It’s no surprise that many of the writers on staff at GameNTrain have been enjoying one of the biggest titles of 2012 quite a bit over the last few weeks.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 came out on November 13th for most gaming consoles and PC and November 18th for the Wii U. On December 20th, this game will come to Japan for the Wii U.

In less than a month since its release, sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops are over one billion dollars, an absolutely astronomical number to be accomplished in less than one month!

Black Ops 2 is the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, the ninth entry of the series and possibly the last entry to be released for the current generation of consoles. If this is the last entry of the Call of Duty series to be seen in this console generation, you can expect the best Call of Duty has to offer from both its Modern Warfare franchise and the Black Ops franchise, all included in one game.

This game has a lot to offer gamers who are long time Call of Duty fans and for newcomers of the series with three unique gameplay modes. But is Black Ops 2 a standalone title or will it simply be successful based on the Call of Duty name? Does it borrow too much from its predecessors, Black Ops 1 and Modern Warfare 3?

If you are wondering if this is a game that should be a gift under the Christmas tree for your loved ones, you’ll want to check out this article.

Black Ops 2 for Kids (Up to 12 years old)

First off, you want to keep in mind the ultra violent nature of the game and the game’s M Rating. Black Ops 2 contains some gruesome imagery, including people burning alive, torture victims, rotting corpses, head shots and the usual gun violence present in first person shooters. Black Ops 2 also is known for its rowdy cr0wd of online gamers, who love to use their headset mics to tell you how they are the greatest COD player in the world, but with more colourful words.

However, your kids more than likely will want this game, so Treyarch came prepared. This game has an option that allows you to turn off graphic content in gameplay and cutscenes. This will cause all depictions of gruesome content to become pixelated and blocky, preventing young gamers from being scarred for life. I also believe that it removes the game’s swearing, as it seems like all swearing stopped happening when this mode was active. While I am not the biggest fan of censorship myself, this option does make the game more child friendly so it does serve a good purpose.

That being said, the game is a first person shooter, so its absolutely impossible to block your child’s exposure to elements of gun violence, head shots and all elements of warfare that Call of Duty is known for.

As for online play, you can always adjust the game’s options to mute all online players. This is something you will have to do at the beginning of each gameplay session to avoid cases of online bullying and verbally abusive players. It won’t improve your kid’s skill level though, so expect a difficult battle ahead that could be frustrating for them.

Those options alone are great features for this game and awesome catering to concerned parents. It won’t make this gritty war story any less dark than it already is, but at least there are some elements that you can control.

Black Ops 2 for Teenagers (13-18 years old)

Same rules apply here. Parents will need to buy this game due to it’s M rating, but the content in Black Ops 2 is nothing worse than your child has probably seen on HBO, YouTube or NetFlix. This is a great game to show your friend’s how you can dominate in multiplayer and it also has an addicting play experience online.

Despite this game coming out right around the same time as Halo 4, there are usually over 500,000 gamers online at peak times. The lowest numbers that I have seen while online is around 250,000 players, which is an incredible amount of competition to take on.

As for customization, there is plenty of variety in your online experience in how you can create your character. With a multitude of weapons to choose from and the ability to equip any combination of ten different perks, weapons and attachments, you can make your own unique load-out in many different ways.

You will also get a kick out of the game’s story mode. For the first time, branching story lines have been included into the franchise. Your actions will lead to certain characters dying and determine the success of your mission and the overall outcome of the game. This creates plenty of replayability for the gamer looking for more than just one playthrough.

Tactical missions are also present in the vein of Battlefield and other tactical shooters, although this has been achieved to varying degrees of success. The addition of these levels means that you will find the game has even more variety that a straight-up first person shooter.

Black Ops 2 for Adults (20 to well aged)

For the gamer concerned about his wallet with day-to-day bills, Black Ops 2 is well worth your hard-earned money. The latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise may have same style of gameplay for all of its various modes, but each mode plays like a different game, creating a diverse gameplay experience.

Online, you can play the encamped sniper, the run-and-gunner or the silent ninja if you prefer. Each build of your character is entirely possible.

In story mode, the time shifts in levels creates opportunities for warfare with future tech or warfare with 60s or 70s military drama. Each of these levels creates its own mood or experience that incorporates gameplay cinematics while putting you in the drivers seat.

As for Zombie mode, while I felt the introduction to this mode to be lacking for gamers new to Call of Duty, it is a great experience overall for groups of gamers working together. The only other issue that I have with this mode is that you will always die. I’m not being facetious here or anything, but you could be the best Call of Duty player in the world and there is no way to survive zombie mode. Your goal here is to survive for AS LONG AS YOU CAN, and for me, that turns this mode into a mindless shooting gallery without an end goal in mind.

