Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Reviews

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Vengeance review

While Battlefield 3 has exhausted its DLC arsenal, signing off with the excellent End Game back in March, its more recent rival in the Call of Duty stable still has another map pack to go before handing over to Ghosts in November.

Before then, when the attention of FPS fans will surely be drawn by the shiny possibilities of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, we have Vengeance, another seemingly randomly titled selection of multiplayer maps and Zombies add-ons. Despite the generic tough guy title, Vengeance proves to be yet another solid addition to a game that has already had some truly great bonus maps.

The weakest effort this time around is Detour, a cramped map set on a battle-damaged bridge on America's east coast. This setting defines the design; a long and narrow gauntlet of death where cover comes from mangled cars and emergency barricades. There's limited verticality, with a small underside area accessible through the smashed tarmac, and a couple of trucks topside that offer a minor height advantage. Despite the length of the map, sightlines are mostly short with only a few locations suitable for sniping.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Uprising review

It seems like only last week that I was praising Halo 4's Castle map pack for its old-fashioned focus on good, solid maps with nary an overarching theme or eye-catching gimmick to tie them together. That's because it was last week, and already here's Black Ops 2 to illustrate the point with its latest exuberant blast of downloadable content.

Call of Duty has always been the big, boisterous puppy of the shooter scene, and that's never been more evident than in this goofy quartet of new multiplayer maps and bonus Zombies campaign.

Studio is a good example of where this map pack is coming from. A remake of the Firing Range map from the original Black Ops, it's a tense cluster of enclosed spaces with long, vulnerable lines of sight separating them. In the centre, a raised tower offers an ideal vantage point for snipers, though its obviousness makes it an immediate target and the threat of a melee kill from a ladder-climbing enemy means it's only tactically valuable for bold players.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Revolution review

Revolution is a loaded word to throw around, particularly when connected to a series widely - and sometimes wrongly - perceived to be stuck in its ways. Black Ops 2 made a surprisingly successful effort to shake up the Call of Duty formula, adding branching narrative threads and custom loadouts to its bombastic campaign corridors, but despite the name that experimental urge doesn't quite make its presence felt in the first batch of premium priced DLC.

Revolution is a peculiar finger buffet of content, containing four multiplayer maps, a new Zombies map, a new Zombies game mode and one new weapon - the first DLC weapon in the series.

That aspect has caused some consternation among fans, but despite some impressive stats the Peacekeeper is not a gamebreaker. Combining the best features of an SMG with the range and punch of an assault rifle, it's an incredibly handy piece of kit but it won't be replacing the painstakingly unlocked and customised weapons favoured by the long-serving player. What it does do is offer a more robust starting weapon for new players, and that's a crucial benefit now that the game's player base has had time to cruise past the prestige ranks, and punishing Scorestreak bonuses are rife.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review

The changing of the guard.

Let's not be coy. We both know why you're here. You want to know if this is the one. Is this the game that will finally turn the tide and see Call of Duty given a bloody good kicking? Believe me, I understand that impulse. We're conditioned to root for the underdog, not to cheer on a champion that's already spent five years on top.

Sorry to disappoint, but Black Ops 2 is not the cynical obligation you might think. It may be destined to earn all the money in the world between now and next November, but that assurance has gifted developer Treyarch with confidence, not arrogance. For so long considered the second-string studio, brought in to add to the series on Infinity Ward's off years, Black Ops 2 sees Treyarch not only adding to the franchise but taking ownership of it. This is a game that dares to take a billion-dollar formula and muck about with it.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the campaign mode. Bucking the trend for increasingly stunted single-player shooter experiences, Treyarch has returned to the belief that the solo portion of an FPS is the beating heart of the game, not a grudging tradition useful only for bombastic trailer shots.

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