Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops II Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: November 13, 2012
  • X360
Aaron Sampson on Google+

A sinister villain, some tough choices, and a new kind of multiplayer arena invigorate the reliably intense action in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

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 ride starts off a bit rough as Black Ops II makes good on its pre-campaign warning of graphic content. Two early scenes linger on people burning alive, and while one ends up contributing to character development, the other is just gratuitous. Later cutscenes don't flinch from depicting gory violence, though of all the unpleasant sights you see throughout the story, the playful (and not at all gory) post-credits video might be the most appalling.

Fortunately, the campaign boasts an engaging story and a lot of entertaining action. It features the lead characters from the original Call of Duty: Black Ops, and though it references events from the past, a clear narrative thread emerges that is easy to follow. You jump between two time periods: the present, which is the year 2025, and the past, which spans about a decade during the Cold War. The narrative reflections of the elderly Frank Woods (a protagonist from Black Ops) weave these two timelines together, but the character that truly drives the story is the villain, Raul Menendez. During the Cold War missions, you follow Menendez's origin story and rise to power. In the 2025 missions, you desperately try to avert his catastrophic master plan. This parallel character development is deftly handled, infusing your missions with undercurrents of curiosity and urgency.

Things get even more intense when you are asked to make a choice. Press one button to kill a target, the other to let him live. The conditions of each choice vary and there are only a few of them, but even when you aren't responding to a prompt, you might be making a choice in a dramatic moment that will have consequences later. The main course of the campaign remains constant, but these decisions do affect the fate of some key characters. A few of these moments are sure to give you pause, adding some welcome weight to the proceedings, and there's a handy story rewind feature that lets you play earlier levels in order to see how different paths play out. There are also mission-specific challenges that give you ancillary goals to complete while you do so, further increasing the replay incentive.

Stinger missiles and horseback riding: a match made in Afghanistan.

You can also see some variance in the available strike missions, which are a new type of campaign level. These stages put you in a squad of soldiers and drones, and then let you choose which asset to control at any given time. Defending installations against enemy assault, escorting a convoy, and rescuing a hostage are some of the endeavors you might undertake. Though you have a team at your command, strike missions are still all about you gunning down foes. Your AI allies are only good at slightly hindering your enemies, so you end up doing the heavy lifting yourself, often while tracking activity on multiple fronts and hopping around to deal with advancing enemies. Having to consider the bigger picture is a nice change of pace for a series that has mostly involved just shooting what's in front of you, and these missions are a welcome shot in the arm for the familiar campaign pacing.

Of course, familiar as it may be, that pacing is still great. The campaign ebbs and flows as you move through a variety of diverse, detailed environments using an array of powerful weaponry to dispatch your foes, occasionally hopping into a jet or on to a horse for a short jaunt, or manning a missile turret to tame a swarm of hostile drones. A few neat gadgets and surprising gameplay moments satisfy the novelty quotient, but you still get the lingering feeling that you've done this all before. The new strike missions, dramatic decision points, and memorable villain help keep this concern at bay, however, and this fiesty, enjoyable romp is more enticing to replay than other recent Call of Duty campaigns.

Black Ops II's competitive multiplayer has seen some changes as well, notably in the way you equip yourself before going into battle. The COD points system from Black Ops has been ditched in favor of a new token system that still affords you some control over the order in which you unlock new weapons and gear. The more interesting change is the new loadout system, which gives you ten points to play with and assigns a single point to every element of your loadout (guns, attachments, perks, lethal and tactical items). It offers a bit of flexibility if, say, you don't use a sidearm much but could really use an extra perk, and the new wild cards allow some limited creativity. Put one of these in your loadout, and you can go into battle with two well-equipped primary weapons, or you can load up on perks and bring just a knife and your wits.

The millimeter scanner sight comes in handy for spotting cloaked enemies.

