Black Ops 2: not bad, for a CoD game

Black Ops 2 isn’t a game I’d be qualified to review even if I had it.  I enjoyed the first Modern Warfare, but that was the last title I spent money on. I’ve played multi on MW2 and zombies on Black Ops, but they didn’t sell the games to me. I thought perks got a bit out of hand, and from a lot of hearsay and a little experience, the single player campaigns weren’t up to much.

But I was corralled into a Black Ops 2 event in London this weekend past, and I did play a variety of maps and modes across a good four hours of game time. So I do have a few impressions to share. Namely, it sucked me in for four hours. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that  the chart topping, testosterone fuelled phenomenon that is Call of Duty is actually fun, but it’s easy for someone like me to lose sight of. More than that though, I was surprised just how fresh it is, and how brilliantly a formula not so much well-trodden as boot-stomped still functions.

That wasn’t just because I was getting a lot of kills – it’s not that unfamiliar – but rather how fluid and frenetic the combat felt. My gripe with CoD compared to Halo was always that combat could be a bit slow until the point where you actually, you know, engage in combat. At which point you very quickly die. There was no pacing, and it either made it extremely enjoyable or painfully humiliating, depending which side you were on. I didn’t have that experience with Blops 2. The map design was almost uniformly fantastic, with no obvious positions to give campers an unfair advantage. Every high spot was as easy assailed as fired from, and no-one could afford not to keep moving, such was the ease with which you could travel around the map.

The weapons also felt more balanced, and perks less pivotal. Movement, including climbing (*cough* MW3 *cough*), was constant and breakneck. And there wasn’t really a bad mode to pick from. I especially loved Kill Confirmed, essentially team deathmatch but requiring that you pick up friends’ and foes dog-tags upon their deaths for extra points. Areas of no-man’s land were littered with prizes nobody could risk collecting, with teams having to sweep areas and then fight for individual tallies.

The apparently new Hardpoint is such an obvious concept that I’m amazed nobody thought of it already. The freedom of movement across maps is put to good use with constantly changing positions to attack and defend, with the constant – and incredibly satisfying – opportunities to sneak up on players or ambush whole teams. And Search and Destroy and Demolition have lost none of their flavour. Demolition on the cruise ship map involved some inspired flanking, and ample opportunity for charges and claymores.

So what more is there to say? The single player might be a pile of wank, I grant you. And maybe people who lingered longer in the series than me will be suffering CoD fatigue. But it seems that if you’ve been buying a CoD game a year for the past five, a bad one wouldn’t do much to put you off. And loathe as I am to say it, this isn’t.

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