemies are the same as always: Spawn from random locations and then try and flag you from multiple directions, the difference here is that there’s a lot more of them, mainly due to engine upgrades that allow a lot more enemies and NPC’s on screen at any given time. I’ll say one improvement the developers made for the enemies this time round: their ability to want to survive is commendable. The animations they display when flipping a table or a drinks machine is fantastic, and whilst it was first shown off in FEAR all those years ago, it’s still a great addition to increase the complexity of the enemies you’re fighting.
I wouldn’t usually bring up bugs in my reviews, mainly because all of the big ones have usually been fixed by the time I get around to playing a game, but also because I don’t feel they impact the gameplay too much (most of the time!). Unfortunately though, Black Ops 2 for the PC had one of the worst bugs I’ve experienced in PC games, which is that after every single campaign level I completed the game would crash to my desktop. I mean it – every single campaign mission, thrown straight back. Looking around on the net it seems this has been known since day one, with Treyarch saying they’d fix it soon, yet here we are, two years after it’s release with no fix in sight. The only way around it was to use Steam in offline mode, or to have less than 50 friends. Horrendous in my opinion, but alas, now you know (should my opinion be what you need before you go out and buy something – I don’t know, it could happen!).
Story wise, it wasn’t as interesting as “the numbers” theme within Black Ops 1 (that entire sub-plot is thrown out the window within the first hour), but overall it kept me engaged and pushed me to find out more throughout the plots entirety. What was more interesting throughout was the future missions, where there was an air of believability throughout. The world is effectively the same as now, but with a new type of plane (where the engines are mobile, allowing for upwards travel) and monitors everywhere. It makes me look forward to playing Black Ops 3, where most of it’s missions are apparently based in the future, with all it’s high-tech robot suits and an all-out war.
For the most part, I enjoyed my time within Black Ops 2. It’s a more streamlined affair than it’s predecessor, which makes for a more enjoyable experience on the whole. Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s flaws, like the bugs and the lacklustre story when compared to the original, but taken in it’s entirety, Black Ops 2 really is a better game than the original. Treyarch should be proud, they really did manage to make a fantastic sequel to the acclaimed Black Ops, something many thought they wouldn’t be able to do. One things for sure, I’m sold on the premise of future warfare, and cannot wait to sink my teeth into Black Ops 3.