bill-swift - November 16, 2012
With a franchise this dominant, this popular, this highly anticipated we really just need to see that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has avoided any major mistakes or disasters. This is one of the few franchises that could simply updated with new multiplayer maps and a cinematic story with a few big name actors and still sell millions of copies and climb to the top of the heap in 2012 all while a vocal minority of fans bitterly complain on the internet. That's not what Treyarch and Activision have done here. The evolution of the Zombies mode and the enhancements to Call of Duty's multiplayer component, for my money, are the biggest improvements in the game and the ones that carry the day for Black Ops 2.
Not to disregard the epic story but the length of that campaign compared to the volume of hours folks are going to spend playing online and with zombies almost makes it unfair. The decade spanning tale is as good as we've come to expect from Call of Duty with cameos and glimpses of what a near future could certainly look like. It's the current fascination with zombies and the "end of the world as we know it" that drives the overhauled Zombies mode with its totally updated approach to what's really a unique genre: first-person survival-horror. Left for Dead popularized the concept in a pair of games and now Black Ops 2 offers it as a robust mode of a much larger project. That's one of the reasons Call of Duty holds the place that it does.
If we say the online multiplayer modes of Black Ops 2 is where this game holds the greatest value, then the innovation of the Pick 10 system is the most valuable part of multiplayer. While I was disappointed at the direction of using futuristic 2025-era weapons in Black Ops 2 (as opposed to the retro, prototype designs of weapons we already know featured in the first Black Ops game) the way we're assembling our loadouts in Black Ops 2 more than makes up for it. Separate from the fact that there are new "streak" rewards, shotguns are primary weapons now and there are new grenades and gear available, the Greed Wildcards are the innovation within Pick 10 (which, as we explain above, is the innovation within multiplayer) that make all the difference.
All of your weapons, their attachments and your perks each take up one of 10 slots your custom loadout can carry. Using the Greed enhancement you can double up on the perks you can carry in that category. That is you can have two perks from the "red" category of perks, say, Extreme Conditioning and Dexterity. This means your guy can sprint for longer AND raise his weapon quicker after running instead of you having to choose between those two. This comes at the cost of some gear though. You simply can't be loaded down with customize weapons and grenades and extra perks. Something has to give. In fact, when you consider that long time Call of Duty enhancements have been scattered around the perk categories and some have been thrown into the Wildcards category, the decision-making forced by the Pick 10 system is a minigame unto itself. The video recording and live streaming to Youtube enhancements are wonderful technological innovations in Call of Duty, but pound-for-pound there's no stronger case to sign up for the ELITE service than the fact that you can tinker with your loadouts using Pick 10 for hours on end. You could do that with Modern Warfare 3, but that game didn't have Pick 10 forcing you to make decisions about how you want to play the game. You have to find your style and then play well enough to give you the pieces you need so you can then make decisions about how to set up your loadouts. I love meta games like this.
Get Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 if: you loved ANY of the previous four Call of Duty games; you want to see how many camping spots there are on the new maps; you haven't played anything since the last Call of Duty game; you want to see what America might look like in 2025; you like cameos by historical figures; you like the idea of customizing your loadouts precisely how you want them and without any of the stuff you don't want; you like unlocking customization elements every 10 minutes; you like seeing Los Angeles destroyed or if you don't want to miss one of the biggest and best made video games of 2012
Do not get Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 if: you really did expect to see zombie Ronald Reagan and/or Qaddafi; you're afraid of super-aggressive zombies; you haven't played a Call of Duty game since 2007; you don't like customizing and properly using military weapons and gear; you don't like military themes, jargon and history; you want to stick with Halo 4 because playing both at the same time is extremely difficult; don't like well made military shooters.
Star Rating (out of four): Four Stars
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