These are two extreme examples, but tweaking your loadouts with the gear you've chosen to unlock still confers a sense of getting more powerful and better equipped for combat. These are still the fast and deadly battlefields that have drawn millions of players for years. Positioning and reflexes are king, firefights are over in the blink of an eye, and success is rewarded with deadly equipment and satisfying experience gains. New gear, new weapons, and new score streak rewards are sprinkled throughout, offering new martial capabilities and strategic wrinkles. Traditional gametypes and a few rule-bending party games all offer familiar frenetic fun, but one new mode of play holds the potential to really shake things up.

When you first enter league play, you must play a few rounds so that Black Ops II can calculate your skill level. Then, you are placed in a division, and your subsequent league play games pit you against players who are roughly your skill level (your numbered rank is not displayed). You can rise and fall in the league standings, and at certain intervals, leagues will be recalculated to allow players to move up to the bigs or get busted down to the minors. Whether you relish running with the wolves or are tired of getting trampled, the quality of play increases when players are better matched.

League play also represents a significant change in competitive play because everything is unlocked from the start. This kind of freedom was previously relegated to the small ponds of custom games, but now there's an ocean of players who have all chosen from the same available options when they enter a match. This levels the playing field and lets you leverage the full power of the Black Ops II arsenal right from the start, which is great news for players tired of having their options restricted. However, this also means that you don't gain experience in the way you may be used to; the only XP you get from league play is a nominal reward at the end of a match. Without the ever-present possibility of completing challenges, unlocking new gear, and leveling up, league play feels detached from modern Call of Duty tradition. It's a strange sensation, but it feels liberating, allowing you to focus on the action at hand without the temptation to play in certain ways to target certain rewards. League play has the potential to shift the way that people play the game they've been enjoying for years, and that's an exciting prospect.

There are also some new sharing tools aimed at making the multiplayer experience more social and more extroverted. You can link your Xbox 360 to your YouTube account and live stream your league play matches, though at the time of this review, that feature was not yet live for testing. In the theater, you can watch your previous matches, edit highlight clips (or let the game take a shot at it for you), grab screenshots, and upload media to share with those on your friends list and the community at large.

Another new feature, so-called "codcasting," aims to introduce a new player type to the Call of Duty scene. By queuing up a game film and selecting this feature, you can watch the match with a suite of tools that let you highlight the action. You can track different players, watch certain areas with a free-roaming camera, and even use a picture-in-picture mode to see the standings and the action side by side. Though this has the potential to allow players to generate some dynamic, entertaining play-by-play videos, its current manifestation is very limited. You can only codcast saved films of games you have played in, and with no streaming option currently active, your only potential audience is the five other players you could invite in to your lobby. Future updates to this feature could make it more useful, but as of now it just feels like a shell of what it could be.

That probably smells pretty bad.

Black Ops II also heralds the return of zombies mode. Now in its third incarnation, this cooperative survival mode is still frantic, challenging, and home to some weird humor. But though some of the new missions play with the formula by adding a bus to catch or a competing team to watch out for, the core action has grown stale. Shooting the bullet-sponge zombies lacks the satisfying immediacy that Call of Duty thrives on, and dealing with their lurching, single-minded attacks grows dull even as they get faster and more numerous. The new maps feature veins of fire that flare up when you cross them and obscure your vision, adding more visual sludge to the already murky environments. Perhaps the fire is intended as some kind of platforming challenge--jumping frequently seems to be the best way to avoid it--but hopping around doesn't make the environments any less ugly or the enemies any less boring.

Though zombies mode is stagnating, the rest of Black Ops II is lively, and it's great to see some shifting in the familiar structure. Developer Treyarch's storytelling prowess has once again resulted in an engaging, exciting campaign, and the addition of league play to the online multiplayer arena is an intriguing change that could reinvigorate the formula that has endured for so long. By reaching forward while remaining rooted in the things it does so well, Black Ops II offers a great shooter experience.

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
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Call of Duty: Black Ops II

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

0 comments
DARREN636
DARREN636

multiplayer maps are a dreadful mess of doorways , windows and passages, utterly random, dull, uninspired and generic blandness

due to the construction of the maps- all tactical play goes out of the window. terrible map design

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

this game is worse than black ops 1. The  hitmarkers that show up as an X in Black ops 2 ruined immersion. BO 1 was much better without a lame X showing up for each hit. BLood, wounds, and the enemy no longer moving is kill indicator enough for me. But game developers these days use a one size fits all policy, cheapening the crap out of these games for EVERYONE.

gomagomes
gomagomes

same old shit. you get a game which is the same game as BO1, just with few enhancements, and also you don't buy the game, you buy a piece of it and if you want the full game you have to get all the DLCs. 

juiceair
juiceair

COD needs to innovate instead of renovating on an annual basis.

vinnievu141
vinnievu141

I think that's a good rating, 8/10. The story-made choices are kinda interesting. The Strike Force missions are pretty fun, and I kinda liked how they linked the past with the future. Menendez was an interesting villain with an interesting backstory. The bad part is that the story wasn't really engaging to me as much as MW3 did or the original Black Ops.

Multiplayer is pretty much the same old multiplayer. New guns that seem pretty much the same, killstreaks, variety of maps, same old. Not bad, but not great, either. I like that they had offline multiplayer like they had with Black Ops so I can relax and kill AI bots that are not 8-year-olds.

Zombies is still fun, as always, but they didn't have the same vibe that I felt when I played zombies on old World at War and Black Ops. WaW had the intense feeling, Black Ops had the intense but tolerable environment, and Black Ops 2 has more of an exploration type of feeling (lots of little things that can help in the long run, like the Squilifier, the Turbine, or the Acid Kit). I like the variance in it, although Turned seems way too repetitive, and I didn't really get interested much in the 4v4. What I do like is the 4-player offline part, now my 3 friends and I can fight zombies together on the same console!


Campaign: 7/10 (like the changes to it, but story isn't really engaging)

Multiplayer: 7/10 (don't really care, but I like the offline stuff kept from Black Ops, it's fun to just fight bots for a quick match)

Zombies: 8.5/10 (variances in gameplay give more than just plain old survival and I can play offline with more than just one friend, but not the same as it used to be)

m0nk3y5pac3
m0nk3y5pac3

If your going to falsely accuse Gamespot for being bribed by publishers, you clearly haven't heard of Digital Chumps

B_STATS
B_STATS

Trying to keep this pathetic franchise alive using walking corpses is hilarious irony.

B_STATS
B_STATS

COD... They now have zombies and aren't scared to add any other pop culture 'in thing' to get more sales and distract from the fact that this franchise has not changed since it left WW2 behind. It only gets the scores it does because it is mainstream. Anyone who plays COD is a casual gamer at best and is the reason real gamers can't have nice things. Hate away COD fans! You poor, brainwashed sub-gamers.

Terror27
Terror27

People that say Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is boring just suck at the game.  Online Multiplayer is amazing.  This is the most fun i've had in years playing video games.  Black ops 2 is the only game i ever play now.  Highly addictive multiplayer and prestige leveling up system.   If you do not own this game buy it now.  DLC maps are great too(Grind, Mirage, Downhill, Hydro). Don't listen to the  Bo2 haters that have no skill. Nothing better than drinking beers killing angry try hards.    

antpm
antpm

Are graphics noticeable better than in MW3?

ProjectAlpha
ProjectAlpha

Zombies is now terrible. The last good map was Shangri-La. World at War remains superior.

FredrickMimms
FredrickMimms

and yet resident evil 6 got 4.5/10 :/


i still might give this game a go, there is a deal on steam at present 

PuNkeRoiD
PuNkeRoiD

If this got 8.0/10, than modern warfare 3 should get 20/10...

Synyster102
Synyster102

Storyline is fine. Good background strategy. Needs to make plot less confusing though. Then again, weapons enhancements just awesome. Great game! Graphics improvement needed. Too stagnant from the other COD games.

All in all, good game, 8/10.

NinjaMaddy
NinjaMaddy

 The same boring game each year.

TNamaypoke1972
TNamaypoke1972

I'm new to console gaming add me Thrash Emperor for XboxLive and Thrash_Emperor for the PSN.

faizan_faizan
faizan_faizan

Same shit different year......Seriously why do people even bother reviewing this shit.

proceeder
proceeder

COD wanted 2 do Sth creative. So they stole ideas from Brink (the Colossus), MGS (taking down a Hind D with a stinger), Batman (grappling hook)... Seriously! Is it really this hard 2 come up with a creative idea?!

blackhawk083
blackhawk083

One thing I don't understand is why familiarity in a COD game is now such a huge issue in Bops2 but wasn't for MW3 (I'm speaking for the reviews, not people's opinions).  Seriously, MW3 was nearly IDENTICAL to MW2.  The interface, graphics, and content were all straight from the last game.  Spec Ops was the same gig which made it less fun to play, and hell the game even had the same dramatic slow-mo reaching your pistol at the last second ending sequence!  No attempt at creativity whatsoever.  Oh, and the multiplayer maps were HORRIBLY designed, especially for TDM.  Bops2 isn't mind blowing, but it's definitely a nice sequel to Bops1.  New theme with lots of effort put into detail, new campaign style with multiple endings, new multiplayer mode, new loadout selection in multiplayer etc.  I just think Treyarch deserves some credit for making an effort to put out a solid sequel and give players a game with some cool new stuff in it to enjoy.  It's certainly more respectable than Infinity Ward's recycled profit grabber from last year that somehow scored higher.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

The hitmarkers in the campaign ruined the immersion of the game for me. The whole cinematic experience i loved COD for, was destroyed and diminished to a cheap arcade game with an X showing up wherever i hit an enemy. Treyarch's beautiful blood and gore effects are enough to know I hit an enemy. Hitmarkers showing up with the sniper are especially retarded. Please give us a patch to turn off hitmarkers in the story mode, leave hitmarkers for online mp.  My biggest complaint is each level in the story is only 5 minutes worth of gameplay and the rest cut scenes, was this game made for non-gamers only? 

Jason-BroDY
Jason-BroDY

damn!this game is boooorrrrriiiiinnngggggg!!!! the graphics sucked like **** so did the gameplay! ......

 

sheytoonak
sheytoonak

this game is not bad but simply could be so much better

u were in hurry or sth guys?future missions sax,Past is good just like bo1

RebelChick84
RebelChick84

This game is pretty awesome.. But I don't have anymore live.. so no more leveling up and stuff for me unless someone has any trials they would like to give me.. It would be very appreciated a lot.. thanks have fun gaming everyone. My xbl gt is RebelChick84.. :)

SKaREO
SKaREO

Haha if you buy this game, you are a sheep. Straight up, no doubt about that.

jagdedge124
jagdedge124

Well i'm reading over at IGN that this game didn't even beat the sales of MW 3. So much for all the "record breaking pre orders" and all the rest of the hype and BS. Fact is this COD crap is dying on a vine because NOTHING new comes out of it. Same graphics (crapola) as they have been for years, same game engine, same everything.Deserves a 6 at best (and that what users pretty gave it).

 

The game is too old for this day and age. It needs a MAJOR upgrade. MUCH better graphics, a story line that goes beyond the 16 year old age group, and a total new game engine.

 

Make no mistake, the game still "sells" but the end is coming. At the same time, other Gaming Companies have to make sure they STOP using this awful game as a "model" for their own. I see too many games dumbing down graphics and gameplay to give you the same stagnant experience. Arcade shooting.They are failing.

 

We need to go back to "back to the future" to quality games, and away from cheap made products hyping it all up in advertising (that's become the status quo for many Game Producers these days). This company makes fortunes. They could go to brand new game engines, and give the public a much better made and more innovating game.

CaesarIIII
CaesarIIII

Why the F**** you review this piece of crap and not Far Cry 3 ? Is getting and average of 9.0 score across all websites ......I hope this is nothing to do with that sexism article you girls writed the other day....

edgar001
edgar001

NEEEEEEED HARDCORE DOMINATIONNNNNNNNN

 

flvespamancl
flvespamancl

For all you saying the game should be rated a 5, think of it this way: essentially COD is a sports franchise. How may people go out every year and pay for essentially the same game with marginal changes/improvements? Would I do that? No I personally don't see the value, but many people do. With that in mind, I personally believe that it deserves an 8 simply for not screwing up, but no more unless it brings somethhing substantial to the franchise.

FarQall
FarQall

All the Call of Duty releases should be expansion packs for $20 nothing new just reselling the same game for gullible kids and making millions.

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

Holy cow if you like to play the single player campaigns and not just a multiplayer junkie, blops2 campaign is indescribably good. I am as jaded a cod critic as anyone out there but even I have to admit the SP has set a completely new bar. Way way way up there

game-time
game-time

They really need to design the multiplayer maps better. They haven't been good since MW4.

vinufo
vinufo

I agree...it's a sad franchise and i look forward to it's downfall.

killa32130
killa32130

@antpm Even though its on the same engine, the lighting, color and attention to detail is much better then Mw3 bland design.

vinnievu141
vinnievu141

@ProjectAlpha Seriously? Mob of the Dead has got to be one of the most engaging maps of Black Ops II, with a little bit of close quarters and training action. One of the best maps of Black Ops II. You don't turn on the power, you are the power.

POWAHOG
POWAHOG

@fluffy_puppy666 Im gonna buy this on steam now

whitewolf_leal
whitewolf_leal

@fluffy_puppy666 This irracional show of rage does not help your point mate. I don't like Call of Duty too, but speak this way and you are not better then those "dumb, sports fans" that you are addressing to.

Blashbuck
Blashbuck

@proceeder you honestly think that MGS was the first to introduce the thought of taking down a Hind D with a stinger? And that a grappling was invented in the story of batman?

what is this sad environment you live in that is so deprived common sense?

blackhawk083
blackhawk083

 @jagdedge124 But it did beat MW3... it grossed over $500 million in its first 24 hrs and is now the biggest entertainment launch of all time.  Anyways, completely agree with your last paragraph.  Sad to see the big game companies act like they don't have the budget to go all out on major titles anymore (especially EA).  They do, but they like money and awards better.

DougEStyle
DougEStyle

 @jagdedge124

 I thought it was awesome they have the drones, bots, and other electronic war machines in the game, however it bummed me out you could rarly use the stuff at all. And what was with the switching between first person, and 8th person shooter? Stupid!

bud_de_arkor
bud_de_arkor

 @percuvius2 did you actually played it or your like all the other that just played it couple of hours? all games are like that all are fans in one level or another doesnt matter the game, the only that really changes are the maps and weapons, doesnt matter its halo, cod, counter strike, battlefield, etc. So halo people still be loving  most halo games, same as COD ones (i talk about most of the people will do that) 

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

 @philMcCrevis  Each level in the story is only 5 minutes worth of gameplay....the rest cut scenes. The campaign now has hit markers(b4 only in multiplayer), so now we have to see an annoying X pop up on the screen whenever we hit an enemy to take away from the cinematic experience and immersion of the game, and also I feel to insult my intelligence. treyarch's beautiful blood and gore effects are enough to know I killed an enemy, the hitmarkers almost totally ruined the experience.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

 @RTHKI  @Dredcrumb9 now it's even worse though. Before it was a nice looking arcade game, now it looks fake and cheap with he stupid X showing up everytime I make a hit in the campaign. Visible hitmarkers should be left for Multiplayer.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • + 2 more
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the sequel to 2010's Black Ops and contains a single-player campaign, competitive multiplayer, and zombies mode.
    7
    Average User RatingOut of 3255 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Call of Duty: Black Ops II
    Developed by:
    Treyarch
    Published by:
    Activision, Square Enix
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Team-Based, First-Person, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs