Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 review – one of the best and most accessible shooters of its generation

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 expands the COD template while losing none of its visceral power

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great campaign plot

  • +

    Awesome competitive online mod

  • +


Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Strike Missions are fiddly

  • -

    Franchise tipping point?

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Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 provides online warriors with tons of customisaton options, while presenting story-mode fans the best plot in a COD game yet

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the sixth COD title to land with the seismic impact of a neutron bomb since COD 4: Modern Warfare turned Activision's FPS franchise into a global mega-seller. It's also the first game pumped out by Treyarch since the first Black Ops game, which to date is the biggest selling entry in the COD series.

Black Ops 2, and by extension Treyarch, have a tough act to follow. They also have to impress an FPS audience, which in the last four years has become increasingly saturated by as many quality Triple A titles as it has worthy COD knock offs, with recent rivals taking the form of Halo 4, Dishonored, Resident Evil 6, Borderlands 2 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2: Gameplay

Perhaps aware of all this, Treyarch has made a couple of notable tweaks and innovations to the formula that shot the first Black Ops to prominence. First, it's expanded the single player campaign by splintering its narrative and adding a series of side missions that affect its final outcome.

Second, it's stripped out and completely rebuilt the game's multiplayer, offering players unparalleled customisation options, of both the cosmetic and gameplay altering variety. Finally, it's augmented and deepened the game's co-op – Treyarch's signature Zombies mode. It all adds up to a pretty bold and compelling package.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2: Story

The Campaign Mode is split between two time lines. The first is set in the not-too-distant future in 2025 and it involves a group of soldiers tracking down a terrorist who is trying to take command of the West's AI defence network.

While this is happening, one of their number, Mason, visits his dad's old war buddy, Woods, at a retirement home to get the full back story of their target. Players control both Mason in the future, who sports a lot of hi-tech weaponry and gadgets, and his dad, er… Mason, whose weapons are slightly less advanced, but put to no less affective service.

Without giving too much away, Black Ops 2 oscillates between sticking to historical accuracy and contemporary plausibility and dumping the player into increasingly high-octane set pieces. At certain segments players are also called on to make decisions that have plot-diverging consequences.

There's also a set of 'Strike Force' Missions that have an impact on the ending the player gets in the game. In Strike Force Missions, players are dropped into an open-plan, multiplayer style map, given a series of objectives to accomplish – ie defend or take certain points – and then a squad of men and AI allies. They can take control of any member of their team at any point, as well as direct the movements and positions of the rest of their allies from an Overwatch position. It's weird combination of RTS and FPS that actually works surprisingly well.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2: Multiplayer

For the game's online mode, Treyarch has instituted a massive overhaul in terms of design. The game certainly looks and plays like its predecessors, but players now have far more customisation options than ever before.

To begin with, the load-out has rejigged so it now functions on a points system. Players have a certain number of points to allocate, and they can add perks, equipment and weapons depending on how they wish to customize their soldier. If, for example, you're a player who has never used their secondary weapon in an online match before, you can dump it and use the points you collect from this to add an extra attachment for your main weapon, or extra equipment.

Players can also use points to allocate themselves a Wild Card, allowing them to select extra perks. The perks are still divided across three Categories, but with a Greed Wild Card, players can select more than one Perk from the same Category. So they can march into battle using both, say, Hardline and Light Footed, or Fast Hands and Toughness, which in previous games would be impossible.

KillStreaks are still present, and have been left largely untouched by the load-out point allocation – presumably to keep the online multiplayer a bit more balanced. However, in Black Ops 2, they've been re-imagined as ScoreStreaks; players string together actions and kills, rather than just the latter, to open up their ScoreStreak rewards.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2: Zombies

The Zombie Mode rounds out the package. Up to four players are let loose over a series of maps in which the main objective is to survive against the undead horde. Here, though, there are two other match types other than the main one – in which players try to survive against ever-increasing waves of zombies.

In Tranzit, players catch a bus that transports them between different maps where they can pick up new equipment and weapons. In Grief, players are split into sides of two, and the last side left standing wins the match.

There are even options for players who aren't any good at online modes – check out the COD Casting tool set and the Theatre mode for playback.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2: Verdict

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is positively stuffed with content for players, and even if one gets the impression this franchise has reached the tipping point on the current gen of consoles, Treyarch's latest beast is a thing of beauty. Haters are always going to hate it, but Black Ops 2 is one of the best and most accessible shooters of its generation and one of 2012's essential titles.

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 release date: 13 November 2012

Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 price: From £34.99

Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen studied Classical Civilisations and English at the University of Witwatersrand and joined T3 as Editor at Large, writing about subjects including video games, gaming hardware, gadgets and consoles. You'll also find plenty of content by Nick on about video game industry events and shows.