The movie and the video game industries are dominated by sequels and franchises. Series such as James Bond and Super Mario release entries like clockwork and the buying public feeds into them like lemmings. But the one title that seems to keep the cash and sales coming in, comparable only to that of the Harry Potter or Pirates of The Caribbean film franchises, is the seemingly unstoppable force known as Call Of Duty.
Activision’s crown jewel seems to have caught onto something since COD 4 aka Modern Warfare released. Every Call Of Duty game since has broken $1 billion in sales in less than a month, and they break their own record every year. The current release, Black Ops II, brought in $500 million in just 24 hours, making it the biggest launch for any piece of media, be it music, video game, or movie (that includes James Cameron’s Avatar). But is Black Ops II (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) really worth that title and all the attention thrown it’s way?
In short, yes. One reason takes place in the deep story and refreshing, new gameplay options in the single player campaign. The tale, penned again by the great David S. Goyer, takes us to 2025 during a new cold war and back to the original West vs East stalemate in the 80s revolving around the rise of a Central American terrorist Raul Menendez. In the present day, that terrorist is still at large and helps fuel the intense rivalry between the United States and China. You switch views from many key characters, even the villain, and all of your actions determine the ending of the game. Its got more plot twists than a Tarantino film.
Single player’s gameplay has been revamped in Black Ops II, taking cues from Ghost Recon’s pre- and post-mission screens. You now have mission objectives and player ranks and you can set up your arsenal before each battle. This extends replay value: allowing you to tweak your set-up and better your times to compete with friends. The key new addition to the campaign are the Strike Force missions, though. They’re optional missions you activate by doing certain actions during the game: basically mini-real time strategic campaigns that play with the futuristic tone of Black Ops II. However, they take you out of the story flow and are actually really hard. Still, if COD is coming out with a complete game using this formula (Halo Wars, anyone?), then it should be well received.
The multiplayer in Black Ops II is what will keep gamers on this title’s nuts until November 2013. Sure, its got similar weapons, perks, camos, maps, killstreak rewards and playlists like previous COD games. But that fun factor is still there like ever. Hit detection is better, the servers are more stable and fair respawn has been working well. If you got the game early, then you could take part in the remodeled, “crack” map known as Nuke Town 2025. All of the maps and weapons are from that 2025 era, so items like the quad-choper and stealth bombers are killstreak rewards. Some of the playlists added are geared more to the gimmick players, like handgun only matches or mosh pit playlists. All in all, the familiarity is what makes the multiplayer still awesome in Black Ops II.
The co-op Zombies mode comes back in full force. You can run around alone or with up to 7 friends and slaughter futuristic zombies in various environments. Treyarch actually changed a few things here too by adding an actual campaign and somewhat of a story in Zombies. The premise is simply, survive a busy ride from one safe haven to another. More players, more weapons and extended playing modes are also welcome additions.
Black Ops II is a winner. When it comes to first-person shooters, Call of Duty appears to continue its reign of genre dominance like Madden of yesteryear. They played it safe with this game and upgraded it just enough that it is definitely worth a buy. The single player is satisfying: making it worth your while. Zombies is expanded and enhanced for those who love the mode. Finally, the multiplayer is still the most addictive draw in shooters available.