Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review – A Glimpse into the Future
by Brandon Mietzner on November 22, 2012 in Gaming
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the latest foray of the Call of Duty franchise, picking up soon after the events of the original Black Ops released only 2 years ago. Does this next incarnation provide gamers with the features they have come to cherish or is time for this developer to go back to drawing board?
Introduction & Gameplay
The year is 2025. David Mason, the son of Alex Mason, is the focal-point of our continuing story which is told through the actions of Frank Woods, Raul Menendez and Alex Mason soon after the events of the original Black Ops. The world is under a serious threat by Raul Menendez, a man whose only ambition is to see the people and the world’s superpowers burn for the suffering that he has been put through.
The world’s armed forces are no longer measured by boots on the ground, but rather the amount of drones that are controlled by warring factions. The US and China control the bulk of these forces. A cyberattack orchestrated by Menendez successfully cripples China’s stock exchange, at which point the country retaliates by banning the export of rare earth elements – something vital for the development of these drone forces.
A brand-new factor in the story are Strike Force missions; these do not affect the story characters directly but do shape the ending of the game. These missions can be rather difficult and I will get into the reasons later. I would have liked to see Strike Force missions offer the player the ability to invite a friend for co-op and be a little less integral to the ending.
I completed my first play-through in about 9 hours, and overall, the story kept my attention. But, it did feel too convenient at points. The upside? I can play it again and change it up if I make different decisions at key moments in the game’s story. This is a welcome departure from previous Call of Duty games, giving the single-player much-needed experimentation, replayability and longevity.
The game’s AI can be hit or miss in certain situations. For example – there were times in the main story where I would be near a turret that was fixed on an AI support character (usually in cover), allowing me to walk right on by and it not be harmed. There were also times where I could walk up behind an enemy AI and not be seen by other obvious enemy AIs until I attacked, either by melee or with a gun. This happened frequently in the original Black Ops, so it’s disappointing to see the problem remain.
I mentioned above that the Strike Force missions could be difficult, and that is mainly because of the AI and it’s stupidity. The mission “FOB Spectre” was the most difficult for me. The player takes control of many units in a hybrid RTS+FPS; the problem with this is that even though I would tell units to move, they wouldn’t, and when I told a squad of 4 to attack a squad of 2 remaining enemies, I lost 3 men (at full health) and managed to take out a mere one opponent.
I played the game on Normal difficulty, and at times, I felt like Rambo just walking through several enemies. Other times, I would have few around me, but many could be found on the hill sides or in high-up vantage points – there, I would be killed quite quickly. To say there are difficulty spikes is an understatement. In some levels I felt as though the game’s idea of difficulty was directly tied the amount of enemies it could spawn, forcing me to just run and pray I made it through to the next check point at which point they would stop spawning. I felt that this happened in the original Black Ops as well but it was only in two or three maps; Black Ops II had this on several.
The bread and butter of the Call of Duty series has been the multiplayer, and this time I believe the game falls short in many respects. I am not referring to the gameplay that has been rehashed perfectly, and when I was actually playing on a server with low ping time, I had no complaints. The limitations I refer to stem from the lack of dedicated server support. The whole multiplayer experience is driven by lobbies and match-making and that is a problem for many PC gamers, including myself.
I have no delusions of entitlement here. It’s a fact that many PC games are seeing many features cut to cater to the console market for quick development, deployment and to cut costs, this is the latest cut. There are many limitations to not being allowed dedicated servers – not being able to join someone already in a game, no rules for anyone to follow and no guarantee you’re going to connect to a server with low latency for you and everyone else in your lobby. This is unacceptable in my mind and therefore I am warning all PC gamers: if you like going to a certain server to catch up with friends that has a set of rules, you’re out of luck with Black Ops II.
I would like to indulge myself a little here and say that many games have started out on the PC and became very popular because of it being on an open and nonrestrictive platform for developers and players alike. The features I am referring to are of course mod tools and dedicated servers, either rented or run from a personal PC.
Unfortunately, many publishers and developers alike are pushing for less development time and greater profits after they become popular and make the move to the console, because they generate more profits than the PC. I don’t have a problem with this mindset per se, but the only ones going to be hurt in the long run are these companies. PC gaming doesn’t have a lack of choice of titles to pick from and if a AAA game can’t provide those features to those who have been loyal fans, they will turn away and find something else to buy.
This sort of mindset of course means that the game will only be supported so long as the developer or publisher wants it to be, forcing you to move onto the latest incarnation of the franchise, even if you don’t want to. In a way, I may sound like a conspiracy nut, but consider this: many games are still alive and kicking on the PC because of the community and the fact they had access to mod tools and dedicated servers. This is becoming a very cut-throat industry and the only ones suffering in the long run are the gamers; how long do you think you can keep taking away features before gamers start to walk away?