MULTIPLAYER - GAME REVIEW
MATCHMAKING, LAG & HOSTING
- BOII has a new ping-based matchmaking system and it works, sort of
- having superb net in a highly populated area with recent cabling playing solo or with others same & choosing best search gives no noticeable lag
- playing with 1 or more other partymates who have different ping (due to location, bandwidth, cable quality, other users, etc.) will open up matchmaking likelihoods (to allow a match) & reduce lag-free possibilities
- increase in party members with varied ping will remove no-lag experience for those of whom it was possible, will give others variable lag, some will be in same lobby types as normal due: essentially the party pulls normally fast pingers into lobbies they can’t ping fast to and where no-one is pinging as fast as those others in the fast ping lobbies, cos party isn’t made up of same-ping-ers
- splitscreeners are more noticeable in these lobbies, the double-drag on one connection forcing them out of fast-ping lobbies
- 6 (often 4 or more) party members with varied pings will play in matches where someone always lags badly
- general party functionality reduces with more party members, especially with multiple pings (loss of member while searching or between games)
- it is possible to play in 2-3 man party with mixed pings and have tolerable lag but it depends on a few things and will never be same for everyone, normally fast ping-ers will notice this more than others, who will have their more “typical” experience
- hosts appear to be chosen afresh for each match and I have little to report here. Migrations do occur but people appear able to play successfully as host
What does all this mean?
You should be able to get a better grip on your matchmaking. If you have a non-optimum set-up or play in a party with others who have a different set-up you will recognise lag approaching levels of the last 2 games.
So you can play solo or as a 4-man team (from a group of more). The problem here is cyclic. You have all features unlocked and no stats or significant XP transfers to your regular “Public” progression so the only motivation is in moving up league tables. Solo play went ok, I suppose. There were 1600 players on League Play (teams) when our lot went for placement and the matches were, extremely laggy, stupidly laggy and insanely laggy (so much that the in-game sound went for the whole match). It’s like surreal COD. It’s not really fun in those scenarios. I wonder what will come when being matched within the division… (to be continued).
With the exception of SPM being a poor statistic on some game modes and awful on TDM (objective is K minus D, score given purely for K), the player progression system is fantastic. Treyarch got this right. You unlock what you like at the rate of 1 item per level (with the condition that items are level-gated), attachments are weapon level-gated and camos are unlocked by challenges, proper and decent weapon-related challenges.
Then there’s Custom Classes at 4, Combat record at 10, letters for Player Card at 51 and numbers at 54. Ranking up is great.
Prestige consolidates this by allowing all challenges and unlocked Player Card emblem pieces to remain, plus weapon ranking too, only the level-gating prevents you from having it all back. But there’s always the Prestige perma-unlock token.
There’s perhaps a shortage of HC modes I’ve heard, but I’m sure there would be matchmaking problems with this. There seems to be on anything with a low number of gamers playing. I can only cite core TDM as safe for high pingers.
The Multi-team playlist is a laugh and competitive, it forces teams to be aggressive. Hard point is an exciting fast-paced game mode but it’s more about learning the key locations of defendable hard-points than holding the less-defendable ones.
NEW FEATURES & REVAMPED OLD FEATURES
I’ve mentioned Prestige. Weapon Prestige is excellent too. Allowing levels for attachments, challenges for camos and weapon Prestige for clan tag and emblem imprint.
Create-a-class “pick 10” is a treat. You can end up chopping and changing so much that you come back to a standard set-up. The choices are there and everything has its worth.
The emblem creator is even better than in BO. With 32 layers, more editing options, plus multiple saves available, this is a beast of a tool- I’ve already made friend’s emblems, clan emblems and 7 for myself. Yes, I am that driven.
ELITE is better. How much better? Some, it still malfunctions but by simplifying it, it’s better. I would have liked to have seen the clan emblems be incorporated into the game of the game emblems for the clan but otherwise so far, so good. I don’t know how the levelling up will go. I had hoped that this was attached to League Play but evidently not.
I cannot comment on theatre or streaming, yet.
Weapons, Equipment, Perks & Scorestreaks: Balanced.
Yes, they are, well sort of. There’s a nice mix but a few points….
- high scorestreaks are too hard to achieve for most people, this means they are less-selected and consequently lower streaks become rotated more often. In general scorestreaks are great. I’d tweak a few, take the 1000+ ones down by 25%, the only time I see them is from a Care Package and that then becomes unbalanced.
- hip-fire SMG, too dominant, I’d tweak this slightly, there’s no benefit of going downsight
- rate of fire of some sniper rifles, crazy
- aim assist (not just on sniper rifles and Target Finder attachment, where it is high) but on all weapons there’s an overt level of turn an lock-on.
- a couple of perks (eg. Awareness) could be stronger to balance, Scavenger replenishes lethal equipment for example!
- SMG’s are surprisingly good in many situations and ARs barely recoil
Graphics & Sound: Superb.
The whole experience on PS3 is well up from BO and MW3. I love the music intros, the guns sound beefy, the map environments are lively, natural-looking at times, of bright and dark contrasts. It’s all smooth and a good immersion.
Maps functionality, style, size & variety.
In short, they’re too small and lack variety. However I need to add more. They are very good once that has been said. They have a lot of “spaces” rather than “space” and that makes them intriguing and challenging. They are also a lot more dynamic than MW3 maps, even BO to a degree.
The problems lie in combat proximity, spawning and playing styles. With SMG hip fire as strong as it is, QS, no-scope, fast-sniping deadly and useful SG’s, all-round AR’s plus beastly LMG’s with Target Finder combat is fast-found and over fast. It’s all a bit hectic. The maps themselves are all “small-medium” to “medium” sized when considering all of COD’s online maps. The largest does not compare to WaW or even the biggest maps on MW, MW2 or BO. Conversely, there’s nothing as tiny as Dome from WaW or messy and tiny as Dome from MW3.
Re-spawning is still being fixed?
WaW’s large maps allowed for safe re-spawns, BOII’s doesn’t yet. There’s good news though, flip-spawning and spawn-trapping (Launch, Havana, Summit) is basically gone.
You will however find some random spawns whereby you – die almost instantly, - meet your last kill/death in seconds, - spawn where you died, - spawn somewhere close and in the natural path of a lethal device. Just hope that you don’t get them all in the same match.
ERROR LIST (in any order and occurring once or often)
- graphics delay on end of game medals
- thrown into lobby when navigating somewhere else
- in game sound cut out (on laggy games)
- in game sound spike (fixed?)
- informing of letter/number unlock each Prestige when available after 1st
- no-talk moment for party leader when searching for game
- mute all but party mutes one in party
- hard freeze (fixed?)
- menu lag (partially fixed?)
- in game archiving (synchronising profile after spawning when attempting to look at standings)
- player prestige sometimes gone in player list
- loss of party member
- delay regrouping when one player was kicked
- large parties always have destroying lag
- ping bars non-conclusive to experience in game
- split screeners synonymous with laggy lobby
- cannot connect to player/party
- large party functionality in both navigation and matchmaking
MULTIPLAYER - GAME REVIEW: SUMMARY
Multiplayer works already and hopefully it will get even better. I encountered some of the bigger issues that many people did, but not all. I encounter increasingly less issues now, the biggest being lag. I feel I have some control over it though as a single player BEST search usually gives me a sound game. I can even play with 1 other player if he’s in my neighbourhood but as a party is bigger or further from that, lag becomes all dominant. Unfortunately, that is what I enjoy most, team-play with my friends. Right now, that decreases the experience. I’m hoping this can be improved somehow.
With small maps lag is accentuated. With that comes an increase in undeserved deaths and then re-spawns. With smaller maps, risky re-spawns become accentuated (small maps + lag = re-spawns; re-spawns + small maps + lag = trouble).
The player progression, general game balance, Player Card emblem creator and create-a-class are all magnificent. The maps could have had some better variety, a wide-open whopper (bigger and less cluttered than Carrier), a huge urban map, more multi-levels (like Kowloon or Creek) and more “dead end spots” for resting, spawning, package retrieval, etc. (like many maps on WaW).
Matchmaking & Lag: variable 5-9 (it isn’t MW2)
Party functionality: 4 (could improve)
Customisation/Ranking up: 9.5
Other features (create class, ELITE): 8
Gameplay balancing (weapons etc.): 7
Gameplay maps: 6
Overall: 7 out of 10
It’s not World at War.
Map size, one dimensional gaming style and party functionality (lag when playing in a group) bring down what is otherwise a stunning effort.
COD4:MW - 9.0
COD:WAW - 9.5
COD:MW2 - 7.5
COD:BO - 6.5
COD:MW3 – 3.0
Next up, at the start of the new year, I'll be looking at the hot fixes, patches, BOII PS3 community and the basic functionality of the game 2 months on.
 CAMPAIGN (no spoilers)
I started the campaign on Tuesday (day 1) and finished on Friday (day 4) having put most of the hours in on Wednesday when there was the online "error" issue.
First off, the campaign is glossy, slick, varied and audibly excellent. In short, it is a fun cinematic experience.
Looking in depth at the campaign, shows that a lot of time and effort has gone into the production. I feel that Treyarch see this is as the vital basis from which to launch into multiplayer and zombies. The difficulty settings are there, as before, although unlike Infinity Ward, Treyarch don't go for the opening time trial to gauge your level.
The introduction to the story and the world in 2025 is spread throughout the entire campaign, and so that gave me 2 sensations. I wanted more story but at the same time I was often confused. Confusing the gamer can make for a re-play through and better understanding but for me it numbed the experience.
