Turkey day is a couple weeks away, here in the States. Today many of us are already showing our thanks–to Activision that is. It’s November 13th. The launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has descended upon the frag-focused masses.  James and I are both meticulously pushing through the single player campaign, the undead zombie romp and the endless carnage of multiplayer. So the GR review, like any succulent sauce, will be up after a bit more time to marinate.  I know legions have preorderd this one long ago. But for those you who remain on the fence with the “safety” still on… Here is a brief rundown of what the quick-to-publish have to say, married with a few of my own early impressions.

From my brief take so far, Black Ops 2 feels very much like the original Black Ops. Don’t get me wrong; that’s not a bad thing. But it’s not necessarily a great thing. If you were looking for innovation to the game engine or core mechanics like shooting or storytelling, then you are in for a dual-edged surprise. The story is again, way over the top with you being thrust and yanked from various settings and timelines. It’s disjointed, disorienting and very “Call of Duty”. Each individual sequence is told with impressive storytelling and rather accomplished voice acting. Developer Treyarch has even included a neat branching mechanic where choice can lead to different outcomes. So replayability is an actual “thing” now. It’s a nice break from the very confining and linear structure of past CoD games. But the campaign as a whole seems to leave much of the press thoroughly unenthused. Polygon even wrote, “Black Ops 2′s campaign and Zombies mode are disappointments, especially coming off the across-the-board success of its predecessor.

Also new on the single player side is Strike Force. These are a series of more tactical missions wherein you can issue commands to the NPC in your squad. But as G4 astutely points out, it’s broken! They report, “Unfortunately, the artificial intelligence in these units just isn’t enough to get the job done, and after much frustration you’ll find that it is often much easier to jump down into a single soldier unit to get the job done.” Even so, Polygon goes on to state, ” Black Ops 2 succeeds with its changes to Multiplayer and re-emphasis on teamwork.”

A scoff at the formerly celebrated Zombie mode is a telling one. In the original it was a welcomed break from the unwavering single player and the white-knuckle intensity of multiplayer. Yet it seems even the undead can’t offer much exciting respite this time around.  Giant Bomb writes, “This was a neat idea back in World at War, and I understand that people seem to like it, but I just can’t stand it.” This is despite the new modes and inclusion of team-based multiplayer within the zombie game. For me as well. I never understood the draw. It was neat, yet I couldn’t get on the “Best…Mode…Ever!” train, driving the fervor. This line from Giant Bomb really speaks to players like myself, “Tonally, it’s full of a bunch of quirky, weird characters and dialogue that, as someone who didn’t obsessively play the mode in the last Black Ops, makes no sense whatsoever.” While many will argue the fun of it all, I think we can all understand, the zombie aspect has become it’s own thing and should be treated as such.

Unsurprisingly, however, multiplayer is just as intense, just as addictive and even more rewarding than in the original Blops 2. Game Front points out, …Black Ops 2 offers a great deal more customization than previous titles…” Myself, I’ve only reached level 10 and this is more than evident. Players will be able to fine tune their character to more specific play styles than ever before. That may not be killing. GameFront continues, “Treyarch has also de-emphasized kills to a degree in dolling out things like in-match score rewards — instead of getting “Killstreaks,” you get “Scorestreaks,” which means players are rewarded for kills as well as for fulfilling objectives, or shooting down drones or clearing mines, and so forth.” You can expect a familiar experience. But the tweaks, new items and weapons lead to some distinctly nuanced events and consequences.

The graphics engine, while touted as overhauled across the board and equipped with bionic DirectX 11 capabilities on PC, comes off looking just as it did last year in MW3. It’s a point Destructoid drives home well, “the game’s engine really can’t do anything to hide its age anymore.” They continue, “… I feel this is the last time a COD game can get away with simply modifying IW 3.0. It’s time to replace those innards.”

Speaking about the PC specifically, James enlightened us all on the new Nvidia drivers, which boost performance and offer TXAA devoid of shimmer (anti-aliasing format). But I do not detect anything distinctly DX11. There is no impressive or enhanced use of tesselation, advanced physics or the like. That said, the game looks as good as it did 12 months ago and runs butter smooth on my PC so far.

Are we surprised? A little! Zombies and the campaign are bit more underwhelming than usual. But it’s Black Ops, which I prefer over MW2 and MW3. I love that tomahawk. Multiplayer really feels the same and that’s not bad. It’s twitch and twitch done well, albeit a bit more arcade-like this time around. It’s not BF3 of course–different games, different mechanics and play styles. But it’s more BLOPS on new maps with a lot more ways to customize your character using new toys and such.

Nonetheless I’m curious what our GR readers think. Was this helpful? Have you picked up your copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2?

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 was released today November 13 for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC and is available at Amazon.com for $59.99.

Shawn Sanders

Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.