Well, for our first formal post since announcing our return (despite being a few days late), Schwarmenius & Friends will be easing into things with its first video game musings. There is actually a reason I use the term “musings”: it isn’t a formal review analyzing gameplay mechanics in a consistent and definitive manner, and it includes a lot of trivial facts and details about things that largely have no effect on the gameplay itself. The musings will not be consistent in structure, length, or focus either. How each one comes together will just be how it happens to occur. With that out of the way though, I now present you with S&F Musings for Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II (from the perspective of the Xbox 360 platform).
When it comes to realism with the Modern Warfare/Black Ops series of titles, there’s a lot of hit-or-miss, but Treyarch typically comes out on top of Infinity Ward for a number of reasons. For instance – the original Black Ops, while still mistakenly referring to the AKS-74u as a submachine gun with the misnomer “AK-74u”, and even setting the late ’70s-developed weapon in 1968 Laos in the hands of communist guerillas, did earn big points in my book by actually creating a new model for the weapon. Usually this isn’t anything special, but in this case, Treyarch had the good sense to use an ACTUAL AKS-74u variant for the weapon model – this standing in stark contrast with Infinity Ward’s 3-titles-and-counting track record of using a decidedly different model for their “AK-74u”; it just so happens that this model is based on a Chinese-built “AK47 Spetsnaz” airsoft gun. It’s little things like that that keep Treyarch safely in my favor, but not overwhelmingly so.
So when Black Ops II was announced to have a concurrent Cold War campaign alongside the main 2025 storyline, I was rather interested. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the Cold War setting of the first Black Ops game, bringing to light many interesting factors of the conflict (such as the SR-71 Blackbird [albeit portrayed inaccurately] and H&K’s caseless wunderwaffe, the G11). I was more relieved to find out that BO2 would set its Cold War missions in the 1980s, likely resolving numerous problems with anachronistic weaponry that (for me, anyway) plagued Black Ops. Take for instance the FAMAS, a French-made bullpup assault rifle: despite the game occurring no later than 1968, the initial FAMAS prototypes were not developed until 1971, and were not adopted by the French military until 1978. This is a pretty egregious offense, but it is made far, far worse by Treyarch’s use of the FELIN variant of the FAMAS, a modernized Picatinny rail-equipped variant developed for the French equivalent of the US Land Warrior program and built in – drumroll, please – 2001!
So yeah, the 1980s setting helped.
When I did finally get into the campaign, I was somewhat disappointed to see only four 1980s missions and only 2-3 weapons per class. That said, though, the guns that did make the cut were undeniably Cold War legends. By class, they are:
–Pistols: Colt M1911A1, Browning Hi-Power, Makarov PM;
–Shotguns: Beretta Model 682 (called the “Olympia” ingame), Franchi SPAS-12;
–SMGs: H&K MP5A3 (when equipped w/ suppressor, model becomes MP5SD3), IMI Uzi, AKS-74u (called “AK-74u” ingame, depicted with no stock and default black finish);
–Assault Rifles: Colt Model 604 (called “Colt M16A1” ingame, also known as the “USAF M16”), the composite AK rifle from Black Ops (called “AK47” ingame), FN FAL “G Series”, IMI Galil ARM (with default black finish);
–LMGs: Saco Defense M60E3, RPD (model reused from Modern Warfare 2);
–Sniper Rifles: Barrett M107 (called “Barrett M82” ingame, identifiable as M107 by its full-length upper Picatinny rail), Dragunov SVD (with default black/green synthetic furniture);
–Launchers: RPG-7, FIM-92A Stinger (depicted as capable of free-fire and usable against Russian armor), Hawk MM-1 grenade launcher (with 24-round capacity, despite being modeled with 12-round cylinder), M203 grenade launcher, GP-25 caseless grenade launcher, “Valkyrie” launcher (SA-14 Gremlin MANPAD modified for MACLOS [Manual Command Line of Sight] operation);
–Etc.: Spetsnaz ballistic knife, fictional man-portable GE M134 minigun
All things considered, a damn fine lineup, especially when attachments and theatres of operation are considered. Some are a bit out of place, such as the “USAF” M16 being used by special forces operatives in 1989, when the M16A2 and 30-round magazines had been widely issued to frontline troops. All in all though, having FALs blazing through Angola, Kalashnikovs littering the sands of Afghanistan, and MP5s and M16s laying down the law in Panama makes for a damn enjoyable side-campaign.
I’ll lastly touch briefly on some of the 2025 weapons as well. The mix of existing production guns, early prototypes, and theorized future developments touch on just about every proven and high-level tested technology. The PLA entries have undergone noticeable cosmetic modifications from their current real-world counterparts, but still retain the core design elements. The US entries are much more numerous, but rather sporadic in their implementations.
For instance, the machine guns have been streamlined to just three subtypes:
–IAR: FN HAMR w/ drum mag;
–LMG: ATK M250 LSAT (having apparently replaced the venerable M249);
–GPMG: FN Mk48 Mod 1.
In another case, the pistols have four entries with three equally-likely candidates for the official US sidearm. Each one, like the machine guns, fills a specific subtype of pistol:
-Two conventional modern handguns, both manufactured by FN Herstal:
–Five-seveN USG: 5.7x28mm AP, 20-round magazine, low recoil, rapid ROF, lower damage;
–FNP-45 Tactical: .45 ACP (11.43x23m), 10-round magazine, higher recoil, slower ROF, high damage; and,
-Two experimental automatic pistols (both fictional to varying degrees):
–B23R: (presumably) 5.7x28mm AP or 9x19mm NATO AP, 15-round magazine, fires 3-round bursts at very high ROF with moderate recoil and high damage per burst (based on Beretta 93R);
–KAP-40: .45 ACP, 15-round magazine, fires in full-auto at high ROF with high recoil and above-average damage per shot (based on prototypes of TDI Kard, incorporating a similar recoil management system as TDIs Vector SMG).
Excluding the B23R, every handgun enjoys nearly equal representation among US non-player troops, leaving little evidence of which one is standard-issue (though it can likely be assumed from cutscenes and ingame cinematics that the Five-seveN holds that distinction). This manner of tactical ADHD also shows in the assault rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles.
All that said, the diversity of weaponry in both the 1980s and 2025 cover just about every type of tactical ground there is to cover, and ensure there’s never a shortage of kickass weaponry with which to raise hell.
Other than that, the campaign is well-constructed, voice acting is top-notch, maps are gorgeous and exciting, and multiplayer is incredibly addicting. I’ll be losing a lot of sleep thanks to the evil wizards of Treyarch.