Captain Price and his hairy lip-rug. Multiplayer and perks. Zombies and naughty spins on the lucky dip weapons box. Call Of Duty has always thrown up indelible pairings. Its latest offering is no different, giving us the classic combo of… um, horse and rocket launcher. Yup, Black Ops 2 lets you fire an RPG from Black Beauty while assaulting a barrage of tanks in an Afghan desert. It’s a sweeping, daft and absurdly alluring spectacle. In short: it’s COD.
Black Ops 2 PS3 review
Treyarch really has served up a monster of a package. Combine a mostly thrilling single-player campaign that plays out like a Michael Bay fantasy about noisy explosions, never better class-leading online modes and a generous dollop of undead slaughter, and there’s simply no better-value game on PS3. Granted, the experience is still trapped within the increasingly worn, linear parameters set down in the original Modern Warfare – but with so much content and an equal amount of polish, it’s difficult to deny yourself a generous serving from this vast banquet. Dibs on the shooty suckling pork.
True to the series template established in 2007, multiplayer is the meal you’ll keep tucking into until next November – I’ll touch on all things capture the flag later. In the mean time, Black Ops 2′s campaign is the sharply memorable amuse-bouche you’ll probably scoff down first. Initially putting you back in the military loafers of Cold War veteran Alex Mason during the late ’70s and early ’80s, proceedings really pick up when you’re whisked forward into 2025 and start playing as his son David. It’s this smartly realised near-future setting that gives single-player a fresh shot in the arm after Modern Warfare 3’s overly familiar bombast.
While flying to an objective in a squirrel suit or popping on optic camo proves snazzy (but mostly superfluous) window-dressing, it’s the weapons that truly benefit from being Back To The Future-d. You get semi-automatic slaughtering tools with iron sights attachments that paint your surroundings in glowing Matrix code, electrically charged gloves that frazzle dudes with 10,000-volt melee attacks, and a grenade launcher with thermal view that can fire through walls and separate men from their kneecaps. Every killing tool, from a ’70s-era M19 pistol to a futuristic mine launcher, is ferocious, muscular and loud enough to perforate God’s eardrums.
Yet for all knee-imploding Claymore guns, this is one Call Of Duty that starts not with a bang, but a whimper. Specifically, the whimpers of a small girl who’s just been barbecued in a house fire. A starkly bleak image, the opening cinematic is tied into a twisted, personal tale focused on family… and global terrorist destruction. What?
This is supposed to be the world’s biggest shooter, not Jeremy Kyle. Partially penned by The Dark Knight Rises screenwriter David S Goyer, the mournful story aims for the sort of narrative resonance Infinity Ward never bothered about during its tours of duty. That’s a positive, even if there is too much sweary shouting for the plot to fully connect.
Sadly, the promised divergent narrative strands never quite live up to their potential. Throughout the story’s seven or eight-hour runtime you’re presented with half a dozen binary choices. Rather than significantly change the course of the game or missions available, they merely affect whether certain characters live or die, while also determining which of Black Ops 2’s multiple endings you unlock. Being given any sort of story choice at all is a step forward for the series, just don’t go in expecting Heavy Rain with fewer stripteases and more tactical air strikes.
At least the missions rarely disappoint. Highlights include taking part in a sweeping civil war with dozens of on-screen rebels on Angolan plains, racing through the flooded streets of Pakistan while the controls hop between driving a jeep and offering air support with a flying drone, and infiltrating a floating resort for the 1%-ers using a robot spider called Ziggy – this one doesn’t so much play guitar as scuttle through air vents and electrify guards. Shamelessly thrilling, scripted shooting doesn’t get any better.
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