Call of Duty: Black Ops II has got another map pack, but is it worth the price of admission?
In this review I’ll take you through each of the multiplayer maps included in the Uprising DLC, before taking a look at the celebrity filled Mob of the Dead, the latest addition to the ever popular Zombies mode.
The first map I encountered on my Uprising journey was Magma. I had a lot of hope that this map would offer something truly unique, but these hopes were quickly smothered. Unfortunately, the lava you encounter in-game isn’t the environmental hazard it was initially presented as. Sure, if you somehow manage to fall in to it, you’ll perish in a molten mess, but you’d have to have the hand eye co-ordination of a sloth on cocaine to fall victim to the stationary lava flows. Treyarch have really missed a trick here: while I don’t expect Battlefield levels of destruction, they surely could have done something with the volcanic force of nature.
In terms of gameplay, Magma is a basic medium range map. There isn’t much room for sniping here, but players who excel at using assault rifles or SMGs will find the kills coming thick and fast. Aside from a few interesting areas, the map fails to leave a lasting impression in terms of gameplay. The one redeeming feature of Magma is that the map has plenty of visual flair, and a vibrant colour palette makes Magma one of the most visually striking maps in Black Ops II.
Studio was the next map I tried, and I immediately had mixed feelings about this one. Studio is a map that some of you may find oddly familiar. That’s because it’s ‘based’ on the Firing Range map from the original Black Ops - and when I say ‘based on’ I really mean it is a re-skinned carbon copy. That’s my main issue with this map; sure, it’s an energetic map that rarely produces a boring game, but it’s still a revamped copy and paste job. Don’t be fooled by the new Hollywood aesthetic: this map is Firing Range in all but name, and I can’t help but feel that Treyarch should have put a little more effort in here.
Moral gripes aside, Studio offers high pressure gameplay, with plenty of close encounters to keep the adrenaline pumping. I personally prefer to use my SMGs on this map, as the narrow pathways and tight nature of the map make them invaluable. That being said, I have seen snipers excel here, so there is room for experimentation. Studio is without a doubt the best map included in the DLC, and the fact that the best map is one that Treyarch have released before isn’t necessarily a good sign.
Encore was up next, and it carries on Uprising’s theme of presenting visually unique maps. Set in a futuristic amphitheater on the banks of the Thames, Encore offers players a map where smart tactics can go a long way to securing that all important victory. The map, semi-circular in shape, resembles a basin in that there is low ground in the centre, with elevated pathways and rooms surrounding that area. This design choice means there is a variety of interesting flanking routes, and this encourages players to use a risk reward strategy. For example, if a team can work well together and maintain a hold of the stage area, they will be in a good position to dominate the map. However, the stage has minimal cover and is open to flanking, so players must be alert to these dangers. Clinical shooting is key.
The previously mentioned basin design means that Encore really shines when it comes to the objective based game modes such as hard point and domination. In these modes players are forced to enter the line of fire in order to win. Groups of highly co-ordinated players will do extremely well on Encore, and it offers a nice chance of pace to the run-and-gun maps some players may grow tired of.
Last, but by no means least, is Vertigo. Set atop a skyscraper, Vertigo is one of the more interesting maps in the game. Depth has been implemented well in Vertigo, and there are lots of ways to get the jump on your opponents - and I use that phrase in the most literal of senses. The outskirts of the map consist largely of pathways interrupted by the odd open space. In the center of the map you’ll find the interior of the skyscraper, which is another confined environment. These intimate settings mean that using close range weapons is a necessity, as is checking your corners. The faster classes also hold a distinct advantage on this map, so, make sure to choose the right perks if you want to dominate the opposition.
Like those on Studio, the games on Vertigo are usually relentless in pace, and they’re also a huge amount of fun. Players who like to go lone wolf and rack up the kills will have a lot of success here. It’s also almost impossible to ‘camp’, as the map offers too many flanking routes for any player to feel safe in one spot for a prolonged amount of time. Vertigo is a map that rewards those who play quickly and clinically, with games often coming down to the wire, and it’s during games like this that Call of Duty is at its very best.
Uprising’s other content comes in the form of the new Zombies mode, aptly titled Mob of the Dead. Set during the prohibition era, you’ll play as one of four mobsters imprisoned in Alcatraz. The mobsters, played by gangster movie pro’s Michael Madsen, Ray Liotta, Joe Pantoliano and Chazz Palminteri - can somebody tell me where the hell Joe Pesci is? - must escape from the island whilst also dealing with the inconveniently timed zombie apocalypse.
A lot of gameplay elements in Mob of the Dead remain unchanged. You’ll still fight waves and waves of undead, you’ll still save up points to open doors and buy and upgrade weapons, and you’ll still probably meet your demise cornered and alone. What’s different here is that Mob of the Dead actually has something of a story, and it’s the first Zombies mode to offer an actual endgame that doesn’t result in your untimely demise.
Completing the mode won’t be easy though, and it requires smart use of the all new afterlife feature. This is the biggest change that Mob of the Dead introduces, and boy is it a game-changer. Whenever you get downed in Mob of the Dead, you become a spirit that can then explore and access new areas of the map. You can also enter the afterlife voluntarily by committing suicide via electric puddle. Using this power wisely and working together as a team is the only way to escape the island.
Grief mode is also present, albeit in a separate and more confined map. I’ve personally never found Grief to be all that appealing, and it always seemed like something of a confused mess next to the bigger, more refined, modes such as Tranzit. That being said, I don’t doubt that there are some players out there who enjoy the mode, and if you’re one of them, well, now you’ve got another map to have fun with.
If you weren’t already a fan of Zombies, I highly doubt that Mob of the Dead will appeal to you in any way. For Zombie aficionados though, it offers a slightly different take on the mode you know and love, and I have no doubt that you’ll be sinking your teeth into this one over and over again.
The biggest issue I have with the Uprising DLC is the price. The DLC can be bought for 1200 Microsoft Points, which seems slightly steep considering one of the maps has been ripped straight from the first Black Ops. In the end though, the maps are good fun for the most part, and the inclusion of the fantastic Mob of the Dead just about justifies the price tag. If you’re something of a casual Call of Duty player, then you might be able to go without the Uprising DLC, however, if you live and breathe CoD, you’ll want to pick this one up as soon as possible.
This review is based on downloadable content provided by the publisher for Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Xbox 360.