I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the Call of Duty franchise per se but I’ve owned every edition since COD4: Modern Warfare. I mainly enjoy the campaigns because the hyper-fast multiplayer always sets off my temper. I didn’t really care for the multiplayer at all in MW or MW2. That changed with Black Ops two years ago, though. I loved every single map, I loved the way the game played, I loved the heavy guitar riff before each match. It was great. The only real negatives at the time were the same complaints I have in every Call of Duty: iffy netcode (no dedicated servers on consoles anyway), quickscoping, noob tubing, and poor sound effects. My usual multiplayer crew of Aaron and Oakstout bought every single Map Pack DLC (multiplayer, not zombies) for Black Ops and thoroughly had a blast for a several months.
When Modern Warfare 3 came out last year, I initially didn’t plan on picking it up since I wasn’t finished with Black Ops yet. I hadn’t (still haven’t) Prestiged and I hadn’t even loaded up the single-player campaign for it yet. But Aaron and Oak wanted MW3 right away so I got it. Even though I was pretty much accustomed to Black Ops by then, MW3 really set off my temper again by seeming even faster paced. Not sure where the line is, but I felt MW3 crossed it. I did eventually get used to MW3 and now I can go back and forth between it and Black Ops with no real problems. I even subscribed to the Call of Duty Elite service to get all the DLC. One thing I’d never done in a shooter before that I do constantly in MW3 is Hardcore mode. In MW3 it’s called Hardcore Ricochet so that if you shoot your own teammates, the damage is ricocheted back to you as a penalty, including killing yourself. When I went back to Black Ops and tried it, I learned there was no penalty and quite frequently my own teammates would shoot me just to get me out of their line of sight for a kill. Douches.
It’s another November, so another annual edition of the Call of Duty franchise, this time Black Ops II. I knew when it was first announced that I’d be picking it up with no reservations like I’d had with MW3 for no other reason than its near-future setting. Back in the day, Battlefield 2142 was my all-time favorite shooter. Most recently I really enjoyed Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I know it got ripped up in the reviews but I thoroughly had a blast in the campaign and I really enjoy the multiplayer specifically because it’s nothing like a Battlefield or Call of Duty experience. I don’t care much for PC shooters anymore (too out of practice plus the RSI in my wrist) but Ghost Recon Online is very similar to Future Soldier and it’s actually not bad so far.
Anyway, I’ve spent a few hours with Black Ops II multiplayer now. Up to level 20 or 21, and thought I’d share my thoughts so far.
Without a doubt, this is the most polished Call of Duty multiplayer experience to date. Quickscoping is still in the game, and I’d love to beat the design team upside the head but so far it hasn’t gotten out of hand here. The new progression/unlock system seems almost like a refinement of what both Black Ops and MW3 did but combined. Scorestreaks are wonderful for players like myself who can’t sit around for 18 hours a day practicing, so every little thing I can do to increase my score can help me get a Scorestreak. In previous COD games, I very rarely unlocked the first Killstreak because I’m usually dead before I can count to ten. Now playing as a team and capturing objectives in Domination, or every dog tag I pick up in Kill Confirmed, even putting up a UAV Scorestreak will help my overall score towards the next Scorestreak. Sure, players are still going for kills first and foremost and all COD games are KDR-focused but I feel Black Ops II goes a long way towards letting players of various skill levels and play styles experience some of the high-end special attacks they might never have been able to see in previous games.
One of the first things I noticed when I joined a match is the sound. I’ve been griping since MW about the poor quality sound effects in COD titles. The franchise is practically a money printing factory, why can’t they afford good sounds? Finally, Treyarch upped the ante and holy shit does Black Ops II sound fantastic! The weapon sounds have some punch and oh, dear lord the explosion sounds are simply glorious! They’ll rumble your subwoofers just the way you like it, baby. For some reason, the lobby music reminds me of the theme for Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO but… whatever. Sound-wise, my only gripe is a minor one: the “level up” sound isn’t very prominent at all so half the time if I didn’t catch the badge pop up saying my rank had increased, I’d have no idea. Black Ops and MW3 both had very cool and obvious “ding!” sounds that I liked.
More polish: the floating text is very crisp and clear and rendered in an attractive font. When you get any type of “special” accomplishment like a Double Kill, or Headshot a little badge will flash in the upper center of the UI, also very attractive and polished in its presentation. The lobby has a spinning globe that shows where the concentrations of global players are, which is a neat touch. I think the Halo games did something similar and it’s a nice little bonus feature I enjoy checking out in between matches. Another fantastic move on the Xbox is a simplified Mute option. Normally, to avoid the cesspool of Public Voice Chat, I will create an Xbox Live Party for myself so I never hear anyone. MW3, however, is either glitched or coded against me doing that while the game is running. I can create the Party but I’ll still hear all the Public chat unless I create the Party prior to running the game. Black Ops II lets me press X and mute everyone not in my party (lower case “p” to signify the in-game party of friends, not an Xbox Live Party which is cross-game chat) the only thing is that it doesn’t continually update itself between matches. Any new players who weren’t auto-muted already, I’ll have to click the option again but still, that’s better than having to mute everyone one at a time.
Hardcore mode is currently lacking, so we’ve not been bothering with it yet. Hopefully it will get updated with better playlists, though as far as I can tell, Treyarch did not include Ricochet or any other mechanism to penalize friendly fire griefing, so if that’s the case, I may end up just sticking with the Core playlists. Oh, another thing I’m liking so far is that even in Core it doesn’t seem to take a full magazine to kill everyone like it did in every other COD. A few hits and for the most part, I’ve got ‘em unless they had the Flak Jacket perk. So, for the first time pretty much ever, I’m enjoying and preferring Core over Hardcore, at least for now.
So, no real complaints about Black Ops II specifically other than my list of complaints with regards to the entire franchise, some of which I listed above. Really happy I picked this up, it will probably become my multiplayer shooter of choice. Undecided if I’ll get the Season Pass since I’ve never really been a fan of the Zombie mode but maybe I’ll grab the guys sometime and give it an honest chance before I make a decision.
Black Ops II multiplayer: highly recommended!