Well hello there. If you’re reading this then that means you’re interested in the Wii U version of Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Since my good friend Chris Kerr has already reviewed the game on the Xbox 360, which essentially covers most of what the game offers, and since both versions are nearly identical, this article will instead deal with what Call of Duty: Black Ops II brings specifically to Nintendo’s new hardware.
For those of us who call Nintendo systems our platforms of choice it always seemed that for the past few years major third party efforts were forgoing Nintendo platforms in favour of their more powerful competitors, system sales be damned. However, there is one franchise that has constantly delivered across all platforms and that’s the Call of Duty series. The Wii-centric efforts (okay, forget Call of Duty 3) have always delivered the same fantastic gameplay that fans have come to expect. Of course, the less powerful hardware meant certain features and content was held back, but now that Nintendo’s joined the HD fray with its more powerful Wii U console the full Call of Duty experience has been brought to a Nintendo system for the first time, with some unique features to boot.
Over the past few years the Call of Duty series’ various developers have stayed pretty close to the franchises’ golden boy - the original Modern Warfare - when it came to gameplay and pacing. And while the series trappings are still present in Black Ops II, developer Treyarch has injected several changes to make this the freshest Call of Duty yet. You still battle endless waves of enemies until you reach invisible checkpoints, and sometimes the game feels like it’s holding your hand through set pieces, it’s still one hell of a ride and the gameplay is as riveting as ever.
Of the changes brought to the game, being able to select your loadout for campaign levels is a huge boon. That aside, one of the biggest changes are the new SpecOps levels which stand apart from the main story. In these stages you take control of a squad of troopers either directly or indirectly (RTS style) and try to accomplish your objectives. You can switch between squad mates on the fly (Battalion Wars style) or play the entire level from the perspective of the eye in the sky, it’s up to you. These SpecOps levels are a great addition to the series and break up the eventual monotony (and I use the term loosely) of shooting and blowing things up.
If there is one area where the Wii U version of Black Ops II takes the cake over its console counterparts it's in the control department. The amount of options the game throws at you is simply ridiculous. You can of course use the all-new Wii U Gamepad, or the (equally new) Wii U Pro Controller, but the developers have also included support for the Wii’s Classic Controller and even the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo. This last combination is above and beyond the best way to play Call Of Duty, period. Incidentally, the entire game can be played directly on the Wii U Gamepad, with no lag whatsoever, even in heated online matches, so now you can ‘pwn’ everyone from the comfort of your toilet seat.
It wouldn’t be Call Of Duty without the world-famous multiplayer modes and for the first time ever on a Nintendo brand console the entire, uncut experience is at your fingertips. Everything including all of the game types (though good luck finding enough people to play some of the lesser used types), player customization options, leagues, scorestreaks (love ‘em or hate ‘em) and CoDcasting (where you can record and upload your favourite battles for the world to see) makes it to the Wii U. You can also play local, split-screen multiplayer (though only on a HD TV, due to resolution issues).
The full blown Zombie mode is also present on the Wii U (which is a vast improvement over the half-baked one the Wii got in Black Ops). Here you can take on the undead horde in three modes: Classic, Grief and Tranzit. And while they all offer some fun, brain busting good times, it’s Tranzit that steals the show, to the extent that it makes the other modes feel redundant. The only drawback is that, as with the online multiplayer modes, there aren’t very many people actually playing online right now.
In fact, the only thing that isn’t currently supported is the Call of Duty Elite program, though the developers have promised to look into bringing that service over to the Wii U as well. In past reviews I've praised the online aspects of the Wii editions of Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, which featured the best online support that the system had to offer, but with Black Ops II setting the bar this high on the Wii U the future definitely looks bright for Nintendo’s latest system.
Visually the game looks on a par with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, which currently makes it one of the best looking games on the system. The only major graphical drawback is a slightly inconsistent framerate and textures that, upon close inspection, look pretty blurry (though this is unsurprising given that the game is running on the same engine that powered Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007). The soundtrack is another high point, transitioning between quiet, tension building moments to high octane, blow-everything-in-sight-up set pieces with eloquence. The cast of Call of Duty: Black Ops II is also world class; with every line of dialogue being delivered without a hint of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ acting, this is a game that’s as good to watch and listen to as it is to play.
The campaign’s ten hour story may not be the most varied in the series’ history, and I feel it may be the easiest entry in the series as well, but as with any Call of Duty game the multiplayer aspect is sure to be where most people spend their time. Simply put, the amount of gameplay modes and options here alone could last you hundreds of hours, or at least until next year’s instalment is released.
At the end of the day the version of Black Ops II that you pick up will probably rest entirely on your personal preferences and which system your friends play on, but rest assured that Black Ops II on the Wii U delivers the same white-knuckle campaign and fantastically addictive multiplayer as it does on other platforms. All of this is, for the first time, wrapped up in the same shiny package that players on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are enjoying. Nintendo fans, the third party drought is (hopefully) a thing of the past.
This review is based on a Wii U version of Call Of Duty: Black Ops II, provided by the publisher.