Wed, Jul 03, 2013 | 08:02 BST
Black Ops 2 Vengeance DLC: worth buying?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the third DLC pack for Treyarch’s near-future shooter. VG247′s Dave Cook takes the new maps and Zombie campaign for a spin and asks if the pack’s worth buying.
Missed my appraisals of the previous Black Ops 2 DLC packs? Go here:
We’re now three DLC packs in to Treyarch’s year ‘on duty’, and while the Black Ops 2 content stream has had its ups-and-downs there’s been a notable improvement over Modern Warfare 3′s season of bland maps.
Vengeance has continued the studio’s run of well-planned maps that cater to all play styles, and if anything this pack further underlines Treyarch’s fun approach to design. What it lacks are the environmental hazards that make maps like Hydro and Express fun to play, opting to plonk you in yet more static locales with little to do but run around shooting each other as per normal.
With Call of Duty: Ghost now promising dynamic multiplayer events such as a collapsing skyscraper in debut map ‘Free Fall’, I’m sure the series will ramp up environmental threats further in next-gen, but it would have been nice to see Treyarch bring more hazards into play to really shake up the formula. If anything it makes me miss that bastard train from Express even more.
Either way, the maps on offer here aren’t lazy by any means. I’m always impressed at how Treyarch makes almost entirely new assets for each of its DLC maps, casting a brighter spotlight on Modern Warfare 3′s lazy cut-and-paste jobs with each new pack. But enough waffle, let’s fire on shall we?
This is a remake of Summit from the original Black Ops. You may remember it as the snow map with the ski lifts and radio control room that literally everyone in the world fought over. Literally. Well now it’s a mountain-top Drone lab in Myanmar, which is also where the on-disc map ‘Drone’ is set, so I’m guessing this map is set high above the other facility.
If anything this map serves to underline just how far Black Ops 2′s visuals have come since the original game, with plenty of stormy rain effects battering the environment that curb long-term vision. Thermal scopes are to be advised if you’re going for long range kills, and as seen in the previous game, explosives are your friend if you’re storming the central room.
Speaking of which, the central room at flag B is now a server hub with computer workstations. Interestingly, the back exit and set of steps that used to lead down to the ski-lifts on Summit are now gone, which means there’s one less entry point to the central area.
It’s still a well-designed map, encompassing both high-tech drone lab areas and ancient ruins into one intense battleground. In Domination mode, the middle room remains a hotbed of death and destruction. Enter at your peril, and be sure to use the sneaky concealed walkways by the cliff edge to your advantage. It’s another great remake from Treyarch.
At first I thought Detour was an homage to Convoy, the ruined highway map in the first Black Ops, but it’s much more complex. It’s set on a ravaged suspension bridge in New York, and it’s a terribly difficult map to wrap your head around. There are two levels running up the middle – the road surface with scattered cars, and the maintenance walkways below – as well as lethal potholes leading to the ocean beneath.
The corridors running under the map and along the sides make for great sniper and long range battles, but there are many entry points to the sides, making ambushes a constant threat. You can be spotted from many angles most of the time, and so far I’ve seen many people popping smoke to cover their tracks. It’s a great strategy in both Team Deathmatch and Domination, as it genuinely causes disorientation.
Annoyingly, I was spawn killed several times in one game alone, typically from the entrance to maintenance tunnels by both team’s starting point. The map needs fixed as soon as possible, but I can already see its potential in Domination, thanks to the flat, wide middle section with toll booths on either sides. I can see some decent exchanges happening there. It’s an average map, and a proper head-scratcher until you memorise the layout.
Now this is a deceptive map. On the face of it, this tropical island is just a beach with some rocks and plane debris scattered around. While lovely to look at it just feels really uninspired – that is – until you try it in Domination, then it all starts to make sense. It’s basically a circle with an elevated middle, and this is where flag B lies.
