Call of Duty: Black Ops II PlayStation 3
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Released on 13-Nov-2012
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the follow-up to the hugely successful and award-winning Call of Duty: Black Ops. Promising not only the best graphics in the series so far, Call of Duty: Black Ops II on PlayStation 3 ups the ante on every front for the most ambitious Call of Duty experience ever!
- New setting!
- New weapons!
- New bad guy!
- More zombies!
The game continues the tale of Frank Woods, hero of the original Black Ops, as well as various members of the Mason family. The action largely takes place in the year 2025, where a new Cold War is raging and the tools of war have been suitably upgraded, with battle drones on land and in the air, and an arsenal that packs a larger, more accurate punch than the weapons of today.
The historical battles of the original Black Ops do still make an appearance, with events spanning from 1980's Afghanistan right through to the near-future war. Different generations of the Mason family will fight in different eras, but all the missions seem to centre around one man - the new, mysterious villain Raul Menendez.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II promises some big shifts to the traditional Call of Duty gameplay. The campaign mode now features non-linear and branching storylines, where the decisions you make and actions you take informing how the game plays out. Whether it's choosing one option over another, or simply failing to save a single hostage, all your actions have consequences - the biggest one being you can play the game time and again to see the different outcomes unfold!
Add to this more options for how you battle, with the 'run and gun' approach now joined by the chance to drive cars, man gun turrets, ride horses and fly fighter jets. There's also the new Strike Force mode, open-world missions with a series of checkpoints to achieve and the chance to swap between characters - including playing as an all-controlling general. It's like an open-world sandbox, a real-time strategy and a multiplayer map all in one - and it can also affect the outcome of the game!
The multiplayer mode returns, bigger, better, and more adaptable to different skill levels and playing styles for a more inclusive experience. And Zombies also rise from the grave once again, running in multiplayer for the first time for even more ways to defeat the undead!
Everything else is on a need-to-know basis - but all you need to know is that you need to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II!
The BAFTA Video Game Awards took place last night, with 53 games nominated for prestigious prizes across 17 categories. The winners are an eclectic bunch as well, handily illustrating the variety and scope of games as a creative medium.
Bethesda's rich and rewarding steampunk stealth-em-up Dishonored walked away with the evening's most coveted prize, voted Best Game by the BAFTA panel, but the big winner was Sony's digital gem Journey, nominated in eight categories. Jenova Chen's chilled out game of exploration and contemplation won five of the awards, getting the nod for game design, artistic achievement, audio achievement, original music and, in one of the evening's nicest surprises, online multiplayer.
Journey allows two players to explore together, but partners are placed together at random, cannot speak directly to each other and have no idea who they're playing with. For such a bold approach to co-operative play to snatch the multiplayer prize from the likes of Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed raised more than a few eyebrows.
Telltale's gripping episodic Walking Dead adventure also dominated the event, winning two of the seven awards it was up for, winning for Best Story and Best Mobile or Handheld game. Far Cry 3 was crowned Best Action Game, while XCOM: Enemy Unknown won for Best Strategy. Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes claimed the prize for Best Family Game.
Is it that time of year already? No, not the annual rush to plaster Christmas all over every shopping centre as soon as the last embers of Bonfire Night have died down, but the traditional November release of a new Call of Duty game. Turning out a new title in a series every twelve months should lead to creative inertia but against the odds, in Black Ops II developer Treyarch has delivered the most invigorated and interesting COD in years.
Fight The Future
As always, the game is divided neatly between its single player campaign and multiplayer modes, with each offering familiar pleasures alongside exciting new flourishes. The story mode, for instance, splits itself between past and future. Some of the missions are told in flashbacks to the 1980s as previous Black Ops heroes Frank Woods and Alex Mason chase down a dangerous terrorist called Raul Menendez against a backdrop of Cold War paranoia. The other missions are set in 2025, and follow David Mason, Alex's son, as he continues the pursuit, with Menendez now older and more calculating, pitching himself as an anti-capitalist cult leader.
All the Call of Duty bombast you expect is here, from the grungy punchiness of the retro missions to the sci-fi tinged thrills of the future levels. There are reliable old weapons here, as well as brilliant new toys that allow you to see and shoot through walls, track enemy heat signatures and more. Fancy adding some spark to your melee attacks? Grab the electric knuckledusters that leave enemies vomiting themselves to death. Nice.
Choose Your Own Adventure
There are changes afoot in the campaign structure as well. There are now six different endings, depending on your choices and actions. Don't worry, COD hasn't gone RPG, but moments of moral choice as well as mission objectives now carry greater weight as you know they can shift the course of the story. This also adds much-needed replay value to the single player side of the game, as do level-specific challenges and leaderboards that track your performance in each stage against your friends. In previous COD games, the campaign was something to bash through on Veteran before sinking into multiplayer. In Black Ops II, Treyarch offers a campaign that you'll come back to more than once.
The maps, too, are more ambitious than before. The old corridor construction still rears its head, along with some annoying checkpoints and a few too many showboating scenes that play out without your input, but frequently there are multiple routes to be found, as well as hidden caches of weapons and intel that genuinely change the way battles play out.
There's even a splash of real-time strategy in the form of Strike Force missions, optional levels that put you in charge of squads, vehicles and turrets. You can hop between each for the personal touch, or issue orders from an overhead tactical map. The AI isn't really up to the task, but as a change of pace and a halfway house between single and multiplayer, they're a welcome addition.
The changes to multiplayer are less dramatic, but no less noticeable. Matches are still fast and brutal, and the maps follow the tight COD template that fans love. What's changed are the systems around the matches. You can now completely customise your loadout, choosing any ten weapons, items, perks and attachments, freeing players from the rigid confines of combat classes (though those are still here).
