Call of Duty Black Ops 2 has been out for a couple of weeks now which means I’ve already blazed through the single player campaign on the hardest difficulty level, prestiged a couple times in the multiplayer, and completely ignored the zombie mode… or in other words, I’m a huge nerd with no life. But guess what, I’m not alone. While not the biggest launch in the franchises history, Black Ops 2 made ~$500 million in it’s first day of release, which is still pretty damn impressive considering all of the hate there is for the game (if you read any message board or YouTube comments). Like it or not the Call of Duty franchise isn’t going anywhere and we’ll continue to see a new iteration of the game every year and there will still be millions of people playing the game every day. But that leads us to a more important question, how does Black Ops 2 compare to previous entries in the franchise… Well, even though nobody asked for it, here’s my opinion.

*Note* The “brief” history of the Call of Duty series got a little long, so if you’re just looking for my impressions of Black Ops 2, scroll down and you’ll see it.

For those unaware of how the Call of Duty release schedule works, or how these developers are able to push out a new game every year, there are actually 2 game developers responsible for these games. Treyarch and Infinity Ward trade off years to develop the next entry in the franchise, which means that each studio gets a solid 2 years of development. This is why Call of Duty can put out games every year and it takes games like Halo a couple years to put out a new one. In regards to which studio was responsible for which game, I’m going to start at the beginning of the Xbox 360’s life cycle. I’m aware that there were Call of Duty games that came out before the 360, like “Call of Duty”, but for the sake of argument and the fact that the Xbox 360 is part of the current generation of game consoles, we’re going to start there. Call of Duty 2, which was developed by Infinity Ward, was released as a launch title for the Xbox 360, and since the Xbox 360 was the first time I had jumped on the Xbox Live bandwagon, it was my first experience with online multiplayer on a console. I was big into online FPS games on the PC, but this was my first time playing it on a console full of racist 12 year olds. As it turns out, I have pretty good hand eye coordination so I was quite good at the multiplayer aspects of the game. I was also obsessed with getting achievements on the 360, which are pointless emblems that mean nothing, so I ran through the single player game on the hardest difficulty. It was at that point that I was hooked on the franchise.

Call of Duty 3 was rushed into production after the runaway success of Call of Duty 2, with Treyarch at the helm. When I say rushed, I don’t actually know if the game was rushed, but it sure as hell seemed like it. Obviously with a different developer creating the game it wasn’t going to have the same feel, but the game just played horribly. I gave it a shot, and I think I played through the single player campaign, but the multiplayer was garbage so I found myself back playing Call of Duty 2, and pretty much writing off Treyarch as a developer. The next year Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released and it was a game changer. It introduced a setting we weren’t used to, Modern Warfare. All of the previous games were based in World War II, so this was a welcome change, and it solidified Infinity Ward’s place in gaming history. The following year was a Treyarch year which in gamers eyes meant another year of playing the previous version of the game because there’s no way Treyarch could develop a good game after the abortion that was Call of Duty 3.

call of duty 4

Call of Duty: World at War was released next, and was actually a decent game. Treyarch started to show us that maybe Call of Duty 3 was just a fluke and they could actually develop a solid game. The only problem was Infinity Ward had given us a taste of the future and we didn’t want to go back to the past. World at War brought us back to World War II which was kind of a disappointment. This actually lead me to pretty much skip World at War and continue to play Modern Warfare. Again, I blasted my way through the campaign and played a little multiplayer, but Treyarch hadn’t won me over, Infinity Ward still held that special place in my pixelated heart. There was one game mode that kept a lot of people coming back though, and that was the Zombies mode. Treyarch hit a homerun with this separate survival mode which pitted you and, up to 3, other players against wave after wave of nazi zombies. It was fun for a little while, but it didn’t quite hold my interest. Modern Warfare 2 was released the following year and Infinity Ward had once again proven to be king. There were enough changes to the multiplayer gameplay that made it fresh and it was enough to make me put down Call of Duty 4 and move on, but little did they know that Treyarch was about to rush their fortress with everything they had.

