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Customer Discussions > Video Games forum

9GN Reviews Call of Duty Black Ops II

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Initial post: Nov 13, 2012, 12:16:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 12:55:17 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:

This is not the shooter you expected.

What if Call of Duty was different?

This appears to be the defining question informing the direction of developer Treyarch's latest, Call of Duty: Black Ops II. While large portions of the design conform to the tenants established by prior iterations of the franchise, the unparalleled wealth of gameplay options and brilliant twists on the formula have shaped Black Ops II into the most ambitious and exciting Call of Duty ever made. It occasionally feels like the team might have strayed into territory they're not quite masters of, but significant tweaks to the multiplayer loadout system, as well as the realization of player agency in the campaign, make this far more than "just another Call of Duty." This is an evolution.

Ops, while the 2025 missions follow Alex's son, David. All of these soldiers' fates are intertwined with the villain, Raul Menendez, and his organization Cordis Die. Menendez is the sort of villain you just can't seem to kill and, consequently, who knows how to hold a grudge. Thing is, he's not your typical, "I'm evil cause I do bad things," bad guy. Menendez is a tragic character, a product of imperialist nations' meddling during the Cold War and a survivor of some truly traumatic experiences.

A great narrative already makes Black Ops II stand out in the pantheon of Call of Duty campaigns, but where it really sets itself apart is the addition of player choice and consequence. Moments and devices that would otherwise seem irrelevant -- like whether you find all of the intel in a level or choose to shoot someone -- can come back to haunt you, hurt you or help you. Failing objectives might result in new or more challenging missions rather than a restart screen. It's a brilliant riff on the traditional Call of Duty campaign design, and, combined with the additional cutscenes that flesh out the story, creates a narrative worth replaying just to see the wildly different moments and endings. Most importantly, choice makes you apart of what you play; it's not just a story, it's your story. I may not have found the ending of my first playthrough satisfying because terrible things happened, but I appreciated that it was a direct byproduct of my actions.

The story successfully casts Menendez in a light where I'm still not sure how I feel about him. At times I wanted him dead, while at others I felt like he had a right to want revenge. Hell, I even vacillate between agreeing with his end goals. Like the film Inglourious Basterds, Black Ops II becomes less about you and the "good" guys, and more about the motivations and perspective of the villain. The very fact that I'm still thinking about how the story played out -- something unprecedented in a Call of Duty campaign -- is a testament to the strength of the writing.

The effects of your choices are often evidenced in the new Strike Force missions, shorter objectives which give you control over a group of soldiers and various drones. Sometimes these objectives are a result of your decisions and performance, and they tend to have tangible effects on the outcome of your story. These tasks are worth playing because of their crucial role in the creation of your story, but the limited command controls make them less exciting. You can order your troops around the map from a strategic overhead view or via the usual first-person control, though neither is as tactical as intended. You can't rally soldiers on your position, and your AI allies will rush to die. Each objective essentially comes down to ordering my troops to move from point to point as a huge group while I single-handedly save the mission by taking direct control and fight a horde of foes. The importance of Strike Force's outcome adds tension and stress to the action, but the ineffective input and inept allies create an unnecessary challenge that compromises its potential success.

Shooting is as fun and precise as ever, and alongside the abundance of gigantic explosions, vehicle missions and intense firefights, it feels like the closest thing most of us will ever get to starring in an action film. In that sense, Black Ops II is the classic Call of Duty formula at its best, with an important, defining difference: The emphasis on drone warfare, the exotic-but-grounded weaponry and the attention to detail in the believably high-tech signage and architecture makes Blacks Op II feel strikingly plausible even when it strays into non-historical settings.

The team at Treyarch brings a bit of the multiplayer loadout flavor to the campaign as well. Before each mission you can now customize your character's weapons (restrictions apply to make sure you're not using a future weapon in the past, for instance), accessories and even give them perks. Every level also has challenges associated with it, and you can scope out the leaderboards to see how you stand up to your buddies. These are small details, but they're important because they layer on another reason to replay the stages. If for some bizarre reason the narrative doesn't grab you, then you still have lots of additional goals to try and achieve that are decidedly more "gamey."

Take Your Class and Love it

While not as big of a departure in structure as Treyarch's single-player, Black Ops II's multiplayer dares to defy the modus operandi, and provides a number of new options and modes that make it more engrossing than what's come before.

Call of Duty has shaped the way other shooters present class and loadout designs for years, and Treyarch successfully redefines the standard with the Pick 10 system. The hook of Pick 10 comes from the ability to defy the loadout rules. Each attachment, weapon, grenade or perk counts as one of your ten points, and you can swap them out at will to create a huge number of combinations. Treyarch has also added in Wild Cards, which allow you to spend additional points to break even more rules, like equipping two primary weapons or up to six perks. Pick 10 allows the creation of the most specifically tuned classes in any shooter ever. You want to have a soldier with a pistol, four perks and two throwing axes? Do it. Maybe you want to snap three attachments to a LMG, ditching your grenades to give yourself additional perks or a badass secondary weapon for close quarters combat -- you can do that too. Pick 10 accomplishes something I didn't even realize I wanted: For Create a Class to be as exciting and enticing as it was when I first popped in the original Modern Warfare. I don't just experiment because I want to create a loadout perfectly tailored to a specific mode, but because it's a genuinely fun and intuitive system to use.

