Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 PC Review: Missed Opportunities
Note: We previously reviewed the bulk of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for the Xbox 360, as review codes for the PC version were not available ahead of launch. Therefore, you’ll want to check out our first review for more detail on elements like story and multiplayer: This review focuses primarily on the game’s PC-specific qualities.
Like most games, the further I get away from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the less it impresses me. My first run through the game found it a competent rehash of all the things that sell these games to the masses; my second and third times through, for various reasons, have shown off more of the rusting scaffolding holding up the brightly colored carnival rides that make up the parts of the game we normally see.
Playing through the PC version of Black Ops 2 is a decidedly weaker experience from its console counterpart on the Xbox 360. Technically, the game sometimes feels like it’s shambling along like many of the undead that populate its Zombies mode. Framerate troubles seem to plague many players (myself included), as do other technical gaffes and weirdo bugs throughout parts of the game, which I didn’t experience on console. That Black Ops 2′s multiplayer suite continues at the same, often pulse-pounding pace it always has, is the saving grace of the title. Otherwise, things are just so-so.
While Black Ops 2 has the innovation Treyarch tried to give it to lean on — I’m still of the opinion that it’s nice the developer tried to stretch out and grow as much as the rigid Call of Duty framework might allow — it’s a game that feels heavy with missed opportunities on PC. A few of the extra touches are nice, like field-of-view controls in the options, but there are parts of the game that should be tailor-made for PC players, and Treyarch failed to capitalize on the potential.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2012
The part that should excel on PC is Black Ops 2′s newly added Strike Force mission set. The campaign includes five of these special levels, in which players can view a group of assets from a top-down tactical perspective and control them as you would in a real-time strategy title. What’s more, you can instantly zip down and take control of any asset to get a first-person boots-on-the-ground perspective, and that includes drones and other robots.
Strike Force should be Black Ops 2′s bread and butter. It’s a brilliant idea, in terms of the CoD formula; it feels like the natural evolution of the same well-trod paths we’ve been walking down for the last six games, adding a new and exciting dimension to the polished shooter gameplay Activision’s developers perfected a while ago. And on PC, one assumes Treyarch would have found the perfect medium for Strike Force, giving players expanded control through the use of the keyboard and the best possible responsiveness with the speed of the mouse.
Instead, PC players are forced to use a bad adaptation of the console controls for Strike Force. On a gamepad, switching between sets of units is done with a dedicated button. It makes sense, given the limited real estate of a gamepad, and makes fast-switching between personal control of units, as well as controlling them more broadly, work well. Or at least, as well as an RTS really can work on a console gamepad, which is to say, passingly.