Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss Black Ops II’s Campaign

A lot of people wouldn’t consider a Call of Duty game to be ranked amongst the best single player campaigns of the year, instead dismissing it as a poor, generic shooter without any real substance. That can be true though – personally I thought that last year’s release, Modern Warfare 3 was a bit of a farce, filled with clichés and generic shooting sequences, never really hitting the right notes for me.

I thought that the first Black Ops campaign was great, however; filled with action yet keeping a really strong narrative, something which hadn’t been seen from the series since the brilliant Call of Duty 4.

Black Ops II, then, surpasses anything we’ve seen before in a Call of Duty game in terms of storytelling. It manages to keep the fast-paced, incredibly fun action along with the grand set-pieces and fuses them with a fantastic plot.

[videoyoutube]There’s a few reasons for this, the first being due to the fact that the gameplay is all kept within the family, so to speak. You’ll play as several characters, but they’re all very close to each other, interacting with each other throughout cutscenes between missions. The main two characters are Alex Mason – the main protagonist of the first Black Ops game – in the 1980s. and his son, David in the 2020s, along with a host of other allies and villains.

The main antagonist is great, too – Raul Menendez has a fleshed-out backstory, which is revealed as you play through and though you may empathise with him at times, he remains as a true evil force that both Masons must try to take down. There are some nice tricks up Black Ops II’s sleeve to keep you entertained throughout and Menendez is amongst the best of them.

Each main campaign mission fully serves its purpose to forward the story – there’s minimal filler throughout and all of the missions are truly great and different from each other. It’s still a much more unified story, too, so you shouldn’t be confused as the game flashes between not only different countries but different time periods.

Choices play a big part in Black Ops II – it’s a refreshing change for the series. Your first decision before any mission even starts will be to choose which loadout you’ll take into battle with you. Your loadouts are fully customisable, much like their multiplayer counterparts and you’ll become comfortable with the weapons, attachments, equipment and perks that you like, rather than ones that you’re forced to use or pick up as you progress through the campaign.

Each level has its own array of choices you’ll have to make – some are blatant press X or Y variants but there are also some really subtle things that you might not catch the first time around, many of which aren’t always hinted at. It’s a brilliant system, and the payoff is great too, with the multiple endings stemming from all of the choices that you make in each of the missions.

These sometimes hard-hitting choices are oddly but effectively paired with over-the-top action sequences and more explosions than you could ever hope for. Some of these set-pieces are genuinely fun and many left me smiling from ear to ear as I rode a horse or shot enemies in slow motion. Make no mistake, this game isn’t without its moments, but it isn’t dumbed-down, either.

Areas are far more open than previous games, with multiple routes to take – it feels like much less linear and much more of a triumph than we’ve seen not only with Call of Duty but with any first person shooter in recent years. It’s an extremely well-designed game and Treyarch have really proved themselves with these last two releases.

[drop]There’s one fatal flaw in the campaign, which lies with the several (optional) RTS-style missions that do need to be completed in order for the best outcome story-wise.

These missions have some good mechanics, with multiple squads and the option to switch between standard RTS controls and controlling an individual troop, but they ultimately fall flat; they’re far too hard on the higher difficulty levels, with only limited retries and there’s no option to simply switch difficulty without changing it in the main story, too, with no way to up the difficulty level afterwards.

So, you’re stuck with either failing these on a hard difficulty level, or playing the campaign on an easier level, with no in-between options. It’s quite annoying, meaning that I left the story for a while.

I went back to it though, and all was well – the missions still didn’t disappoint and the game just got even better as it went on – there were a few nice twists along the way and plenty of action to keep anyone happy.

To put it simply, it might just be the best Call of Duty campaign yet – the multiplayer is still good fun and Zombies can be a blast, but Treyarch have really delivered with the exposition in this game, showing that the Call of Duty franchise can be something much more than just another shooter.



  1. Not started this yet but I’m probably in the minority of people who have been looking forward to the SP more than the MP, since I rather enjoyed Blops1’s campaign – despite the below par visuals and sound.

  2. Enjoyed the campaign a lot, but still think that CoD 4 is the highlight of the series for SP, followed closely by this, then BlOp’s. CoD 1 and 2 were brilliant as well for the story but in a different way, as it wasn’t made up as such.

  3. How long is the campaign? I’ve no interest in multiplayer so considering renting it and wondered if I’d be able to get it finished in a few evenings as I did with the last few CODs.

    • 7 hrs tops and i looked for all intel!

  4. Interesting, but I didn’t think Black Ops 1 was a good story, more a series of displaced lighting glitches pieced together by less than satisfying (and more notably linear) than any meaningful cohesion of story.

    I personally thought CoD 4 and 5 are the best, Treyarch of course with 5 did a great job of ending the second world war with a little pastiche to other WWII texts.

    It is good to hear that the levels in BLOPS2 are less linear. but my faith in the story is not very strong and I am not in to multiplayer, so perhaps I’ll end up buying this next autumn or something.

  5. I actually really did enjoy Black Ops II story was very different but fantastic in a way.
    Going to do my 2nd run through for a different approach/path and see what happens.
    The First Black Ops was okay but actually prefer Black Ops II
    I hate RTS in this game….. I did not enjoy it at all!

  6. I’ve only played the series up to Modern Warfare 2, but my favourite is still the first. The atmosphere seemed to be created in a totally different way, there were more sit and wait moments while mortars rained around you in the woods or a single truck of Nazis drove past and to me they were genuinely more nerve racking than the breeches or sieges more common in the latest games. The AI was of course a lot simpler, but the fact the enemies sometimes dug in during the first two games added to the atmosphere more than the blind rush you see now. I dunno, maybe I’m turning into a grumpy old fart, or maybe I’m remembering it all wrong, when the originals do inevitably get remade I hope they go back and play them a few times to get properly scared of the Nazis first.

  7. I’ve only just started this in the last couple of days, finished the 1st 2 levels and are really enjoying it. One thing, I always do my 1st playthrough of any COD on veteran because I like a challenge, but this article’s got me a bit worried about the RTS stages now. Hope i’m wrong:p

    • I had to skip those RTS missions on Veteran as they are actually impossible. Annoying.

      • Oh well, looks like a new dualshock might be ordered from santa if that’s the case! Unless i just kick the dog instead;)

      • fukin A load of plop!!!
        why integrate these into the main story?
        why not add them as a separate mode!

  8. Interesting, i’ve paid scant attention to the cod series of late but i might have a look at this when i can pick it up cheap.

  9. confusing mess of psychobabble !
    some sort of spec ops mode inter weaved with the main story and load out selection before each new section..
    add a completely fucked up bag of bollocks of a multiplayer and treyarch have ruined call of duty yet again…
    speaking on behalf of the xbox version cant vouch for ps3!

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