A number of other smaller design tweaks highlight the clever design of class creation in Black Ops II. For instance perks now only affect your character, leaving it to the attachments system to affect your weapon. Thus if you want to do something like fast reload, which will make longtime players look for the Sleight of Hand perk, you'll need to hook up your weapon with a fast clip attachment. The Kill Streak system has also been wisely replaced by Score Streaks, making every match less about how many kills and in what consecutive order you get them in, and more about doing whatever nets you the highest score. This accomplishes a majorly important feat: it makes every game less about your Kill / Death ratio. Sure, it still won't keep people from obsessing over it, but if you want to get it higher you're going to need to help with objectives.

While I appreciate the rush that leveling up and unlocking items provides, it always felt strange to reward you with a stat reset after hitting the cap and Prestiging. Apparently some wise people at Treyarch agreed. Unlike previous games, after each of the 10 levels of Prestige you won't have your stats reset, but instead continue your weapon experience and challenge progress and earn even more rewards. For starters you now get a token that allows you to unlock any item regardless of its level requirement, forever. In addition you also get a Prestige Token that nets you either an additional Create a Class slot, a refund on all unlock tokens you've spent during your progress to date, or the more traditional character wipe that resets all your stats. This completely changes my attitude towards Prestiging, and makes it something I actually want to do.

The Verdict

The team at Treyarch could have played it safe and Black Ops II would have sold well, but instead they challenged assumptions and pushed the series forward in awesome new directions. It'll be hard to return to a campaign where I don't have the ability to shape it, and I simply can't imagine going back to the old loadout system now that Pick 10 exists. Combined with the host of subtle and overt improvements to the array of other systems, the additions to make it more appealing to Esports, and the more fleshed out Zombies mode, this is not just a fantastic Call of Duty game, but one of the best shooters of the last decade.

Black Ops 2 is a good example of how to evolve an annualized franchise. Best Call of Duty multiplayer and campaign yet.


+Player agency in campaign is awesome
+Pick 10 system makes multiplayer even better
+Great social and Esports additions to multiplayer
+Zombies mode is bigger than ever


- Imperfect Strike Force commands

Score: 9.3 - Amazing

My thoughts? Grain of salt it's 9GN.

What do you think?

Sound off below.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:21:54 AM PST
Prankster says:
The Score! WHERE IS THE SCORE?!! Aaaaaghhhhhhh!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 12:23:07 AM PST

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:23:22 AM PST
Pick 34 says:

I'm not gonna lie, the maps suck.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 12:24:40 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:
Fixed. Sorry about that, IGN and their frustrating review layout makes it hard to copy and paste.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 12:24:44 AM PST
Whew. The OP should know don't base their decisions on a review's content, they just look at the score.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:27:34 AM PST
Fullme7al says:
I don't really care. My brother bought me the game. I told him we'll probably get bored after reaching our weapons or what not and go back to halo 4. MW3 got boring real quick. i'm not trying to start a flame war but we have some great times play Halo 4. Did you know you can have your hologram teabag the opponent for you? Just put your reticule on a dead oponnents head and send your hologram and it will teabag them. It's quite distracting for th eother team too. Back on topic, I'll get black ops in the mail and jump into multiplayer right away.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 12:29:43 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:
I made certain to post the entire review - as long as it is - to ensure everyone knows where the score comes from. And I know that in the morning there's going to someone stuck at work who can't visit the game websites who'll undoubtedly ask for a full post.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:31:04 AM PST
Massively improves over last year's release. Scores only .3 higher than last year's release....

So we're basically admitting everything up until now has had a free pass then?

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:31:19 AM PST
TimesTicking says:
I'm probably gonna ask my cousin to let me borrow BO2 next year when he gets MW4.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 12:53:21 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:

Jetpacks with rigid wings. Gloves that can adhere to any surface and support your body weight. Advertisements that feature your face when you walk by. The campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops II has some interesting ideas about the future of technology, but what about the future of this massively popular shooter series? On the one hand, Black Ops II introduces new mission types and dramatic decision points that liven up the campaign, as well as a league play option that represents a fundamental shift in the franchise's hallowed multiplayer mode. On the other hand, the campaign hits the same satisfying rhythms, the multiplayer captures the same frenetic intensity, and the cooperative zombies mode delivers the same stale undead-massacring action. Caught between striving for the future and remaining rooted in the past, Black Ops II finds solid footing, providing another great ride on the Call of Duty rollercoaster

The Good

+Great campaign scripting
+ Story choices are often tough and encourage replay
+League play offers a new stage for the familiar multiplayer combat.

