PS3 Reviews: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

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Graphics:

 

8.3

Gameplay:

 

8.4

Sound:

 

9.0

Control:

 

8.9

Replay Value:

 

8.8

Online Gameplay:

 

9.3

Overall Rating:       8.7

 

 

Publisher:

Activision

Developer:

Treyarch

Number Of Players:

1-16

Genre:

FPS

Release Date:

November 13, 2012

The new Call of Duty is here. Without much fanfare, little in the way of promotion, and a bare minimum of general hype, Black Ops II snuck onto the scene…wait. That doesn’t sound right. Ah, I wrote the opposite, the antithesis of the true phenomenon that has become the mega-blockbuster CoD franchise. Sorry ‘bout that. Anyway, there’s no doubt that fans of the series should be satisfied with Treyarch’s latest effort, as the campaign is solid, the multiplayer is still stellar, and despite a few new ideas that didn’t quite fly, at least it has new ideas.

While many have called for Call of Duty to adopt a new engine – considering the current engine has been around for over six years – it’s unfair and inaccurate to condemn the visuals in BOII. It really is amazing what the developers have gotten out of that engine, as the detailing is great, the action continues to run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and there are plenty of wicked impressive set pieces. With eye-popping effects, slightly more refined character design, and better environmental creation than before, this one really looks great. Just not “amazing.”

The sound is in much the same boat, as we get fantastic voice performances (Treyarch obviously went after top talent) and a bevy of speaker-rending effects that continually amplify the battlefield experience, online or offline. The soundtrack is good, the balancing isn’t perfect but it remains technically stable throughout, and the overall audio presentation is generated for one purpose: Give this Hollywood blockbuster a true kick-ass feel. One can easily spot some unevenness if one is so inclined, but you’re often so caught up in what’s happening that it’d be superfluous to nitpick.

There’s actually a lot more to say about the campaign than you might think. The vast majority couldn’t possibly care less about the single-player adventure, so to most, analyzing the campaign is a waste of time. Yeah, well, it’s still a part of the product and as such, it can’t be ignored. And you wouldn’t necessarily want me to ignore it, because it’s the one aspect of this new CoD production that shows glimpses of freshness and innovation. Not only do they attempt a more complex and intricate storyline (what with the time traveling and all), but they also implement a few new gameplay mechanics. Yeah, I was a little surprised, too.

First and foremost is the inclusion of choice, which isn’t new to this generation of interactive entertainment, but it has never been featured in Call of Duty before. This time around, our actions and decisions do have an impact, even if that impact isn’t seen until much later in the game. For instance, there are ways to be merciful rather than vengeful, and other events are even timed. If you come across enemies burning up valuable evidence, the faster you eliminate them, the more of that evidence you will retrieve. These are the kinds of progressive mechanics that we don’t normally associate with this series, right?

So for that, Treyarch should be commended. It’s too bad that our choices too often seem far less important than the game would want us to believe, but at least the options are there. It adds another dimension to a campaign that most assume will be extremely straightforward and even repetitive. On top of which, it opens up the game a little; linearity is a hallmark of the CoD campaign and the developers found a way to expand upon that basic concept. And they did so without altering the structure the fans know and enjoy, so it’s kind of like killing two birds with one stone. Besides, while the game is still pretty brainless, these choices add at least some intelligence.

I’m more appreciative of this addition than I am of the new Strike Force missions in the story mode. Those, I could’ve done without. I’m not a real-time strategy fan in the first place and in the second place, a strategy style just feels out of place in a balls-out, crank-it-up shooter. The Strike Force missions have you entering a larger area and controlling allies with a top-down tactical view so for some, this may seem refreshing. For me, it clashed with the core concepts of the franchise and sort of threw me off my game. When things don’t fit, I tend to notice them quickly.

