Backloggin’ – 21/11/2012

Not much going on this week that’s terribly exciting, unfortunately, unless you’d like to hear about my schoolwork and numerous essays – but you probably already follow me on twitter in that case.

Since last week though, I have gotten a good amount of Black Ops 2 in. I mentioned last time that I’d be writing up some thoughts on the multiplayer, which I’m still gonna do for sure at some point. I decided to check out the campaign though over the weekend, and it’s got me totally hooked. Can this be? A CoD game with a compelling campaign that doesn’t run itself dry with endless amounts of shooting less than halfway through? Well, read on and find out.

I’m skipping the backlog statistics this week since they remain unchanged. So here we go!

I had a lot of high hopes for BO2. MW3 made me realize that Infinity Ward just isn’t trying very hard anymore. MW3 was entirely missable – it was an entry that tried to surf on the giant splash MW2 made without doing anything new or exciting. The killing blow was that the maps were poorly designed and entirely forgettable. For CoD games, bad maps are cardinal sins. As for the campaign, it was just okay, but totally overshadowed by MW2 and Black Ops, which evidently had much more thought and effort put into both of them.

So having lost much of my faith in Infinity Ward, and the studio still crumbling after the departure of Jason West and Vince Zampella, I wasn’t sure what I would be thinking regarding the next CoD game.

But surely enough, it was announced. Because MW3 had just come out, that meant the ball was bounced back to Treyarch, and it was all up to them to deliver.

And so far? Oh yeah, they delivered.

We’ll start with this – the CoD campaigns have always had serious pacing issues to me. Shooting dudes is fun and all, and there’s explosions, scripted events, and the occasional vehicle segment tossed in to mix things up. But mostly, it’s shooting dudes, and I always felt that CoD threw way too many enemies at you pretty much all of the time. On top of that, one of the little sneaky magic tricks they’ve traditionally used is infinitely respawning enemies, which always felt really cheap. Not feelin’ me? Go play the Vietnam mission in Black Ops, and stay at the top of the hill during the part where enemies are swarming from the bottom. See how long it takes you to kill every last one.

Back yet? Okay, cool. Oh yeah, I probably should have mentioned that it’s actually impossible. You could spend your entire goddamn lifetime up on that hill shooting at the Vietcong if you wanted, because the game will totally let you.

Discovering this kind of thing is like pulling aside the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, it totally destroys immersion. I’m not sure if Black Ops 2 does it, but if it does, I certainly haven’t caught on yet.

I’m only on the 6th mission, but I loved Black Ops 2 pretty much from the start. The levels are incredibly diverse – not just in locale, but in time period, weaponry, and design. Usually all I can remember after playing a CoD campaign is, well, guns and explosions. But here, the levels are unique enough to be more memorable than ever. One minute you’re on horseback riding through the Afghan desert shooting rockets at enemy aircraft, and the next you’re raiding a futuristic base with high-tech weaponry and cloaking technology. It’s just all over the place, but in a very, very good way. This sudden variety instantly dissolved any fears I had about this game getting stale really quickly as previous entries have.

The story, akin to Black Ops 1, is all over the place – only this time, you’re expected to have been familiar with the events of Black Ops 1. Perspectives change, there’s numerous flashbacks, and time periods shift back and forth between levels. The dialogue is weighty enough that every time I missed something a character said (which happened a lot since the audio levels are so out of balance), I cursed to myself, knowing I had probably missed a crucial story detail. I can’t imagine what it’d be like for someone to stumble into Black Ops 2 having never finished or played the first – but I can sure as hell imagine. Do yourself a favor, and don’t skip Black Ops 1 if you’re planning on playing BO2. Just… don’t. The two stories don’t exactly hinge on one another, but Treyarch makes zero effort here to get anyone who skipped the first up to speed.

If you want to get really down to basics regarding the gameplay, just know that it’s typical CoD-fare with a good amount of new additions to support the futuristic setting. You’ll notice grenades are no longer thrown but instead shot from a wrist-mounted mechanism, and that there are a slew of new weapons accompanied by new sighting technologies that let you see through walls and such. Despite a large amount of them being purely cosmetic, Treyarch’s changes breathe a new life into the game that is unmistakably present. Whenever I was starting a level set during the 1980s or similar, I would always note how barebones the weapon selection was compared to the levels set in the future. It’s clear Treyarch had a good amount of fun envisioning it all, and it’s even better playing it for yourself.

So yeah, I’ll have more on the game after I beat it. But that’s pretty much how I currently feel about the campaign – it’s very impressive and easily the best CoD game I’ve played since CoD4. I really hope it finishes strong.

-rav4ge

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