Because the latest Call of Duty game is the second in the Black Ops sequence, because two heads are better than one and because we're turning into super-villains fixated on the number two, we've got two reviewers tackling this beast. So, without any more prattling about, let's turn you over to our reviewers with a quick introduction and a bit of their Call of Duty credentials...
Scott: Call of Duty: Black Ops
is a refreshing addition to the seemingly endless CoD
franchise, bringing new life to both the campaign and Online aspects of the game.
The Black Ops II
campaign looks like the most promising out of the series. It's set in two periods, jumping between 2025 and flashbacks to right after the events of the original Black Ops
. This exposes backstory behind the future events, as well as breaking up the gameplay by mixing use of past and future weapons and gadgets.
Since Activision stopped setting CoD
in WWII it's always been the same thing, plot-wise: a terrorist with unlimited resources has some reason to hate the US and causes a big fuss. These antagonists are usually all the same except for some superficial quirk like a facial scar. But with Blops II
the small changes add up to a big difference.
The PC version is very buggy, although these are mostly superficial. In one instance you're on a boat and during both gameplay and a cutscene you may find that other boats are driving right through your vehicle and the characters.
This campaign is more robust than the previous ones. You can now customise your set-up before each mission, giving you more control. It's still linear, though - each scene is a set-piece gun battle with not much variation. Saying that, this does enable you to learn where enemies are and practice repeatedly (because you will die, a LOT) if you want to beat it on veteran. Aside from being linear though, some actions have consequences that echo through the rest of the campaign.
A great example of this is that at one point you have to drive across a city and a small opening appears, half covered in flames. On my first playthrough I managed to avoid them. Great, no problem. On my second playthrough I messed up and drove through the fire. The burns my squadmate received not only stuck with him for the rest of the campaign but were also mentioned in the dialogue on a later mission.
Disappointingly, I have found the campaign to be rather short - as with all FPS games these days. It basically consists of a lot of video loading screens (that get the bulk of a story out of the way) and typical run and gun linear gameplay. The story itself, despite two completions, is confusing at many points. A lot of things are added for shock value but detract from the story, making it a bit harder to swallow.
A pleasant addition to help break up the typical FPS gameplay is a new tactics-based group of missions. Many of these feel like the multiplayer game modes, except you control a whole AI squad with simple point-and-click input to carry out the objectives. These are optional but can affect the underlying story.