Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Xbox 360)
There is a chief problem with game series that tend to stick to a tried and true formula: They never make a game bad enough that will do really poorly in terms of sales, and thus they are inspired to make sequels every year.
Now we talk about the latest iteration in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops II. As the title implies, it is Treyarch’s followup to Black Ops, which was released two years ago. Once again, I’ll admit this review isn’t really fair or relevant. The reason being that I only played the campaign as I was playing the game on my brother’s 360 and I lack an XBox Live account; most people play Call of Duty for the online multiplayer.
The campaign makes an attempt to be interesting. The game takes place primarily in 2025. You play as David Mason, son of Alex Mason, the protagonist of Black Ops I. You are tasked with taking down a terrorist who is attempting to destroy the entire capitalist world. However, you come to realize much of what goes on is the result of events that occurred during the Cold War.
Already, Black Ops II has a story that very much is cut from the same cloth as Metal Gear Solid, with its treatment of major historical events, such as the Soviets’ attempt to invade Afghanistan or the US invasion of Panama, as being part of a larger conspiracy.
Some levels also present you with choices. As an undercover agent, do I choose to kill a captured Navy SEAL and maintain my cover, or do I blow it and try to kill a terrorist? While the choices do affect how the game ultimately ends, I never felt like they carried any real weight to them, like they did in games like Heavy Rain or Mass Effect 3.
Another mode the came into play is the Strike Force missions. In those missions, where their outcomes also affect how the plot unfold, you kind of play a hybrid of first-person shooter and real-time strategy where you control squads of soldiers, tanks, and other types of units to complete various objectives in multiplayer-inspired maps. I felt these missions ultimately belonged more in multiplayer than they did in the campaign.
My point ultimately is that I felt Treyarch’s attempt to change Call of Duty up seemed a bit half-assed to me. The only major changes to really happen to the games’ formula happened between Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 when the core gameplay was altered pretty dramatically and when Call of Duty 4 brought the series out of World War II into modern warfare. For the most part, you still have the crisp shooting action you have come to know and love. On occasion, there were instances where you do other things. An example of this is when you control a fighter jet in the skies of Los Angeles to shoot drones down. Ultimately, as the handling proved to be quite clumsy, that segment proved to be not a lot of fun and was thankfully brief.
From a technical standpoint, the presentation is nothing to scoff at. The graphics were nice and clean, and the game had really impressive sound. Gunfire and explosions made it sound as if a war was happening right next to your house, and there was some terrific voice acting from celebrity talent like Sam Worthington (Avatar) and Michael Rooker (Deceiver).
Again, I say Black Ops II was not at all a bad game in its own right. However, as I said with Modern Warfare 3, I think the Call of Duty franchise has seriously outlived its welcome in the game industry. I feel like if anything, game makers are shying away from anything innovative like Heavy Rain, which was more commonplace in games around launch time for the current era of systems, to making games more mainstream like Call of Duty.