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Verhille: Black Ops II and the Everyone Factor

BY DAN VERHILLE | NOVEMBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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In a storm of foul words, exaltations, and off-pitch singing, those faithful to the Call of Duty series once again sounded off in the online multiplayer.

By the millions, the faithful bought the game to defuse bombs, secure headquarters, capture points, and pick zombie domes. Twenty-four hours after the Nov. 13 release, Black Ops II boasted more than half a billion in sales, outdoing major blockbusters and other video games alike.

While the online multiplayer isn’t substantially different than past games, players eagerly purchase the new game because its popularity ensures it will be the lowest common denominator that “everyone plays.”

The “everyone” factor is a big part of why Black Ops II is so addictive; the matchmaking system does an impressive job matching players with opponents above and below their skill set. I’ve noticed that there seems to be fewer players with streaks of all kills or all deaths, which soothes frustration but also puts a ceiling on joy.

For better or worse, Black Ops II handles very similar to past games, and the controls come back as easily as remembering how to ride your old bike, with the addition of some new tires, reflectors, a basket, and a shiny bell.

You could say a lot of the changes are superficial, but Black Ops II looks really good. Like “tassels on your bike” good. People might hate it, but no one [else] on the corner has swagger like this.

As with any new Call of Duty title, Black Ops II comes loaded with its share of bells and whistles, delivering a virtual smorgasbord of military-grade technology at the player’s disposal. Calling in helicopters is entertaining as it’s always been, but the game really shines behind the sights of a firearm.

In the new “pick 10” system, players are allotted 10 components to create whatever combination of guns, attachments, perks, grenades, and equipment they prefer. Under this new system, a relatively new player and an experienced player have equal assets under their control, but the experienced player has more options to choose from.

The “pick 10” system doesn’t permit the high-level players to have an advantage by having more stuff, but the perks and guns rewarded at higher levels are clearly superior to the lower-level items.

Because players will usually choose to “prestige” their player — resetting their level to zero in exchange for some extra benefits — you rarely encounter the most ferocious guns and perks that are available only to players at the highest levels.

I love the adjustment to shorter spawn times, I never liked being forced to watch the instant replay of someone blasting my virtual ankles to death until my player respawns. The game flow online is smoother for the change and a big improvement from its erratic stop-and-go predecessor.

The smooth flow of Black Ops II’s entire online multiplayer will likely be its strongest leg to stand on going into a competitive holiday season.


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