Killstreaks are gone, replaced by Scorestreaks which reward consistent good play rather than simply the player who is best at headshots. If you're more of a slow and steady player, better suited to meeting objectives and supporting teammates, Black Ops II finally recognises your contribution. Also making the often daunting conflicts more approachable are Combat Training playlists, which mix low level players and AI bots, allowing for an easier climb for new players up to Level 10, after which you'll have unlocked enough features and toys to slip into the main public matches. Think of it as the nursery slopes of multiplayer shooting.
Rise From Your Grave!
Even Zombies mode has been built up into something more substantial. Once a throwaway extra at the end of the single player game, it's rapidly becoming an entire game in its own right. Here, you travel between different locations on a bus, fighting off waves of the undead, unlocking buildings and weapons as you go. It's not quite as robust as the other two sections of Black Ops II, but it's much more than the trivial distraction of old. The best new feature is Grief mode, in which two teams of four players fight the zombies in the same area - but only one human team can leave. Frantic and ruthless, it won't be a surprise to see this branch out into its own title soon.
What's most impressive is how much effort Treyarch has put into addressing long-standing criticisms of the COD formula, and how it's managed to broaden the game's appeal without sacrificing the hardcore on the altar of mainstream gaming. It really is the strongest and most surprising Call of Duty game since the first Modern Warfare, and comes highly recommended to both fans and newcomers alike.
- Vastly improved single player campaign
- Zombies mode is seriously meaty
- Smart, subtle multiplayer tweaks make it fun for everyone
- Strike Force missions could be better
- Some balancing required for multiplayer
- A couple of frustrating single player checkpoints
Answering The Call
It's here! By the time you read this, Call of Duty: Black Ops II will be out. The long wait for Treyarch gaming-goodness will finally be over, and to coincide with a week of launch celebrations, Activision staged a special Call of Duty: Black Ops II Community event for the weekend beginning Friday, 9th November. GAME was invited and attended on the Friday night... and we can confirm that the wait has been well worth it.
So what was on offer on this Friday we speak of? Well, aside from a chance to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II four days prior to its release, there was also the chance to play through the Nuketown 2025 preorder map and, for four very lucky people, the first chance in the UK to sample the much anticipated Zombies feature of the game. Throw in a Black Ops-themed diner (complete with jukebox!) and the bright orange lights of the 'War Room' tournament table (ready to showcase some of the finest gamers in the Community), and the stage truly was set.
The Stars Line Up
After a short period of time allowing for introductions and early practice to take place, the evening's centre-piece demonstration confirmed some of the great new features which will make Call of Duty: Black Ops II the definitive multiplayer experience gamers have been waiting for. After a short chat with none other than Black Ops II star Michael Rooker (screen legend and one of the cast of TV's 'The Walking Dead' - check out our video interview), the evening's emcee, Xbox LIVE legend Graham Boyd (aka 'Acey Bongos') and professional gaming great Mike "hastr0" Rufail got down to it and guided eager attendees through the multiplayer of Black Ops II.
Further to these new options, "hastr0" spoke about the way the games will work, explaining that whilst KDRs and KDR scoring remain important, the "score streaks" awarded for fulfilling objectives will mean that players will be rewarded for playing for both the objectives of the game and playing for their team. Another exciting new feature of multiplayer is the new "Hardpoint" mode (think of it as a 'King of The Hill' style game mode), where players focus on domination and control of one area - amidst chaos and competition.
Watch And Learn
For those of you that love to watch (and learn), there's the all-new "COD Casting", which will allow people to watch in on games. With the game objective & a score that remains present in the corner, alongside the ability to jump from player to player - viewing player streaks and the optional mini-map - spectators can keep up with the action and keep their finger on the pulse at all times. And for those that want their action as authentic as possible, there's also the option to remove the HUD completely. COD Casting once again proves that Treyarch are keeping the multiplayer focus of the game as paramount as ever.
Actually having the opportunity to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II brought it all together. The customisation allows you to play things your way, but the rounded and refined experience is where the multiplayer shines. It feels slicker and smoother than Black Ops, with the sheen and visual polish going hand-in-hand with the updated era of the maps. Control for Black Ops veterans will come instantly, but new players will be able to pick it up too as the controls remain intuitive and in keeping with what you'd expect from a multiplayer experience. The ultra smooth feel takes a bit of getting used to, but it's worth it and it makes Call of Duty: Black Ops II the complete multiplayer package.
The Community launch event was a great success and was a fantastic opportunity for Black Ops fans to come together. Now, who's up for some Call of Duty: Black Ops II?
It's sure to be the biggest game of the year, but is Black Ops II worth your time and money? According to the critics, the answer is a big sweaty "yes", with praise for Treyarch's shooter raining down from all sides.
"Not just a fantastic Call of Duty game, but one of the best shooters of the last decade," says IGN in a 9.3/10 review that points to the numerous tweaks and changes to the COD formula as highlights. "The most ambitious and exciting Call of Duty ever made" is their conclusion.
"Zombies drops you into an intense, expansive world with untold secrets to discover, multiplayer's Pick 10 system and Scorestreaks open up new strategies to exploit, and the single-player campaign warrants repeat visits from its captivating, branching storyline" says GamesRadar's glowing four and a half star review.
Across all of the reviews, much of the praise centres around the decision to lavish attention on the single player campaign, an element that some had felt was becoming irrelevant as Activision capitalised on COD's multiplayer modes. "The elastic story provides plenty of incentive to replay the campaign" reads the 94% review from GameTrailers, concluding that "shooters simply don't get much more deep, varied, surprising, or rewarding than this."
Even if everyone was going to buy Black Ops II anyway, it's great to see that the game itself goes out of its way to deliver value for money.
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