The Bad

-Zombies mode is stagnant
-New codcasting tool is hamstrung.

Gamespot review score: 8.0

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 12:56:14 AM PST
Prankster says:
Haha, I was just giving you a hard time but yeah that's the first thing everyone looks at :P

At least I do but I do read the review after that to know how they got there.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 1:01:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 1:03:02 AM PST
MoultonHawk says:
i knew it best COD and MP & SP yet it looked like it in the vids. I'm leaving about 1pm tommorrow to play KillerOps 2. UPS already has in in LA I'm 45 min away baby !

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 1:01:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 1:03:19 AM PST
Prankster says:
Joystiq gives it an 8

"Multiplayer is king in Black Ops 2, offering plenty of in-game and inherent rewards for its ravenous online community. It's paired with a lackluster story that fails the ambition shown by the branching campaign, reflecting the overall game's forward-thinking but imperfectly executed ideas. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 isn't the best or most charming entry in the franchise, then, but it takes risks, exploring more than is strictly required for an inevitably annual franchise."

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 1:06:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 8:42:10 AM PST
MoultonHawk says:
I can care less about SP, tired of the homeys, not you Prank you're my best friend, but the SP homeys that come out of the woodwork at launch time complaining about SP and how they only buy COD for the SP, morons this game isn't made for the SP stop buying it rent it for $2.16 and finish the four hour single player in a day and and return it, there now wait another year for the next one. I'll be online dropping warthog brigades on the enemy why you all byotch and moan that the SP wasn't up to your satisfaction.

This is what broke Mr. Punk ?

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 1:16:48 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 1:18:29 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:
Review Round-Up:

IGN - 9.3
Gamespot - 8.0
1 Up - B+
G4 - 4.5/5
Metacritic - 85/100 (As of this writing)
Metacritic User Score - 5.0/10 (As of this writing) Fluctuates rapidly.
Game Informer - 8.50/10.0
Destructoid - 8.5/10
Joystiq - 4/5 Stars
Giant Bomb - 4/5 Stars
Official Xbox Magazine - 8.5/10

And in typical fashion 9GN has a higher score than most everyone else.

Like I said in the initial post - Grain of salt.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 1:17:38 AM PST
Typical metacritic users.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 1:20:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 1:21:21 AM PST
Zen Kaizoku says:
Yeah, every time I refreshed the page, the score changed.

(Down to 4.9 as of this writing)

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 5:17:02 AM PST
Zak Iarih says:
Phew for a second there I thought I was reading the review for MW3 or BO or MW2 then I saw that it said BO2

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 5:56:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 5:57:14 AM PST
got mayo?™ says:
Not bad, 31 Positive review scores thus far, 0 mixed or negative yet.

Every site i care has reviewed it sans Edge and Eurogamer.

Game Trailers 94
The elastic story provides plenty of incentive to replay the campaign, the strikeforce levels aren't executed perfectly, but they're a glimpse at the future, and the multiplayer features are tweaked to make every play style relevant and to level the playing field. It does so many new things so very well, making it the most groundbreaking Call of Duty since the first Modern Warfare. Shooters simply don't get much more deep, varied, surprising, or rewarding than this.

Machinima 90
Black Ops 2 is a very impressive achievement both from the audacity of its slightly flawed single-player narrative to the massive construction of its multiplayer offerings, and so, Black Ops 2 scores.

Eurogamer Italy 90
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is simply awesome. The single player Campaign Mode is an incredible surprise and is worth a few play throughs. Treyarch did a great job balancing the multiplayer experience, playing simple and focused. The final result with the CODcasting is something great and the online streaming as a nice bonus. This is the best year to buy a CoD game. All this publication's reviewsRead full review

Eurogamer Sweden 90
Treyarch is striving to give the players even more content than before, which results in a campaign and a zombie mode that gives you a lot of replay value. The best of the best is their "Take Ten" concept in multiplayer, which sets a new standard for a genre that already has evolved so much in recent years. Battlefield is for the first time not the king of the hill - Call of Duty is.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 6:04:11 AM PST
P. Artl says:
Review sites are not allowed to give it mixed or negative, so this is no surprise.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, 6:14:07 AM PST
MrFoxhound says:
"Check cleared! Stamp a 9 on it and post it on the site!"

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 6:14:57 AM PST
A customer says:
You love to troll about this kind of stuff don't you. lol

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 6:15:05 AM PST
I buy these for the SP when they are $20 and I'm quite comfortable with that. Thank you though, for calling me a moron. It's easier to find people to put on ignore this way.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012, 6:17:24 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012, 6:17:33 AM PST
uncledonnie3 says:
You mean you didn't already have him on ignore?
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