Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 PS3 review – Ditching modern warfare for future shooter thrills
Ironically, that same scripting is also Black Ops 2’s biggest problem. Although you’ll struggle to find a better-choreographed single-player experience, it’s only ever as exciting as a game you know will never fundamentally surprise you can be. The traditional template is now more well-worn than a pair of trainers you’ve spent ten years scuffing up on concrete five-a-side pitches.
While the spectacle of the set-pieces continually excites, the core combat rarely does. And it’s nothing to do with the classic corridor structure – the campaign’s array of death playgrounds are actually more expansive than they’ve ever been. No, the blame lies squarely with enemy AI: there’s simply nothing reactive about the behaviour of your genero-foes. They cower behind cover, run about a bit in a scripted fashion, then pop up long enough for you to cap them. It’s essentially one giant game of whack-a-mole.
These last-gen AI grunts would rather run at you like decapitated roosters in the same scripted fashion a dozen times over than flank you, which kills any chance of you improvising during play. Even during Black Ops 2’s most triumphant moments, where the fury of its sound design, brilliant weapons and tight pacing combine, you’re always acutely aware of the giant puppetmaster in the sky yanking on the strings to restrict you.
Thankfully, Treyarch has tried to break free from COD’s single-player mould in certain areas. The new Strike Force missions are as open as anything the series has ever offered, offering a layer of freedom and tactical planning that’s closer to an RTS than an FPS.
Rocking excellent streamlined controls that enable you to hop between controlling squads of soldiers, turrets and CLAWs (think a cross between a robotic elephant and a tank), these interludes offer a refreshing break from constant linear shooting galleries. Played on a selection of maps imported from multiplayer, you’re tasked with capturing or defending objectives over a ten-minute time limit. They actually offer more choice and consequence than the main story’s more obvious moral decisions, and failing one mission can lock out another.
If the scope of single-player occasionally suffocates, that’s an accusation you could never level at multiplayer. It’s in a league of its own – one with all the trophies and 300-grand-per-week contracts. For the past five years, COD has broken multiplayer boundaries and defined how we view online gaming on consoles. While the series has had its problems with balancing in the past (I’m looking at your cheaty tactical nukes, MW2), Black Ops 2 feels fair, well-structured and supremely nuanced online.
In terms of game modes, you’re given more than a half-dozen to get your chompers sunk into. Old favourites such Domination with its hectic multi-flag capturing, Search & Destroy (where you have to protect or pulverise an objective, with respawns nixed) or Kill Confirmed (you only get points for offing someone by picking up the dog tags from their freshly carked body) remain addictive as ever.