There hasn’t been a Call of Duty game on a Nintendo system that’s been on par with the majority of other versions available in nearly a decade. While the Wii versions of Call of Duty were solid, ran well and even featured comparable online features to their HD counterparts, part of the spectacle and the reason for Call of Duty’s rise to blockbuster stardom is the ‘show’ it puts on. It’s the glitz and glamour, the explosions and the stunning set pieces which people return to year after year. This is something that Wii U owners and Nintendo fans can now experience in all its glory for the first time. Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Wii U isn’t just worth owning now simply for the graphics alone; Treyarch have also managed to do what others failed at during the Wii U launch, which was bringing a reason to pick up the Wii U version over the others. That reason is the Wii U GamePad.
Black Ops II, like its predecessor, is set during two time periods – the Cold War era and the year 2025. The Cold War missions follow Alex Mason and Sgt. Frank Woods from the first Black Ops game. In the future you play as David Mason, Alex’s son, while Woods has become decrepit and is rolling around a retirement village. Both men are (or were) after Raul Mendenez, who has gone from being a common terrorist to the one with a cyber-presence. That’s pretty much it for the story, though we’re sure most people won’t be playing for that either.
So how about the core Call of Duty experience? The campaign mode is back the way you would expect it. Treyarch have been wise to include some big changes this year, much better than the A-to-B killing missions, although they are here too. This time the campaign has multiple paths and endings. It’s nothing major but can obviously affect the outcome of the story and Call of Duty lore from here on out. There are multiple “side” missions as well including riding horses, firing missiles from afar and even flying a jet fighter. The latter of which felt very rough and more of a gimmicky afterthought.
Outside of the standard campaign missions there’s new mode called Strike Force. It takes place within the campaign and is only available for a certain amount of time during. Strike Force is essentially a real-time strategy game mixed in with first person shooting and vehicle control. You can play god from above moving units and soldiers around to complete missions or step into the shoes or tracks of units to get up and personal. Sometimes you’ll need to do this, the AI needs a little help sometimes.
The GamePad isn’t used at all really throughout the Campaign, only showing the current mission objectives and the games controls. That’s not really a problem because there’s also a button on there to play the game entirely on the GamePad. There’s arguments for and against playing such a game as Call of Duty on the small screen, being a blockbuster and all – but at least you’re not denied the choice.
If you’re not a fan of the GamePad, Black Ops II allows you to play the game pretty much any way you would like. You can play it like the older Wii titles with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck (a setup some prefer) or use that shiny new Classic Controller Pro.
The main attraction for most people with Call of Duty is the multiplayer and thankfully the Wii U version offers a no-compromise version of it. All of the new additions to the game are here as well. Kill Streaks have been replaced with Score Streaks; instead of rewarding players with a reward just for killing multiple people in a row you can now earn points toward the reward for not just killing people but also assisting, and in other game modes, capturing the flag. You can still only pick three rewards at any one time however.
The create-a-class system also has changed, it’s now called ‘Pick 10′. As the name implies you can now pick up to 10 items to carry on you at any one time. This includes weapons, perks or attachments. There’s also wildcards which can mix up the amount of perks you can carry or use at one time, or add more attachments to guns. Unlock Tokens are also earned for each level you gain and will be required to use some items in classes. It’s all about finding the right setup for your play style but also for the map you’re on and the game mode you’re playing.
The GamePad is used a little more in multiplayer, not just if you’re playing online. With online you can call in streaks on the fly on the GamePad or change your class – this is fully optional. The real joy with the GamePad is playing split-screen and it actually being split. One person the TV, one person the GamePad. When you’ve finished shooting your friend in the face as well you can both take the action online together.
The Zombies mode is again the more relaxed part of the Black Ops II package, not in actual gameplay. It’s hectic as you’d expect with a similar hectic tone to it as well. A robot drives you around in a bus from level to level, to give an example. it’s a relief after the ‘serious business’ campaign and the stress that can be online multiplayer to just see the game “let it’s hair down” so to speak.
On the surface Black Ops II continues to be a stunner graphically and for the most part it also runs super fluid, with only minor fluctuations in the frame rate when things are getting really crazy. However when you look past all the special effects and flash the game’s engine is ageing. Sure you might be used to the Wii version of the game and this is naturally a great setup, but out of all the of the HD shooters, the Call of Duty games beginning to lose their lustre gradually.
In terms of sound and voice work – the voice actors are great, they really give a good performance and its part of the reason why I like playing through the campaign every year. The games soundtrack doesn’t fare as well, it’s not terrible however. It doesn’t really play any memorable pieces throughout the entire game, whereas something like the Battlefield theme is stuck in my head forever for hours after playing.
Choosing the Wii U version of Black Ops II isn’t an easy choice. The Wii U version doesn’t have any new or unique content when compared to the other versions; in fact it’s missing Call of Duty Elite but it does have the Wii U GamePad as we’ve explained previously. The only other really caveat here is that the online community on the Wii U is much smaller than that of the other consoles, there’s plenty of Team Deathmatch games to play but outside of this you might need to find an online community to organise games.
Call of Duty Black Ops II is a complete package of a game no matter what system you choose to buy it on. It’s what constitutes modern storytelling, whether you like it or not. Most will probably already own the game on another platform, but why buy the Wii U version? With the amount of new features that the GamePad brings to the table, both online and offline, it’s encouraging to see a third party developer create a complete game for launch. We heartily recommend this one.