Call of Duty: Black Ops II ReviewTayo Stalnaker
Call of Duty is one of the most notorious franchises this generation. The sheer popularity of the games virtually eclipses most other games of its ilk, and they are almost always the biggest selling titles of the year. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is how each game delivers some new content with each iteration, yet still maintains the same feel. I'm not just talking about multiplayer, either. With Call of Duty: Black Ops II, however, Treyarch has taken the campaign into a much different direction. Not only that, but the Wii U version offers a unique multiplayer experience with the GamePad.
The game takes place in 2025, and revolves around Alex Mason, from the original Black Ops, and his son David. You play as Alex Mason during flashback sequences that take place during the cold war in the 1980s as he searches for an infamous Nicaraguan terrorist named Raul Menendez. During the missions that take place in 2025, you assume the role of David Mason as he tries to take down Menendez who is back as the leader of a massive terrorist organization. Like most Call of Duty games, Black Ops II has a strangely entertaining yet somewhat confusing story. This time, however, Treyarch put in different choices you can make during the missions that effect the outcome for certain story lines.
While many missions offer different choices to alter the storyline, the bulk of these options are found in the new Strike Force stages. In fact, if you want to view the best ending for Blacks Ops II, all four Strike Force missions must be successful. The Strike Force missions are optional, but if you fail one of them you can't restart it from a checkpoint and the loss counts against you permanently. Strike Force is, essentially, a real-time strategy game where you can assume control of any of the soldiers, robots or fighter jets that are at your command. The first of these requires you to defend three different stations on the map for a few minutes, and others require similar feats. While I appreciate the change of pace these missions offer, they do feel a bit tacked on and can be troublesome getting used to. Furthermore, the fact that you have to win all of the Strike Force operations to see the true ending might be asking a little too much.
The Wii U version can be played a few different ways. Naturally, the Pro Controller and the Wii Remote and Nunchuk can be used. However, Black Ops II on the Wii U is perhaps best experienced with the GamePad, especially for multiplayer. Kill streak rewards can be activated simply by pressing the one you'd like to use on the GamePad's touchscreen. Not only that, but the entire map is displayed allowing you to see the locations of allies and enemies with ease (except in Hardcore mode). Both the campaign and multiplayer are fully playable on the GamePad by itself, and as an added bonus local multiplayer is possible with one person using the GamePad while the other uses a Pro Controller. The Strike Force stages would have been much more to fun to play with the GamePad, but unfortunately Treyarch missed out on the opportunity.
Despite having interesting GamePad features, Black Ops II is basically the same experience on the Wii U. The graphics might not have textures that look as nice as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, but the game still looks good. The multiplayer is still some of the best online shooting you'll find albeit on less populated servers. Which actually might be a good thing if you're not too savvy with FPS games and still want to join in on the fun.
The other big flaw I found with Black Ops II was the story. Like its predecessor, the story is a confused mess with flat characters. Don't get me wrong, the story can definitely be entertaining, but because of the ultra-fast pacing it's relatively easy to get lost. There also seems to be some content that might have been added purely for shock value, and many times you feel like you're just killing faceless zombies in a morally ambiguous setting. All of this is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Call of Duty, sadly. The voice-acting is stellar, though, and many of the missions offer the great wow moments we've come to expect from Call of Duty's level design. Granted, none of them are as thrilling as Call of Duty 4's All Ghillied Up, but that's a tough mission to top.
While I've never been a huge fan of the Call of Duty series, I can still enjoy them. Black Ops 2 isn't the best in the series, but the ridiculous story can make for some good entertainment and the multiplayer is as solid as ever. If you have a Wii U and have yet to experience Black Ops 2, I strongly recommend purchasing this version. It shows what the GamePad can offer, and hopefully we'll see more games using its features like this in the future.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.