However, that being said, I would put aside my aversion to this mechanic (which is indeed opinion) and give it more credit if it functioned correctly. It’s simple enough to handle but issuing commands and having your allies do exactly what you want seems flawed. Even worse, although they’re basically optional in that you don’t have to complete them to move forward, the Strike Force missions can significantly alter your ending. …okay, so they’re not entirely optional then, are they, Treyarch? I applaud the devs taking a risk – because it’s definitely a risk – but this is one risk that doesn’t pay off. It's not quite properly implemented.

Beyond that, the campaign is filled with nonstop entertainment. Going back and forth between different time periods lends the story more variety, the set pieces are massive and all sorts of crowd-pleasing, and the pacing is just insane. I’m not the biggest supporter of such ridiculously fast-paced campaigns – I’d like at least some downtime here and there – but hearkening back to my point about “fitting in,” this definitely fits. The Strike Force missions don’t. But when it comes to the driving, pounding force of the fun-filled story in BOII, it’s tough to not recommend a play-through.

The multiplayer? Oh, it’s still distinctly Call of Duty and specifically, distinctly Black Ops. Yeah, the zombies are back and if you want to rip through hordes of the shambling undead, you’ll want to give the Tranzit Mode a shot. That’s where you get shuttled through a totally wrecked town where the zombies are running amok. There are all sorts of Easter Eggs to find as well so even though it’s nothing all that new, there are reasons to come back for more. The other modes are familiar and they all work extremely well; there’s a certain level of depth and versatility you don’t typically find in any other multiplayer experience.

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of the Pick 10 system, which amps up the depth and customization even more. Basically, you get 10 points for a loadout and there’s a fair amount of strategy in selecting your perks, secondary weapons, and wild card bonuses. Each perk you pick costs a point so you have to consider the map and what you have at your disposal. It’s difficult to compare this to the contract and currency mechanic we had in the original Black Ops. I have a feeling the CoD community might be split right down the middle on that subject, as both styles encourage customization and freedom, but both are distinctly different.

As for the reported problems pertaining to the PS3 version, I really haven’t stumbled across many. The game froze once toward the end of the campaign, and I did see that “server unavailable” error (or whatever it was) once or twice when going online. But the game plays smoothly and technical hitches and glitches are mostly nonexistent in my eyes, which is in stark contrast to last month’s Medal of Honor: Warfighter. For the most part, Treyarch’s production is sound, reliable and stable. But if you are experiencing issues, here’s hoping they deliver a fix-it patch ASAP.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is an interesting blend. It consists of everything I expected to see and a few things I didn’t, the latter of which surprised me. I can’t say the Strike Force missions were a good idea but at the very least, they’re a departure from the norm. And the addition of player choice is definitely a plus. As for the rest, the high production values, Hollywood-esque presentation, relatively intriguing campaign, and a multiplayer that delivers on all counts, it’s hard to say this year’s CoD falls short. Some can say the multiplayer is too similar but hey, this is Call of Duty. The fans know what they like by now.

The Good: Solid visual presentation with spectacular set pieces. Great voice work. Entertaining, enjoyable campaign. Addition of player choice infuses story with another layer of depth. Fluid, reliable control. Multiplayer is still tops.

The Bad: Story can get convoluted. Strike Force missions are a miss. Not quite enough innovation on the multiplayer front.

The Ugly: “I don’t mind zombies but they’re starting to feel just a tad played out in CoD.”

11/15/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (41 posts)

maxpontiac
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 10:19:57 PM
Reply

You score is right about where I expected it to be and I can agree with it for the most part. You can consider me one of those COD fans that would like to see the engine be updated as well.

As far as my personal mini-review goes, I am very pleased with this purchase. After about 3 hours of online and offline play combined, this game is sitting at a 9.0 to 9.5 to me. I don't see it going any lower either.

I am really enjoying the "Pick 10" multiplayer class system and in fact, it has made Black Ops II my favorite COD on the multiplayer side of things. The online section is really "mine" per se.

