Call Of Duty hasn't been kind to Nintendo fans. Wii's ports resembled school productions of the other formats' Hollywood blockbusters: all cereal box skyscrapers and mushroom clouds conjured with weedy guffs of dry ice. Online modes were missing and those that made the cut were abandoned at birth: no DLC, no patching, no chance. But after five long years of battered COD, Activision has finally promised Nintendo Wii U owners the real deal.
Treyarch has made a pretty game about ugly warfare. Voyeuristic grimness - slit throats, immolated soldiers, slow-mo gunshot wounds - plays out with a polish we've not seen in our COD games. Your stomach (and conscience) may well lurch at Black Ops 2's fondness for graphic torture, but it's hard to take your eyes off a framerate and textures that'd make the Wii gag.
Admittedly, it bears the hallmarks of a team getting to grips with new hardware. The goal of 60 frames per second dips into the 30s in busier scenes and there's some shadow and texture pop-in. There's little rhyme or reason to what it can and can't handle: a rain-lashed mountain ascent plays seamlessly, but an old dude in a wheelchair causes the cutscenes to creak.
Playing the entire game on the GamePad screen is a cool option, even if it does sap the epic scale. And during long-ranged fights, the size of the screen transforms opposing forces into fleas. GamePad play is better suited to multiplayer, as it enables you to take the game away from the TV. ONM's online strategy meetings are much more productive when you can 'pwn' some 'n00bs' under the boardroom table. Though the swearing-upon-death thing gives us away.
Oh My COD
It's important that BLOPS2 looks good as it often uses spectacle to distract from what is quite a mundane shooting gallery. Hints of freedom - a level on horseback, another in a fighter cockpit - disguise endless corridors where hostiles pop up with the mechanical regularity of a funfair duck hunt. You just keep lining up the headshots until the next global landmark falls over.
To be fair, these are Treyarch's most ambitious corridors to date. Customisable loadouts let you to season the linear story to your liking. It even boasts its own unlock system: meeting certain criteria earns you more campaign kit. How long until online and offline play share one profile? Some missions even present two corridors, letting you choose between, say, sniper overwatch or running the gauntlet below.
The writers weave an impressively reactive yarn around these rigid events. Key choices impact events in later missions and the final outcome of the game. Characters can die and vanish from the game entirely, superpowers can crumble and the bad guys can win. Treyarch is brave in how little signposting it includes. Odd moments scream IMPORTANT MORAL CHOICE, but most junctures pass unnoticed. Fail to lay down some suppressing fire, or allow troops to burn military intel, and repercussions might not be felt until the final hours.
This, paired with challenges and branching mission paths, makes for the most replayable Call of Duty campaign yet. It's just a shame it hasn't evolved the mechanical nuance needed to sustain interest to see all six major endings. Annoyingly, you have to restart the story from the start in order to tweak any decisions.
It makes sense that the story itself is about sins of the past infecting the future, with flashback missions showing how shady ops in the 1980s laid the foundations of a cyber threat in 2025. Really, it's an excuse to wheel out BLOPS1's heroes for missions in the past and play with robot spiders and tiny helicopters in 2025. We're not sold on wrist-mounted grenade launchers, though: is throwing really the biggest problem facing the modern military?