Call of Duty is arguable one of the biggest shooter franchises ever created, with the number of available games equalled only by a small minority of rival franchises.
Gamers over the years have fallen in love with the gritty storylines, the stunning graphics and the uncomplicated control scheme (which has stayed the same over the years).
Publisher Activision started to branch out the Call of Duty franchise with the first Black Ops title in 2010, and it is the next logical progressive step to create the hugely-successful follow up title – Call of Duty Black Ops 2.
The story is set in two distinct time-periods – 1980s vintage Cold War; and a ground-based offensive in the not-too-distant future where the US and China lock horns in a new Cold War. It is also during this 80’s time-frame where players get to witness the rise to infamy of the game’s primary bad guy, Raul Menendez.
Gamers will complete the title through the eyes of veteran soldier Alex Mason, familiar to players of the franchise. The title will alternate between time periods, where players will take control of Mason throughout the 1980s missions, while assuming control of Mason’s son David for the futuristic missions set in 2025, complete with quadcopters and lasers.
At first the change into the near-future is a bit of a venture for the franchise, but the pace of action is non-stop and such that a player will actually forget which setting they are currently on. That is not such a bad thing, as it shows that the franchise is able to adapt to any environment and make it work.
In terms of graphics, it is just as good as previous efforts – if not better. The levels are filled with small details that make it believable, and these details draw the player into the game. The title is by no means easy, and while they might be tempted to run-and-gun, some sections will require a level of tact and grace to complete. It creates a powerful contrast between the levels, where most shooters today allow the player to just go gung-ho into a fire-fight.
The title excels with its sound. It features the voices of Sam Worthington as Alex Mason and Michael Keaton as Jason Hudson, while Gary Oldman reprises his role as Viktor Reznov. The main theme was also composed by Trent Reznor, the front man of industrial-rock outfit ‘Nine Inch Nails’.
But apart from voice-overs and the musical score, the in-game sounds are intense and create the right mood for every level. Playing on a powerful audio system will allow gamers to hear almost all the action, be it the smallest footsteps to large explosions. It contributes to the game just as much as the great graphics and easy controls.
As usual, no Call of Duty game will be complete without zombies – and Black Ops II is no different. The zombies form part of the title’s hugely-popular multiplayer section, where gamers will have to take out multiple waves of the un-dead – either alone or in a team of four players. Not surprisingly, the multiplayer aspect incorporates all the usual multiplayer modes, and gamers familiar to the franchise will find it engrossing and action-packed.
The game’s ending also has something special in store for gamers because this changes, depending on certain criteria. It creates a bit of a replay value, as players can try to complete the game in several different ways to see how it all could have panned out.
Black Ops 2 is not very revolutionary as far as Call of Duty games go, but it is still far better than EA’s latest Medal of Honor game which was released earlier this year. But Black Ops 2 also shows just how a franchise needs to evolve in order to keep its fans coming back for more year after year.
What MoH lacked in personality and most things that entice a player to continue to play, BO2 is a non-stop action-packed shooter that will keep gamers on their toes and on the edge of their seats. It has everything a player could want in a game: great graphics, a good story, easy controls and superb acting.
Our score: 9.2/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor