The “Call of Duty” franchise has been recognized as formulaic. It had found its niche with fast, addictive multiplayer and has created a stereotype of having an audience of loud mouth and brash players. The campaigns haven’t been worth bragging about, the developers of Infinity Ward went up in smoke, but they added zombies and people have been buying “Call of Duty” up like hotcakes.
For the modern shooter it has always been at the forefront and top in quality for its graphics, guns, and violence. But with “Black Ops II”, Treyarch has given life to a stale but never the less successful series. Not only has the classic multiplayer been given a make over but for the first time since “Modern Warfare”, the “Call of Duty” franchise has found itself providing a capable and moving campaign which isn’t only able to entertain, but provide an opportunity to replay the campaign and get something different out of it.
In the series, “Black Ops II” picks up after the events of the first installment. Alex Mason, the brainwashed soldier with a personality disorder, returns to play through levels that take place during the Cold War. Meanwhile, in the 2025, Alex Mason’s son David must face a terrorist threat that threatens the entire planet. The two stories interweave as you play through both sides and surprisingly there are several events that can be changed to provide different outcomes. Not only does this provide an opportunity to go back and try something different but it adds a feeling of mortality when you realize that these characters can die and this isn’t another gung-ho shooter of invincible He-Man type bros.
The campaign also features a reliable cast of actors who deliver on their performances, some of the best coming from the games antagonist Raul Menendez. Instead of a faceless and meaningless bad guy for the player to hunt, we were gifted with a character with more backstory than that of the leading protagonists. Not just a story as to why he becomes who he is, but a story that makes us feel bad for him, increasing the depth of how truly fleshed out the series has become at this point.
Setting part of the campaign thirteen years in the future has really added to the arsenal of weapons, now featuring things like active camouflage and computer operated drones. There’s plenty of variation in the amount of weaponry and with the ability to chose your loadout at the beginning of each mission there’s plenty to experiment with and try out each weapon and each attachment until you find the best for each scenario.
Also added to the campaign are the Strike Force missions which fit right into the 2025 campaign. These can only be accessed for a certain time to coincide with the events of the game, and the events of each mission can effect the events of the overall story. Featured in the missions is the ability to take control of every unit in your team, ranging from soldiers to flying drones. Now, the addition of permanent death makes it feel much more like a life or death scenario and thus the outcomes of each mission and their effect on the story feel much more organic, but the A.I. that controls every unit you aren’t currently occupying is very simple. You’ll find your finite resources in terms of teammates aren’t going to complete any objectives or come from behind to save you, you do the work, they take bullets for you. Past that it does make for an interesting addition to the “Call of Duty” game, changing the rules of a game that have long since been etched in stone.
Multiplayer still remains pure in form as the older versions of “Call of Duty”. The ability still exists to play locally against bots, allowing people who don’t want to be shouted off Live by jerks to play. For those who wish to test their mettle against the other fans of the world there are a plethora of maps, guns, and new toys to shoot and explode on other people. Treyarch has done enough to liven up the game but it remains mainly the same.
You don’t fix what isn’t broken, and Treyarch seems to know the rules of the franchise they currently control. They even found room for a multitude of improvement where others merely went to milk to udders. It probably wasn’t hard to make $500 million off a franchise this big on opening day. What was hard, and thought to be impossible, was to make something who never thought they’d buy a “Call of Duty” game again not only buy the game, but enjoy it again and again.