Another solid outing for the competitive multiplayer, but the single-player campaign continues to plod along
After nine iterations, it would be fair to say that the Call of Duty series is getting a little long in the tooth. Given its age, it’s a miracle that it continues to sell so well, though its reinvention from World War 2 to a contemporary setting certainly helped extend its lifespan. Black Ops 2 moves the franchise to a near future 2025, which allows for a whole range of sci-fi gizmos and some refreshing new environments to familiarise yourself with before jumping into the series’ staple multiplayer modes.
A brief survey of colleagues, family and friends revealed a distinct lack of interest in the Single Player campaign; in fact, most people we spoke to said they probably wouldn’t even play that section of the game. It was instead the competitive multiplayer they were most keen to get stuck into. Black Ops 2 makes three, largely-successful changes to the well-worn formula which should make it feel refreshingly different to series veterans.
The first is yet another shake-up of the signature support options, previously known as kill streaks. Now known as score streaks, rewards such as recon drones and airstrikes can be earned by performing pretty much any action in a multiplayer game – killing opponents, assisting kills, capturing flags and the like. These points have moved away from the simplicity of past efforts – where one point equals one kill or capture – putting more emphasis on actions that will benefit your teammates.
Tech toys and some decent level design keep the multiplayer juggernaut rolling
You now get 200 points for capturing an enemy position in the Domination game type, but only 100 points for a normal kill. You get 25 bonus points for killing those attacking or defending flags, but a whopping 200 points for a kill while actually capturing a flag. The resulting bonuses quickly stack up and reward team players with cool toys.
The near-futuristic setting has allowed the developers to go to town with support options, with notable additions including the Guardian, a portable microwave emitter that locks off areas by slowing, stunning and eventually frying anyone determined enough to run through its beam. There’s also a rather nimble quadrotor airborne drone fitted with a mounted machine gun. Familiar options have been beefed up too, such as the sentry gun, which is far tougher than before.
To retaliate, players can carry EMP grenades and hacking tools that let them remotely control support devices and switch their allegiance. This is all part of the huge array of equipment that forms Black Ops 2’s arsenal, which you have to choose from using the new Pick Ten point system.
This sight allows you to spot enemies behind cover
Each character class has ten points to spend on guns, attachments, grenades and perks. You can spend them as you wish, choosing to forego grenades or a secondary weapon and instead have two attachments on your primary gun. There are rules, such as only having one perk per category, but these can be bent using Wild Cards.
The Pick Ten system is hugely flexible, letting us equip one character class with a basic pistol but multiple perks, so we can sprint across maps and earn support points more quickly. Another is concentrated purely on shooting down, hacking and EMPing enemy support options, and a third eschews a secondary weapon and grenades to concentrate on the best possible SMG setup.
Before Treyarch rebalanced weapons in the first patch, SMGs had the edge over other weapon types – partly due to their excellent rate of file and low recoil, but mostly because the multiplayer maps favour close-quarters combat over long-distance sniping. These design decisions help further concentrate players’ minds on hectic objective gameplay, particularly the new Hardpoint game type. In it, teams contest a regularly-moving King-of-the-Hill style objective with unlimited respawns, resulting in intense firefights.
It’s still the same classic Call of Duty multiplayer underneath, and anyone bored of twitch shooters is unlikely to be taken with it. However, anyone still happy to shoot others online will find this new incarnation has plenty going for it, and it feels different enough to previous entries in the series to be well worth a shot.