Bread and circuses: Black Ops 2 is just another shooter

Thursday, 3 May 2012 08:07 GMT By Brenna Hillier

A lot of people are extremely excited about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Brenna Hillier? Not so much.

I still don’t give a shit about it. Call of Duty is the Da Vinci Code of games: entertaining but basically stupid, and the only association a good 90% of its consumer base has with the medium.

You know who’s excited for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2? Kim Kardashian, a woman famous for being famous. You know who else? The barely literate Facebook acquaintances who used to play sport at my high school, and a woman I met down the pub the other night who told me I’d probably be attractive if I plucked off my eyebrows and drew them on with pencil.

Call of Duty has crossed the boundary from bestselling game to mainstream cultural force; a thing which brings in more bacon than movies and Harry Potter; something everyone’s heard of even if they don’t know their consoles from kangaroos.

I still don’t give a shit about it. Call of Duty is the Da Vinci Code of games: pretty entertaining but basically stupid, and the only association a good 90% of its consumer base has with the medium.

I’m not very good at shooters, and I’m not hugely into multiplayer, so naturally I’m never going to be overly moved by what Call of Duty brings to the table, no matter how spectacularly and skilfully it does it. But even with that in mind, I really had hoped that this time Treyarch was going to do something sufficiently different and tempt me into the biggest selling franchise in our industry.

After all, Black Ops surprised me with how different it felt; the Cold War environments and conflicts seemed like a breath of fresh air. The future setting of Black Ops 2, on the other hand, comes at a really bad time. It’s not sufficiently removed from Modern Warfare 3′s “near future” to look startlingly different, and coming right as Ghost Recon: Future Soldier goes into overdrive makes it look played out.

Treyarch’s second stab at Black Ops. Brenna
doesn’t like it.

That’s an accident of timing and fashion, and I should probably get over it, but nothing else I’ve heard moves me, either. The promise of “non-linear campaign moments” seems restricted to recurring multiplayer maps which have minimal impact on the game. Access to gadgets and future tech isn’t a promise to move outside of the “run from the start to the end and shoot” pattern the last three Call of Duty games have espoused.

Call of Duty isn’t a sports game; it doesn’t have the lure of roster updates to push me into yearly iterations. So where’s the difference? What is it about Black Ops 2 that’s supposed to make it supplant its precursor and Modern Warfare 3 in my life?

Maybe we’ll get an answer to that over the next few months, but right now it really looks like the answer is “nothing.” Just as Hollywood expects us to flock to another big dumb action movie and publishing houses expect us to read the latest big dumb spy thrillers, the industry expects me to line up for another big dumb shooter, forking over my dollars for the same thing over and over again because the explosions are a different colour this time around.

Yeah. No. I think I’ll probably have plenty else to keep me occupied come November.

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