PSA: Black Ops 2′s Campaign Doesn’t Follow Call of Duty Rulebook
If you’re one of the millions who rushed out for the midnight release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and you’re one of the (probably significantly fewer) people who gives a crap about the campaign, this is a public service announcement for you: Black Ops 2 is not like other Call of Duty titles.
You can read our Black Ops 2 review for an idea of what to expect from the title, but from a purely campaign standpoint, there are a few things you need to know about this game. This is the important part: Black Ops 2′s story can change based on whether you succeed or fail at key moments, and the game won’t tell you what these moments are until you’ve already passed them.
This means that when a character barks an order at you that you’ve got only seconds to follow, you might want to pay attention. It also means that, while Black Ops 2 looks like a standard Call of Duty title, it’s actually a lot different. CoD games have been described as on-rails rollercoasters that don’t really allow for a lot of player engagement, but Black Ops 2 has a number of important moments at which you’ll want to be paying attention, when the track forks or the car goes off the rails completely.
Not quite conventional
Treyarch also has done some work to mess with the usual Call of Duty conventions as well. For the most part, you’ll be following characters around, heading from waypoint to waypoint, and completing objectives that show up on your heads-up display. But there will be times when your objective might not make sense, or when taking another path might actually be better; still other moments have you racing the clock, and if the game tells you that hurrying is important, you might want to listen.
The thing about these cases is that if you have a history with Call of Duty, you’re not going to be used to defying what Black Ops 2 tells you to do, and yet to get the “best” story events available in the game, sometimes you’re going to have to do just that. It’s fascinating how Black Ops 2′s story conventions are at odds with all the other entries into the series. All the other CoD games give you little choice as to what to do and when to do it. If you fail to beat a timer, for example, you’ll just get a death screen and reload the checkpoint. The same is true if you fail to kill a certain target or miss crucial surveillance information.
In Black Ops 2, these moments will play into your overall experience of the story, and short of getting yourself killed, most of the time, the game will continue on through your failure. The story will also change because of those failures. Where Treyarch pulls a fast one is that you won’t always know which of the game’s commands you should follow and which you shouldn’t. But we think you deserve to know that there will be times when you’ll have the option, so you’re going to want to pay attention.
You’re stuck with your failures
Here’s another pro tip: You can’t reload checkpoints without dying, only whole levels. If you screw something up, or at least interpret something as being screwed up, you’ll have to live with it or try the whole mission over again. Likewise, while you can replay any mission you’ve already finished, you won’t be able to save the outcome; you can’t alter the story by going back and replaying a single mission. You have to start a completely new story campaign to make any sweeping alterations. Oh, and you can’t catch alternate endings by replaying the final mission of the game, either — you’re going to need to play the whole game again to see things shake out differently.
The cool thing about all these caveats about the story is that your experience through Black Ops 2 will likely be different than those of your friends, depending on how quick on the draw you are about various elements. It’s actually pretty impressive how many things in the standard campaign affect the moment-to-moment story and the outcome of the overall experience. There are also at least three endings, from what we’ve gathered, and possibly more than that depending on the choices you make and your successes and failures throughout the game.
So just know, when you fire up the Black Ops 2 campaign this week, that the game is trying to trick you. The things you know about Call of Duty — the way you follow allies and orders, that you have forever to look around for Intel, and that the game will let you endlessly retry things if you screw up — aren’t necessarily the case in Black Ops 2. And if you want to get the best story experience, you’ll need to know ahead of time to be on your toes throughout Treyarch’s latest campaign.