Last edited by maxpontiac on 11/15/2012 10:21:48 PM

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bigrailer19
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 10:25:50 PM
Reply

Well that's pretty much what I expected. A solid game with a high 8 to low 9 score. It pulls in high scores yet for some reason people cant except that every CoD entry is a quality product.

I don know about the Strike Force Missions. I'm with you that if it feels out of place sometimes it's a hinderance. But sometimes those can be good things.

I actually had heard some people are not impressed with the Zombie mode, but I jar enjoy the survival part of it, so we'll see.

Great review Ben. I fully expected to be playing this game since Tuesday. But AC3 is simply one of the best games I've played. Far better than the previous entries and I can't pull myself away.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:09:20 PM
Reply

This got 8.3 in graphics and MoH:Warfighter got 7.2?

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xenris
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:15:38 PM

One of the only parts I disagree with in bens review. Some of the missions mainly the night levels or levels indoors looked great, but the first level, the river jungle level, and a couple others looked REALLY rough, like bad textures, and really weird lighting.

But this is bens review, this game looked better than MoH to him so there is that. I will say that the future levels in this have really nice use of colours and are really nice looking from an artistic and stylized standpoint. Its not brown and grey like MW3 was, or MoH and maybe that is why ben bumped it up.

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Temjin001
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:25:03 PM

btw, per the norm with CoD's engine, the PS3 lags behind the 360 in image quality, probably performance-wise too.

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bigrailer19
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:32:40 PM

This was sort of my argument, with te MoH review among other things. MoH had awesome graphics, and although I havnt played CoD yet, I don't think I'll feel it's better as MoH has better graphics than each CoD to date.

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Temjin001
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:15:16 AM

yah, I call it the negative taint effect. That when a game seems crappy everything about it seems crappier. The controls feel crappier. The graphics feel crappier.

I'm not saying this is what happened to Ben but I do think people can have a tendency to see things in a lesser light when they're feeling down on the whole gig. On the bright side, everything else seems better when they like the game. I remember when GTA3 came out and many critics overlooked the sluggish controls and horrible targeting system in lieu of just how cool the game play was.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 11/16/2012 12:18:21 AM

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Temjin001
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:46:59 AM

Ah yah, an example of my point is in Ben's Doom 3 BFG review. The game's control got rated a 6.6 because the whole game felt somewhat crappy.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 1:02:15 AM

Warfighter had major bugs and that included graphical bugs. Maybe others didn't see them but I did. Furthermore, I think Treyarch did a LOT more with the over-the-top set pieces and there's also a LOT more visual variety.

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bigrailer19
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 1:32:31 AM

Theres also been a lot of reports with bugs in Black Ops 2. So maybe reviews are being tainted a little, with some copies running great and others not?

Don't think it's the developer so much anymore as sometimes it appears to be machine specific. it's a lame excuse but lately I find it probable. Can't really explain why my MoH runs perfect, others doesn't. Or why your Copy of CoD runs perfect and others doesn't. And even further why my Playthrough of Skyrim has yet to "break".

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 2:01:35 AM

Didn't mean to call the review into question, I was just wondering if maybe the Frosbite 2 isn't so great if it can't hold up to an old engine when processing textures.

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bigrailer19
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 11:47:58 AM

The Frostbite 2 engine is pretty awesome. MoH looks great, I'm anxious to see what Dice can do with it on their next use of it, because I wasn't as impressed with some things in BF3 as I was with them implemented in MoH.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 11:51:20 AM

bigrailer: It's not just about great graphics. It's about a dozen other things, like variety, design, and solidarity. Black Ops II simply outstrips Warfighter in all these categories, even if it doesn't necessarily have the same level of detail.

We grade the entire visual presentation, not just how pretty a pixel looks.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 11/16/2012 11:51:40 AM

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bigrailer19
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 1:25:21 PM

Well, I know that. Which leads me back to my point of apparently we are at a point where some copies run great and others don't, regardless what game it is.

