They say that truth is the first casualty of war. We don't know who said it, or when it was said, but we are damn inclined to believe it. Shockingly, our first impressions of Call of Duty: Black Ops II is one of a AAA title that has embraced America's less than squeaky clean image of global, back-door malfeasance over the last 40 years.
Talking about the game in any critical capacity is the equivalent of sailing between a Scylla and Charybdis made up of fans that knew exactly what they wanted from a sequel, and everyone else hoping for a breath of fresh air in a genre widely viewed as stagnant. That being said, we here at Complex are still digesting the game, and this is merely an initial look at the campaign mode. A full review, including multi-player and zombies, will be forthcoming.
Plot is, and always be, what drives me to fully accept a game as great or not. I know that I will be in the minority here, particularly with Black Ops II. That being said, Activision and Treyarch have gone out of their way to beef up the single-player mode with a Hollywood ready narrative that would make the ghost of Don Simpson proud.
Black Ops II is the the continuation of 2010's Cold War pandemonium. Leaping into the not so distant future of 2025, the players are given a healthy dose of future war armaments from the beginning of the game. Wrist-mounted grenades, wing-suits, and active camouflage are all front and center of the title, lending a bit of sci-fi peppering to a franchise normally compulsively obsessed with the hyper-realistic.
The narrative of the game shifts between two different time periods as players try to hunt down an elusive and charismatic, almost messianic, terrorist leader that plans to dismantle every aspect of American superiority. Raul Menedez, at first glance, would seem as villainous as any carbon-copy heavy from central casting. However, what Treyach has succeeded in doing is creating a villain that is complex, nuanced, and almost worthy of sympathetic pause.
Shifting between the past and the future as Alex Mason, and his son David, players will track Menendez from the war-torn tribal regions of 1980s Afghanistan to the stream-lined urban sprawls of the future. The art direction in the game is a welcome shift from many of the other modern shooters on the market. The monochromatic khaki and browns that most of theses games are plagued with changes considerably with the addition of lush jungles, futuristic compounds, and detailed urban centers.
The solo-play remains linear in a mission objective capacity, but widens the berth within those boundaries, giving the illusion of a massive environment with more than one way to complete an objective. Open fields, widened hallways, and rubble strewn streets all combine to make the Black Ops II campaign a mode of the game with an identity of its own, not just something tacked onto a multi-player frag fest.
Player choices will also have an effect on the outcome of the game, lending the possibility to multiple endings. Decisions made mid-mission will determine who lives or dies over the course of the game. So far this is the best Call of Duty campaign experience we've had and we can't wait to finish it up.
Check back in for a full review of rest of the campaign, multiplayer, and zombie modes later this week.