Whichever way you slice it, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a massive game. So massive, in fact, that when it came time to review it we had no option but to slice it into three distinct segments: one for single-player, one for multiplayer, and one for the newly expanded zombies mode.
Click on through to read our impressions of each of the modes individually — or if you’re more of a TL;DR person, you can scroll right to the end for our final thoughts. Enjoy.
“The first half felt ham-fisted, as if the team just couldn’t decide if they wanted to take any chances, and instead took the safe route through the same situations we’d all experienced many times before. The game then almost falls over itself to make up for its mistakes, stuffing every exciting set-piece, story fork, and gameplay mechanic into an exhilarating but ultimately very short second act…” [READ MORE]
“The lifeblood of Call of Duty is multiplayer, and Treyarch have pulled out all of the stops here. Fundamentally, this is still effectively the same template for online play that MW introduced all those years ago, but it’s clear that the gutting, reshaping and new additions have been meticulously playtested and revised multiple times to ensure success before they were finalised…” [READ MORE]
“The beauty of Treyarch’s new Zombies mode reflects the gutsy ethics of the team that decided, in this case, that they would not let a single thing be told or explained. After years of being instructed in explicit detail by Call of Duty games on how to accomplish the task ahead, I’m instead plonked into the middle of mortal hell, with a pistol and my sense of avid curiosity…” [READ MORE]
Treyarch deserve to be applauded for doing what no other Call of Duty-producing studio has yet been able to do: breaking free from the curse of the original Modern Warfare. Every single change, from the subtle modifications to the loadouts, to the intentionally-confusing nature of any Zombies match, is evidence that this team wanted to prove their critics wrong.
To a significant extent, they have. It’s a testament to the team that the multiplayer and Zombie components of Black Ops 2 are easily the best the series has developed to date.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the much-touted campaign drags to such an extent that it’s painfully clear less resources were dedicated to ensuring a consistent experience. For me, the single-player in Call of Duty has always been a standout, blockbuster ride that I look forward to and enjoy, and in this case I just can’t say I did.
There are too many shortcuts, mistakes and misfires, and that’s just unfortunate when mixed with easily one of the best branching story efforts I’ve ever seen in a first-person shooter. There was definite potential for perfection here as a total product — the holy trinty of shooters, if you will — but the single player component just does not cut the mustard. Overall however, Black Ops 2 still manages to shine, and is undoubtedly the strongest release in the series to date. You should make an effort to experience it for yourself.
- Absolutely stellar multiplayer experience
- Chunky, innovative standalone zombies mode
- Creative and clever effort at a branching storyline
- Much of the campaign does not hit the mark
- StrikeForce missions have a brutal learning curve
- Lack of dedicated servers for PC
Disclaimer: The game was reviewed on an XBox 360 console at a review event alongside other journalists from Australia and North America in San Diego three weeks before release — this was the only option for pre-launch coverage. Flights to the event, accommodation and food on-site were paid for by Activision.
PC-specific changes will be added in a future addendum article, but we have been assured by the development team that these are minimal.