Despite this, with three gameplay modes, there is plenty of variety to your gameplay experience to keep you busy for the long haul. This game is well worth every dollar spent from you hard-earned wage.

Other Things to Consider

Codcasting Mode – For the avid podcaster or those who just like to gloat, Black Ops 2 has YouTube connectivity built right into the game. It even gives you the opportunity to edit your footage and show only the footage from the battle that you want to include (for terrible players, a god send!). This aspect of social sharing should be built in to all modern games, regardless of genre or system.

Facebook Connectivity – More than likely you want to get your game on with your friends on Facebook. This game allows you to find which of your friends on Facebook are playing Black Ops 2 and have linked their Facebook account to the game. This feature is limited to people who are already using this feature, but its innovative and gives you a chance to expand your roster of online gaming friends.

League Play – Once you’ve got your friends gathered together in one place and have had a chance to get a few games in, you may want to take your game to the next level. That’s where the League Play option comes in handy. Although at this time, not too many Black Ops 2 players are in this mode (last time I played in League Play mode, there were only about 5,000 gamers total), the players who are giving this a go are out to be the cream of the crop. You need to play at least five games for the League to determine your placement, but from there, it’s up to you to do what you can to boost your rank. This is largely to cater to the rapidly developing eSports and Major League Gaming scene. I suggest giving it a go and seeing if this mode is one that you will be interested in.

OVERALL

From my own experience playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, I can understand why many gamers would feel they have played this before.

When you look past the Prestige leveling system and the pick ten elements for customization; gameplay, graphics and overall feel of the game is very similar to that of Black Ops 1 or Modern Warfare 3. That being said, the previous installments of the series were done so well, which can make it difficult to truly take this franchise to a new level without the evolution of a new console generation.

This game has plenty of great options to make it stand out on its own merits. Gameplay flows at 60 frames per second and is incredibly smooth. There were no signs of slowdown or loadscreens once into an online game or playing a level of the main campaign. The game’s story also picks up where the first Black Ops left off, producing as enjoyable an experience as any popcorn movie. If you are expecting hard-hitting and thought provoking drama, Black Ops 2 may not the place to look, but that’s not what this game is trying to deliver. You can expect a gripping war story with impressive visuals, amazing future tech and great voice acting.

The only aspects of Black Ops 2 that downgrade the experience are minor. Turning the game’s graphic content off may be a great option, but it leaves you with ugly distorted screens, as opposed to replacing the graphic content with more child-friendly imagery. Online play also had a few glitches, as I found that I would be randomly kicked out of games for no apparent reason. This happens for all games with online multiplayer however, so you can’t hold that against Black Ops 2.

What I can hold against Black Ops 2 is its Zombie mode. Where the game’s campaign or online multiplayer seem like they could be standalone games in their own right, Zombie mode is unfriendly to newcomers, seems to have a tacked on storyline and really offers no clear victory conditions, aside from “Survive.” What would improve this is if the developers included a simple explanation when you first log in to explain why zombies are running amok, or if they explained what your goals are or maybe a tutorial to tell you about some of the unique tools that you can find. All of this would have been useful to make Zombie mode as solid as the other two.

As for the games feature that allows you to upload content directly to YouTube, I wish this feature was able to be used in all three gameplay modes. Direct to YouTube in the game’s main campaign would have been great for the creation of Let’s Play videos, while videos of Zombie mode would have been great for gamers looking for tips and tricks that other players accomplish in their efforts to survive. I understand the main campaign does not include this feature to avoid spoilers too early in the game’s life, but there’s no reason Zombie mode shouldn’t have this feature.

All in all though, these minor complaints don’t take away from the enjoyment that I had playing this game. I was amazed the first time I got to fly in a wingsuit in the game’s first future tech mission and I’ve spent hours of time trying to level up my soldier in online play, with varying degrees of success. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and its many modes and options are definitely worth picking up and experiencing for yourself.

I give Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 a 4.5/5.

Special thanks to Activision for providing GameNTrain with a review copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

the author

Jeff Johnson is a Canadian journalist and the host of GameOn here at GameNTrain. He was born in Ontario, but moved to British Columbia to learn what it's like to be attacked by deer on a regular basis. If you've got an idea for a feature story on GameOn or would like to be featured as a contibutor, simply e-mail gameongamentrain@gmail.com. You can also find Jeff on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/jeffjohnsongnt