Like I said Black Ops 2, has several notable bugs floating around, and you didn't have any issues. Where as MoH you had plenty of issues to note, but some people, myself included got to enjoy what was for the most part a great running game.

How you explain that, I'll never know.

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xenris
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:12:47 PM
Reply

Multiplayer gets a 7 for me, single player gets an 8, zombies gets a 9. Probably backwards for most people lol.

I like the pick ten in multiplayer but other than that it really is the same old although Treyarch knows how to balance multiplayer more than infinity ward ever did.

Single player was way better than expected although lacked a bit of polish and was a bit jerky with its transitions. Strike force was a good idea but it needed better RTS control elements. The AI you controlled was just dumb, but I liked that it changed things up and the story outcome.

Zombies..... if this was a stand alone purchase I would make all my friends buy it. I really wish they would sell it separately but I know that is never going to happen. This is the only reason me and my friend caved to buying this together and thankfully it hasn't disappointed.

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Temjin001
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:13:57 PM

it seems a lot of people I know enjoy the Treyarch stuff because of the Zombie stuff alone.

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xenris
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:17:34 PM

They made something special I think. It is one of my favourite zombie games, although I think at higher levels it gets a little ridiculous with the zombies health bars. Otherwise it is just a lot of fun with friends not to mention actually challenging :D

Glad my friend helped me out with this otherwise this whole game would have been a pass.

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Godslim
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 6:50:08 AM

mp would get a 7, sp an 8 and zombies a 7 tbh the it aint broke dont fix it thing is getting dull

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Temjin001
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:15:59 PM
Reply

I still haven't finished MW3 single player.. I think I'm out of steam on this franchise at least until the next gen rolls around and the experience feels just that more realized. I like CoD games. I do. I just don't want 8, or so, of them in a single gen.

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xenris
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:19:09 PM

This one is leagues better than MW3 though. Maybe give it a rent the single player is pretty decent and easy enough to beat in a weekend. Its only like 5 hours maybe a bit more.

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Temjin001
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:27:34 PM
Reply

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/11/15/2126217/invisibility-tech-demo-tomorrow-in-nyc

Cool eh? Future tech. Seems Blops2 related. kinda-sorta

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Oxvial
Thursday, November 15, 2012 @ 11:53:03 PM
Reply

Game was already released? first time I didn't even notice this with a CoD game... lol past year even my mom knew when the game was getting released xD

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AcHiLLiA
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:20:47 AM
Reply

How big are the maps in multiplayer? Biggest maps probably still around the same size as the previous COD maps?

Last edited by AcHiLLiA on 11/16/2012 12:23:28 AM

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ulsterscot
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 2:15:21 AM
Reply

Thanks for the review - campaign looks promising.

Running into problems now with the multiplayer that I didn't on day 1 - quite a few of us are having system freezes - and trouble taking parties into lobbies. Treyarch seems to run into this every release - Black Ops and World At War had problems for the first week too.

Fyi - MOH Warfighter has fixed the glitches - the multiplayer is a ton of fun - just needs more maps / DLC. Haven't tried the campaign yet.

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Underdog15
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 8:37:58 AM

I don't know if this will help you or not, but one thing I noticed last night was that at first, my party didn't come with me, but when I waited like... honestly 15 seconds (annoying), the "matched players" changed to my party members.

Let me know if that works for you, too.

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___________
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 3:26:38 AM
Reply

really saddens me how this hollywood crap is getting more recognition and praise than the tactical varied warfighter!
hell, even black ops was better than this!
all this has done is proven my point, uniqueness has become illegal in this industry.
ive always liked treyarch and their games because their one of the few developers who have always tried to separate themselves from the herd, do something different.
they dident fall into the typical ohh look at me big explosion michael bay crap.
well, until now.
sigh.
why has every developer abandoned their morals and turned into clones?
treyarchs games have been so popular because they were so different from IWs, and in fact the industries!
now though, with BO2, remove the title, remove the treyarch name, and i would swear IW made it!
sigh, uniqueness is here by illegal and punishable by the milky way galaxy exploding!