What you’ll notice is that there’s very little in the way of low cover, and no thin corridors save for a plane fuselage in the middle. Each stretch is wide open, which makes each sprint between cover potentially fatal and this is what makes the tension in strategic game modes so tangible.
Plus, when you spawn back in during Domination, you’re never too near any flag, meaning you’re constantly running to wrench control back from your enemies, making for many exhilarating matches. This is definitely a case of map design that was built in the ‘less is more’ frame of mind, and it really works.
What’s more, Cove is compatible with any style of play. Even though the paths are wide and long, they’re also bumpy, which means snipers can’t just hang back and score cheap kills at long range. They actually have to move with the pack to get a good shot at you. It may seem shit at first but stick with it and you should start to see the appeal.
Well, for starters Rush takes place in a paintball centre, which already makes it brilliant, but this is easily the best map Vengeance has to offer. Not only is it made up of entirely new assets, it has memorable areas that each demand a different play-style. You really need to switch up your approach to distance and movement in different zones, making this something of an open-invite skirmish.
There’s an indoor arena with soft play scenery that is so tightly packed together it means you’re potentially never too far from an enemy. Shotguns and SMGs rule here. Outside there is an open air arena full of wooden structures and a paint-splattered bus that recalls the bus section in Aftermath, but again with lots of tight cover.
Also outside you’ll find a raised fort that gives a great height advantage, but is full of entry points to put would-be campers at the mercy of others. Then you have the paintball store and car park, which are both close-quarters and mid-range respectively. Within seconds your range of vision can go from stunted to wide depending on where you run, and you’re never truly hidden from view.
This is one of those joyous maps where you always have to keep on running to increase your chances of survival. Stop for a second and you could find yourself drilled full of holes, just like in Nuketown, but without the constant grenade spam. Speaking of which, Flak Jacket is your friend in this absolutely superb map.
Finally, Buried is the latest Black Ops 2 ‘Zombies’ campaign, and it sends a group of survivors tumbling underground to a ruined Wild West village, hidden for centuries under miles of rock and sand. The idea of tooling around an Old West environment may seem like a barrel of laughs, but previous map Mob of the Dead was always going to be a hard act to follow, and Buried simply can’t compete.
What made ‘Mob’ so interesting was its ghost mechanic, that let players enter the spiritual realm and fly around as an apparition to activate switches and more. In Buried, you’re back to the usual chores of boarding up walls, buying weapons and running around clueless as to what it is you actually have to do for the first ten play-throughs.
The village is also so dark that it makes visibility a real problem, and it also deprives the environment of colour, making it feel gloomy and lacking in character. Sure it’s got a quirky setting, but there was something so inviting about Mob of the Dead’s overrun Alcatraz that really lent it weight, but here I just felt bored.
Zombies die-hards will no doubt love it, but I kept wanting to return to Mob of the Dead instead, thanks to both the ghost mechanic and ace cast. Here you have a B-movie list of characters – wise old guy, feisty tough girl, the nerd and another guy along for the ride. I just felt that Treyarch had boxed itself into a corner with ‘Mob’ and Buried does little to help it escape.
So, is Vengeance worth getting? Well, just like Revolution and Uprising there is a noticeable lack of re-used assets, so once again Treyarch deserves full credit in the effort department. However, I really feel that Buried is a let-down after Mob of the Dead, and the lack of environmental hazards in multiplayer is a repeatedly missed opportunity to do something memorable.
Those gripes aside, it’ll take many more sessions to convince me that Detour is more than just an impressive-looking locale, as I felt it was a bit by the numbers. Those spawn kills also need weeded out. Uplink may be a remake of Summit, but it’s still superb, while both Cove and Rush are great additions to the series.
Vengeance is the weakest of the Black Ops 2 DLC packs so far, but fans will still get a big kick out of it. It can be yours on Xbox Live now for 1,200 points, or free to season pass holders. PC and PS3 release dates are coming soon.