Call of Duty Black Ops was announced for the following year, and with Treyarch slowly sinking they needed to do something quickly. Footage from E3 and rumored gameplay mechanics changes abound, it was starting to look and sound like Black Ops might be fairly decent. The only thing that was still a bit concerning was the fact that Treyarch wasn’t making the big leap into modern warfare, or so we thought. The idea behind Black Ops was that the campaign is told a lot in flashback which gave us the opportunity to jump around in time. So while there were some aspects that took place during vietnam and the cold war, at least it wasn’t World War II. If the campaign was solid, as I stated, then the multiplayer was incredible. Treyarch hit the nail on the head in Black Ops and that’s all it took to win me over. The controls felt tighter, the weapons were better, it didn’t feel as arcady as Modern Warfare 2 did, everything in the maps didn’t look “wet” (like the guys from Gears of War jerked off all over everything), and more importantly, they took out quick scoping. Obviously it wasn’t perfect, but in terms of Call of Duty games up to this point, it was the best option, hands down.

It was starting to become obvious that Infinity Ward might be losing their edge after Black Ops, but the nail in the coffin pretty much came when Modern Warfare 3 was released. With almost no gameplay changes, only a few minor tweaks here and there, and a return to the same storyline that we saw in the previous Modern Warfare games, it was obvious that Infinity Ward was losing their touch. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it enough to play through the campaign and prestige 11 times in the multiplayer, but it never really held my attention like Black Ops did, and at times I actually found myself going back to the Treyarch release to get my fix. Infinity Ward seemed as if they couldn’t survive Treyarch’s onslaught, not to mention the fact that they lost half of their studio, including the founders, and were involved in a pretty nasty lawsuit between them and Activision. It just seemed as if they didn’t care about this release and just assumed they would make a shit load of money no matter what they put out… and they were right. Modern Warfare 3 still holds the record for sales of any Call of Duty game, including Black Ops 2 initial sales, but I think Infinity Ward’s luck just ran out.

Black Ops 2 Impressions

Black Ops 2 was released 2 weeks ago to much fanfare, and although it did not initially sell as well as Modern Warfare 3 did, it’s a highly superior game in almost every way. When I first got the game I dove straight into the multiplayer, as most did, and found it to be very satisfying. There were enough changes from Black Ops to make it fresh, the map design is great, the weapons are fun and interesting, and the new create-a-class system is perfect. The only complaint I have about the multiplayer is that it seems as though Treyarch gave in to people bitching about the lack of quick scoping in Black Ops and brought it back for this one. I know it’s not like it used to be  in the Modern Warfare games, where the crosshairs automatically centered themselves when zooming, but it’s still a bit crazy what some of these kids could do… but I could just be jealous. Some weapons seem to garner a few more hit markers than others, and the shotguns are annoying on smaller maps, but I can get over that. There are still a few spawn issues to work out, but from what I’ve read/heard Treyarch has a system in place that allows them to monitor spawn points and make changes should they need to. It actually sounds like they’ve built a lot of monitoring tools into the game itself in order to properly tweak things in future updates.  The game plays much better than Modern Warfare 3 and I think it’s safe to say that Treyarch has officially surpassed Infinity Ward in the Call of Duty Developer War.

The campaign is also quite fun, although I felt like even on the veteran difficulty level, it wasn’t as challenging as previous games. I do like the fact that depending on choices you make throughout the game, the outcome of the story is totally different. It ups the replay-ability of the game a bit, although I just went on YouTube to watch the other endings instead of replaying the whole game… because I’m lazy. The only thing about the campaign that I didn’t like is the Strike Force Missions. They don’t add to the story and are just kind of dumb. I played one of them and got frustrated and annoyed that I just didn’t even bother to play the other ones. They aren’t necessary to complete the campaign and it just seemed like Treyarch wanted to try something a little different, but it didn’t quite work. I give them props for wanted to challenge the norm of the gameplay, but this clearly isn’t the way to do it.

There is a third part to the game which they have expanded upon from their previous releases, and that’s the Zombie mode. I personally don’t care for the zombie mode so I don’t play it very often. My gripe with the zombie mode is that it’s basically just see how long you can survive, I know Treyarch introduced some other game modes this time, but that’s the main one. This leads to playing for a really long time and then dying and having to start over; not really my idea of fun. Some people live for the zombie mode, I’m just not one of those people, so rather than try and give you my opinion on a game mode that I don’t care about, I suggest you check out reviews from people that have enjoyed that mode in the past to see how it lives up.

Overall Black Ops 2 is a much better game than Modern Warfare 3, in almost every aspect. I think Treyarch has official dethroned Infinity Ward this time which means that next year might not be anything to look forward to, especially if the rumors of another “Modern Warfare” game are true. I don’t mind the modern warfare setting, but that storyline is played out, time to move on.

So what do you guys think of the Call of Duty series in general? Do you think Black Ops 2 is the best game in the series? If not, which is your favorite?

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