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Killa Tequilla
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 3:52:18 AM

It has already been established that CoD deserves the sales it's making. People want what CoD is. Just let them play in peace.

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dillonthebunny
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 5:05:29 AM
Reply

one of the big issues for Moh was how bad mp looked. i don't care if you say "but its all about game play"... yeah whatever.

basically mohs mp looked like a bf2 hd remake, and that just isn't the way it should be, how the hell can a sequel look far worse than the game before it? ...oh that's right, it does if you tell DICE to keep their sticky paws off of it.

blops 2 is just so well rounded, it ticks all the boxes you might buy a cod game for.. love it or hate it, its a damn good cod, might even be the best so far.

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Underdog15
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 8:40:01 AM

I think it's the best so far, for sure. Pick 10 is great. It forces you to give up some to take some. So no "class cheating" if there ever was such a thing.

And is it just me, or is auto-aim much less obvious now?

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xenris
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 10:02:40 AM

Auto Aim has always been a bit toned down in the Treyarch games because they want to be able to esport with their game.

However it is still insanely obvious to me, but probably because I'm used to PC games without any. Its hard not to notice my reticule move when I'm aiming at a doorway and I'm not touching the analog stick.

But yeah it is better than the MW games.

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Qubex
Sunday, November 18, 2012 @ 10:03:50 PM

Pity, I thought MoH using the Frostbyte engine would have looked good though and through. What a shame...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 11/18/2012 10:04:05 PM

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T2X
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 8:19:52 AM
Reply

I have yet to try it, but I have all of the previous ones and hav enjyed them all equally. I am really looking forward to it after having read Ben's review now. BTW, is it just me or does that guy _________, never seem to be satisfied with anything? Oh well! LOL!!

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CrusaderForever
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 9:27:04 AM

Never will be satisfied, just a hater. Cannot imagine this guy in real life, uhhhggg!

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Lawless SXE
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 9:01:18 AM
Reply

I'll have to get a loan of this one, just to see if the campaign does stack up to the positivity that is being flung around about it. Also... something to break this XCOM addiction of mine o.O

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CrusaderForever
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 9:26:07 AM

XCOM sounds great, downloaded the demo last week. I have to try it out when I get a chance. Strategy on a console is very welcome.

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CrusaderForever
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 9:25:21 AM
Reply

Nice review, I have been loving it. I haven't touched Zombies yet as the MP is so good. Just trying to get use to the maps. It's a solid game.

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mustang750r
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 11:31:57 AM
Reply

Why don't they make a full fledged COD: Zombies game? Give it a full story campaign, and instead of competitive multiplayer keep any online play as Co-Op leaving anything competitive to the regular COD franchise. If anything this will leave Treyarch more time to focus on single-player and multi-player.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:10:44 PM

Same reason they don't sell just the red Popsicles.

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Godslim
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 1:51:19 PM
Reply

just same old to me now....granted i did enjoy the singleplayer.....but mp and zombies has nothing really new to offer

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tlpn99
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 8:16:41 PM
Reply

Playing this and so far really enjoying the single player side of things. Online it has the usual first week when everyone under the sun is battering it and this can cause issues lag, dropouts etc.

Give it time to even itself out I have had some good online games and some bad online games on it.

If you don't like the game or the franchise then don't buy it/play it. If you do then go ahead and enjoy what moments you can.

Last edited by tlpn99 on 11/16/2012 8:17:21 PM

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Qubex
Sunday, November 18, 2012 @ 10:04:56 PM
Reply

Thanks for the excellent review Ben. At the moment though I am still thoroughly enjoying Battlefield 3 and Killzone 3...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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