Call-of-Duty:-Black-Ops-II-Uprising-DLC-Review Call of Duty: Black Ops II Uprising DLC Review

   26/04/2013 at 11:08       Richard Horne       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Black Ops 2, Uprising, Mob of the Dead, Call of Duty, Treyarch

Of all the recent Call of Duty releases, Activision and Treyarch’s Black Ops II left me the most conflicted. Prior to its release, I had, without a moment’s hesitation, gobbled up every single map pack and piece of downloadable content for every Call of Duty release since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. But with Black Ops II and its packed DLC release schedule, this most recent offering, titled Uprising, is the first one I’ve actually played. And that’s admittedly only because the PR team were kind enough to send me a review code.

What’s also a first is the fact that some 6 months after its release, I still haven’t even ‘prestiged’, whereas normally I’d be on prestige level 2 or 3 by now. Clearly, I’m playing much less of Black Ops II than all previous entries into the series.

And it’s not that it’s a bad game – it’s clearly not. Some of the design decisions made by Treyarch were intelligent, well designed and added a whole new layer of strategy to what’s already a hugely comprehensive package. The revised class system is actually a fantastic addition to the series and really, and genuinely, allows players to tailor their classes exactly to their gameplay styles. Whereas previously you’ve had to shoe-horn yourself into one of 5/6 pre-defined roles. 

My main problems with Black Ops II are down to the aggressive spawning and its supposedly new-and-improved hit-detection.

I’ll be honest, I’m the biggest camper there is. I love nothing more than bunkering down, surrounding myself with claymores or bouncing Bettys and letting the action come to me. I get a great deal of satisfaction from silently picking off unsuspecting adversaries and then enjoying the mind games as they come to try and exact some retribution. Treyarch knows this, and designed Black Ops II in such a way that it’s easy for opponents to deal with people like me. The fantastic Black Hat device and Sit-Rep perk combo, which lets you detect enemy equipment from a safe distance and turn it against your opponent has really turned the tide against me.

Plus the egregious spawning really doesn’t help my cause. 

You see Black Ops II has a certain rhythm to it. Nothing ever sits still. Everything is always in a constant state of flux. Players are encouraged to constantly circle around the maps, zip in and out of doorways, corridors and hiding places. Enemies will spawn behind you, in front of you, around you. It’s very difficult to get settled and bedded down and that frustrates me no end.

Plus, as alluded to earlier, the new hit-detection system is also partly responsible for mine and my friends’ falling out of love with the series this year. So many times it’s appeared to me that I’ve shot an enemy before he saw me, but yet the replay shows an almost entirely different scenario. The enemy saw me long before I fired, lined his sights up with my head and blew it clean off. WTF? NNNNNGGGG.

Anyway, I’ve digressed far too long.

Uprising, then, the latest in an ever-growing series of map packs contains 4 multiplayer maps, Vertigo, Magma, Studio and Encore, plus a new Zombies campaign called Mob of the Dead.

Black Ops II, with its near-future setting has always been a lot brighter, more colourful and vibrant than previous entries into the franchise and with the release of Uprising, it certainly continues that trend. The map Magma for instance, is set in a futuristic Japanese village cut off from its surroundings by a trail of molten lava being erupted from an active volcano. With its neon-lit Blade Runner-esque buildings, it’s anime-styled billboards, and devastated tram system juxtaposed against its fish market and traditional architecture, it’s quite a dazzling locale. As ever, there’s plenty of verticality, cover to hide behind and open corridors for those that prefer to run and gun.

Studio meanwhile, is set in an abandoned Hollywood film studio and features sets from a variety of genres such as the classic Western, Science Fiction and monster movie. It shows a developer really having fun with its level design and allows it to seamlessly transition from one disparate genre to the next without shattering the illusion of a cohesive and well designed universe.

Encore is set in London in the grounds of a futuristic music festival and sees the action take place around its central amphitheater. Similarly to Magma, it’s full of garish purples and reds, modern architecture and elaborate building design and sits well within the game’s universe. It’s probably my least favourite of the new maps, but how much of that is down to the fact I got regularly annihilated is hard to say.

The final map Vertigo, is set high above the clouds on top of a giant Indian skyscraper. Featuring a much greyer palette than the previous maps, the action takes place on two tiers: the high open space surrounding a VTOL landing pad is perfect for snipers and long-range action, while close below is a series of smaller offices and corridors which encourage close-quarters combat, meaning there’s something for all styles.

The final addition to Uprising is a new Zombies mission called Mob of the Dead, which is apparently and remarkably the fifteenth such mission in this popular side-dish Activision has gone to great lengths to crow about its recruitment of Ray Liotta and Michael Madsen (plus Chazz Palminteri, Joe Pantoliano whoever the fuck they are) and Treyarch has clearly put a lot of resources into the development of this Alcatraz-based mission. High production values are established immediately with the decent-enough intro cut-scene establishing how this merry band of gangsters manages to escape their cells before taking on the zombie hordes.

I’ve never really gotten on with Treyarch’s Zombies missions before as I’ve always found them somewhat dull and repetitive and lacking the dynamism of Valve’s seminal Left4Dead series. And so I was ready to dismiss Mob of the Dead as more of the same, but Treyarch has introduced a radical new feature with this entry called the Afterlife which quickly made me re-evaluate my opinion. Players have a certain number of lives, and when you lose a life you enter the Afterlife you’re able to move around the map in a ghostly form electrocuting zombies and triggering switches for a short while – fail to return to your dead body in time and you die for real. There are certain parts of the map that can only be accessed in afterlife mode and certain switches that can only be activated in your ghostly form. Therefore there’s a delicious balancing act between staying alive, killing zombies and earning enough money to purchase the myriad of weapons and power-ups and deliberately entering the afterlife in order to proceed through the mission. This makes the usual Zombies trope of having to collect various parts in order to build something to aid your escape a lot more satisfying and I actually put a lot more time into Mob of the Dead than all previous Zombies modes combined. With like-minded individuals and good level of co-operation and communication it’s actually a really fun addition and arguably more interesting than the multiplayer maps.

Treyarch is clearly having a lot of fun with its level design these days and the fact it’s managing to churn out consistently good maps after so many previous releases is testament to its in-house design team. That Mob of the Dead also manages to breath some much-needed life into the hugely-popular, but in danger of staganating Zombies co-op mode also shows a willingness to listen to its fans and mix things up a bit. 

As ever, if you’ve already left the franchise behind, then Uprising isn’t likely to draw you back into the fold – wait for more details of Call of Duty: Ghosts – but for hardened veterans of the franchise, a few new maps to add to the existing rotation is never a bad thing. Going through the motions, then, but still with a certain amount of aplomb and a lovely splash of purple and turquoise.

Stars
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