Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops II (mostly) hits the mark on Wii U
When I reviewed Call of Duty: Black Ops II a couple of weeks back, I was floored by the level of quality that Treyarch had reached with the series, even if some folks feel like it's gotten a little long in the tooth. (Let's see if they're saying that during that freakish dive through a fleet of planes, however.) They have truly arrived at their peak moment in development with the series, and something tells me they can only get better from here.
With that, we come to the Wii U version, which arrived a few days over the other consoles and offers a couple of slightly different things over those versions. But does it really make this version the definitive one? Not quite, due to a couple of online hiccups and mild performance issues. But if the Wii U system is all you're playing with right now, this is still a strong enough version to take in.
The game's main story mode, as you might know by now, revolves around Raul Menendez and his vendetta against U.S. military, for personal reasons. You'll clash with him in both the past and the present, as the storyline weaves between events that tied in with the original Black Ops (though you don't need its storyline to "get" events in the game) and the future, in this case the year 2025. It's a satisfying enough story mode, with plenty of frenzied moments, from a horseback ride in the desert to a rollicking raid on a huge tech facility.
In all, the main story plays out very well on the Wii U. Being able to switch between TV display and the GamePad screen at any time is a welcome feature, and there's hardly any loss in quality when it comes to the transfer. There are times that the frame rate hiccups, however, most noticeably during the more fire powered sequences in the game. The PS3/Xbox 360 versions run a slight bit faster, but this isn't too bad at all.
Likewise, the audio quality has kept up in full here. Jack Wall's soundtrack is awesome, as always, and it's fun hearing actors like Tony Todd and Michael Rooker do their jobs to full effect. (And, yes, Sam Worthington returns for a second round with his Mason character.)
As for gameplay, you can use either the Pro Controller or the GamePad for your shooting needs, though if you want the definitive way to play, the GamePad is the way to go. I wouldn't say it's the most fully featured use of the touch-screen, but being able to switch classes in multiplayer is a decent touch, at least.
The story will take some time to get through, but from there, it's all about the multiplayer, and here is where Black Ops II slacks ever so slightly. The servers aren't the greatest on the Wii U front, as we found ourselves dropping out of a couple of sessions in error due to connection problems or not finding anyone immediately in our lobby. We're sure this'll pick up over the holidays as more people pick up the game, but for now, it can be hit and miss with some sessions.
Fortunately, there is a saving grace with the ability to add a second player locally. Not only can you work together in heated multiplayer sessions (complete with all the modes and perks from the original game – gotta love some Kill Confirmed), but you can also take on Zombie mode together without finding additional users. This feature works very well, with one player seeing the action on the GamePad and another through the TV screen, even though the frame rate does skip a bit in certain parts. Still, it's good to see Activision take advantage of the co-op in a rather cool way.
While this version of Black Ops II doesn't really get the nod over the others (it really does come to the online multiplayer accessibility and slightly lesser frame rate), it's still a terrific game that introduces first-person shooting rather effectively on the Wii U. And you can finally play locally with a friend without needing to hook up a second TV and game system. That's a saving grace for quite a few of you out there…though you'll still get yours with a well-timed tomahawk throw. Ouch.