By this time, plenty of detractors have gone on about “the sad state of affairs” in the gaming market, especially since the mainstream now has set conventions that big companies are more or less afraid to step out of. This is pretty much the case with modern military FPS games, and the recent releases in this genre have been used as examples of this supposed decline. The franchise that set the trend for the mainstream in the first place now has a new title out, which is one of the most anticipated releases of 2012, and it does enough to set the bar just a bit higher.
Singleplayer is mostly what is expected from this game, especially the usual “OMG WE GOTTA KILL THIS DUDE FOR AMERICA” storyline. You play as David Mason, the son of the protagonist from the first Black Ops, and you are to track down your father’s former brother-in-arms Frank Woods to learn of the whereabouts of this game’s boogeyman, Raul Menendez. It’s still pretty much the linear adventure full of explosions and “WE GOTTA KILL HIM” dialogue that is typical with military shooters, a trend set by the Call of Duty series. While it does set the tone for the game itself, it’s still composed of the same elements that is all about forcing the player to move forward and set off the event triggers.
But the real centerpiece of the game is the multiplayer, which has been enhanced by the new “Pick 10″ loadout system that streamlines the equipment and perks system. You can even sacrifice equipment slots for more perks, which means that you can make your own build that suits your playing style and skill. It’s accompanied by a wide selection of maps that should keep competitive players busy, each having its own unique features that must be studied and memorized in order to stay on top of the game. But perhaps the best additions to the game in multiplayer are the social features and the eSports support that acknowledges the Call of Duty competitive scene.
One of the more anticipated features from Treyarch is the zombie mode, which has always added tons of replay value to their CoD games. This is the biggest zombie mode yet, with various stages and other elements to make it more of an integral part of the game other than just being a bonus mode on the side. Just like in the previous games, it’s the 4-player co-op that will have you screaming at your friends to keep killing the zombies before they kill you. If you’re not really for the competitive multiplayer, you can still have fun with other players through the zombie mode.
Visually, the game is mostly like that of Modern Warfare 3, since they do use the same engine. While it still looks good and is hardly dated, the ever-finicky nature of the mainstream gaming market will now clamor for even more improvement and innovation on the aesthetics and physics. The sound is still just as good, so playing this with a headset is very satisfying. The game itself has the same flaws as previous titles, but the overall package has the improvements to keep people interested Perhaps people did expect that out of all the developers in the military shooter genre, Treyarch would be making the most innovations with their bi-annual release.
Out of all the recent military titles that have either fallen short or merely done enough to satisfy the status quo, Black Ops II stands out as the one that actually makes an effort to be sustainable beyond the initial hype. The developers’ goal to make the game appealing to eSports is an icing on the cake, hopefully drawing pro players in to make the game more than casual, but a bona fide competitive title. Also, the zombie mode doesn’t hurt its chances either.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10