Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
I’ve always been a fan of Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles, mostly because they consistently gave the Wii versions justice when they could have easily released a lazy port on the system, like so many developers did for Nintendo’s last-generation console. Modern Warfare 2 and 3 both felt incredibly stale to me, which made the first Black Ops title that much more refreshing. The plot was a little convoluted, but it still managed to produce a campaign mode that constantly surprised me, right down to its ending. Two years later, Treyarch has returned with 2012’s Call of Duty title: Black Ops 2, a sequel to the first Black Ops title.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Wii U is just as feature rich as the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, and is loaded with even more features than its counterparts. Useful features, too, like the off-screen play.
When Activision showed off Black Ops 2‘s off-screen play on a Nintendo Direct video feature, I thought it was pretty nifty but didn’t see myself ever using it. After playing through the campaign mode and countless hours of online multiplayer, I have to say: off-screen play is incredible. The game looks amazing already in 1080p on Wii U, and it suffers no framerate dips or any other performance hiccups when playing it on the Wii U’s GamePad instead of the TV.
Simultaneous play on GamePad and TV.
Off-screen play for online multiplayer is even better. Two players are able to play locally, one on the GamePad and the other using either the Wii U Pro Controller, and Wiimote and Nunchuck (the game supports the same pointer controls as the Wii Call of Duty titles), or with a Wiimote and Classic Controller. Black Ops 2 lets players either play with traditional split-screen like the other consoles do, or one player can play just on the GamePad while the other plays on the TV. Again, there aren’t any performance hiccups or issues that would otherwise detract from the full experience.
Online multiplayer is essentially more of the same — small maps that make it hard to camp, but always ensure quick firefights. There are a few pretty significant shakeups, however, with the way streaks and classes are handled. Streaks are no longer determined by how many kills a player gets in a row; they’re now score streaks, and players can call in support (UAVs, drone strikes, etc) when they reach a certain score, which is increased by getting kills, capturing control points, getting assists, and more. It rewards players that don’t rack up tons of kills on game modes like Domination, but get plenty of points from capturing and defending control points. Classes are still customizable after a certain level is reached, but now players can have any number of perks and weapon attachments so long as they don’t go over a limit of ten unlock points. Of the two changes, the former provides far more impact on the game than the latter.
Multiplayer has some fancy new toys.
Zombies return, of course, with the usual experience and one additional game mode: transit. In transit, teams of up to four travel from area to zombie infested area by way of robot-controlled bus. It’s a little silly, but it’s not exactly meant to be a super serious zombie experience like Ubisoft’s ZombiU or Capcom’s Resident Evil.
I’m somewhat conflicted on Black Ops 2‘s campaign. The level design and set pieces are fantastic. Near-future weaponry is tons of fun (there is cammo that turns the player and/or enemies invisible) and there are plenty of high-intensity fire fights mixed with excellent stealth missions.. The story telling, though, is atrocious. The first Black Ops suffered from a convoluted story, but it was told in a halfway decent way at the very least. Black Ops 2‘s story is told in large part by a senile old man, and the game introduces so many new characters in each mission that it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on.
Treyarch did take some risks with the campaign mode. Most levels have branching pathways and every level has an end result that can either go one way or the other. In one level, players can either save a woman from being kidnapped or fail — failure doesn’t make players restart the mission, but instead changes the course of the game (in theory). The developers have touted the multiple endings in Black Ops 2, yet the actions players make (or don’t make) don’t really affect the in-game events, just the cut-scenes that roll during the credits. It’s a little weak, and feels like the decisions made in the game didn’t add up to much.
Spray ‘n pray.
Black Ops 2 also features optional missions known as Strike Force. They play similar to RTS titles where players are able to look at the battlefield in a bird’s eye view, command units to control certain points, and take over NPCs in mid-battle. It looks good on paper, but the execution is very poor, making for a pretty mediocre experience overall. The AI for the player’s units is downright atrocious. In each Strike Force mission I played, I had to take control of numerous NPC soldiers just to get them to the right spot. Luckily these missions are completely skippable if players don’t care about getting the perfect ending.
[review title=”Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ pros=”Fantastic visuals; Off-screen play is ingenious; Levels are very fun; Fully featured online multiplayer. ” cons=”Story is told by a senile old man; Too many random characters introduced, hard to keep up; Multiple endings don’t add much to the overall experience; Strike Force missions are mediocre.” verdict=”Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 starts off the series on Wii U in a big way. It’s going to be fun to see what Activision’s many Call of Duty teams can do with the GamePad on a longer development period.” score=80]