They say hindsight is a wonderful thing – and what I’m really trying to say here is that this review of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2‘s multiplayer is probably a little late. The game’s been out for three weeks now – enough for the usual Call of Duty fan cycle of playing the game, declaring it God’s gift to man, and then saying it’s rubbish and the last one was a modern classic to take place in many quarters. And yes, this review was delayed because of other circumstances – but now’s a better time to do it anyway, now I’ve tried out most of the game modes. So, for the first of my three-part Black Ops 2 review, I’ll be putting the game’s multiplayer under my microscope.
Like many other aspects of the game, Modern Warfare 3‘s multiplayer maps probably were given a little too much stick, but they still were a bit too big, a bit too boring, and a bit too generic for the most part. As an sub-machine gun user, I’m a fan of the maps that give you plenty of tight corridors and corners for close quarters showdowns, rather than the large, expansive sniper-dominated maps that characterized Modern Warfare 3 – and Black Ops 2 does not disappoint. It’s full of tight corners and small rooms for sub-machine/assault rifle/shotgun users, with little concession to the sniper. Sure, quick-scoping has returned and snipers still do well, but they don’t dominate anymore.
My favourite maps at the moment are Hijacked, Plaza, pre-order bonus Nuketown 2025 and Express – but to be honest, I like most of the maps. Slums isn’t particularly easy on the eye, and Overflow borrows too much from Modern Warfare 3, but I’ve rarely left a lobby if a certain map comes up – which brings us to map rotation, which is a bit crap. Hijacked doesn’t feel quite as special now it pops up all the time, maps often come up twice in a row, and it always seems to avoid my favourite, Plaza, and in moshpit playlists, where the game mode varies, you often get the same mode twice.
Black Ops 2 provides the most comprehensive list of game modes in a Call of Duty game… well, ever. Staple modes like Free-for-All (and its usual annoying mix of snipers and people who always aim for the back), Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag, Search and Destroy and more return, and they’re as polished as ever. Wager Matches from Black Ops return (or Party Games, as they are called here), with Sticks and Stones being a highlight, but they’re all a hoot, if a bit short on XP bonuses. New game mode Multi-Team is a little bit of a misfire, with shot-in-the-back kill and snipers dominating, but you can’t have everything, can you? However, other new mode Hardpoint is a barrel of fun, with hectic games uninterrupted by pesky spawn delays and blessed with the chance to rack up massive scorestreaks – so it’s not all bad for the new modes.
The new loadout system, Pick Ten, is one of Black Ops 2′s greatest successes. Gone is the on-rails, compulsory loadouts of games past (a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, a lethal weapon, a tactical, three perks and a death-streak – and in is complete freedom over your custom class. You can have two primary weapons, thanks to two Wildcards, which allow you to have two Perk ones, two lethals, etc. It’s a fresh and new way to make your class, and ensures that every class can be as unique as you like. You can even go all-out nina with a knife, cloaking perks like Dead Silence, plenty of other perks and no primary weapons, if that’s your thing.
League Play, which puts you in lobbies of an equal standard and places you into a league, is good fun, with a chance to escape from people who have supernaturally good aim and too much time on their hands. It’s a mode that Treyarch are still working on – they launched the first season - at the time of writing – today. The Emblem Editor, which gives you a ton of shapes and lets you make an emblem, is a nice new addition, even if I’ve been slightly scarred by some people’s bizarre imaginations, and Elite, Call of Duty‘s stat-tracking service that costed a slightly iffy £30 in Modern Warfare 3, is free of charge now, so you can go nuts looking at your stats, if you like. And finally, Prestiging has become easier, with just fifty-five levels required to Prestige (as opposed to the mammoth 80 levels of before), so even people like me will prestige a few times.
So, that’s it for multiplayer, but my review of Zombies mode and its bus-hopping adventures will be up on Saturday 8 December.