I felt that the role-swapping of controlled character, the voice over from both NPC's and controlled character and the timeline jumps across 2 generations of the same family line blurred the complex story into one that made me just want to progress.
It could be that others take more time and appreciate the complexities, I usually work that way, but alas not here, no. I was looking to move on the whole campaign.
The variety of levels was very good. In many situations you could control something different or had different interactions but ultimately it is an interactive story. More interactive than pushing a button in a museum, but still well restricted. The addition of the "story defining levels" was nice but I failed to feel that I was changing events. Until I play again, I will fail to feel that there were any other outcomes. The story is like that, it plays out as fact, an interactive movie. Even if we're told what could happen, you never contemplate more than what comes next. There were little visuals or timelimes that attached these levels to the main story. They were a bit disjointed and felt inconsequential. A good try though.
Finally, the bombastic Hollywood feel. Yes, towards the end especially, you hit a series of surprises, twists and "emergency change of plans". One is enough, 2 is predictable, by the 10th it's more routine than reloads. I'm one for sincerity and subtlety, by the end of the campaign I was up for conclusion.
I may seem harsh, I should give credit to some of the stroyline twists and thought that went in here, it's more the way they play out and how your controlled character can deal with them, that I am citing.
I was satisfied to be done and overall it was a worthwhile experience, mostly for the variety of levels, scenery, and as an background for the multiplayer game. No COD campaign has come near MW1's. For me, the BOII campaign was a 6.5 out of 10 experience.
One thing further to add. The music is fantastic. Jack Wall, Trent Reznor, and the countless other composers, conductors, producers, instrumentalists, vocalists and remixers have done a superb job. This is class A soundtrack material and you can feel that in the game (I have the soundtrack via the Hardened Edition and I recommend purchasing it on iTunes or at least Reznor's theme for those into the music).
Next up, in one week, will be the multiplayer game review.
 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
After downloading the patch I let the game intro playout and it looks good, I mean the game "looks" good. It's glossy, obviously not yet otherworld realism but very sharp and detailed in its appearance. I'm a music fan in general and I followed industrial music through the 1980s. Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails were at their zenith soon after that. The opening title is awesome. I'm not sure it actually plays out at the start but you hear it at the start menu. It's very good, a bonafide theme tune up there with James Bond, Bullitt and 28 Days...
The first thing I then looked at were the multiplayer maps. I did 13 walkrounds. Tight and small, oh dear, this is not what I'm after. They're not all tiny, some have some great sight-lines as well but they're less open than Black Ops and nowhere near the scope of World at War. I noted some danger areas, killzones, bottlenecks, vantage points and safer zones but with fast-moving soldiers, this game could get messy.
A dip into the campaign showed more of my impressions about the look and smoothness. I saw this in the MP map walkrounds too. COD has had a makeover for Black Ops II. Someone has pulled out all the stops for a smooth and good-looking game. The storyline and setting seems good. There's a mix of Black Ops back & forth timeline and multi-character angles means you will lose track if you're not sharp. I'll cover the campaign (without spoilers) tomorrow.
So, onto my first impressions of the multiplayer section. I was very happy to see the emblem creator ready to go at level 1. It meant I could get started before my mates join me online. With the variety of tools, colours and layers, plus the option to work on a second emblem, this section is a joy. I could literally be here for days, and I was there for hours. I was, long enough to make a version of my Black Ops emblem, only this time my artwork is exposed in it's simplicity.
Gaming: Well, 4 of us went into TDM and it was the smoothest experience I'd ever had on COD. Wow! It was however just one match. The next game, my friend was complaining about being a full second behind the enemy. It was a mix for me as well. Some games were lagfree and some were not. It's harder to detect the lag as BOII is definitely smoother than BO and even MW3. I found the maps mostly hectic and rush-favoured. The spray hip-fire SMG season is here and my cultured single shot assault rifle style will find it hard to survive here. As my first day progressed, my tiredness and impatience lead to frustration and I began (all too easily) crying out the same rubbish I had done with BO and MW3. I played on alone and found some focus in my solitude, I hit some good scores, helped my (random) team to a run of wins and ended feeling that all was not lost.
In summary a mixed feeling. Excitement and hunger for more, yes. Satisfied with the pace, style and nature of the game - I'm not sure, it seems a little insta-kill and random, not to mention the matchmaking. But it is week 1, in fact this assessment in based on day 1. My day 2 was spent on campaign, League Play placement (interesting, more on that later), and improving my emblem as the "error" plagued us all. There's certainly hope for the future and that's all I'm after at this stage.
I didn't look at Zombies.
I am planning to add to this post at different stages of Black Ops II's early cycle.
People can use it as a reference, be critical of it, add information and opinion. Here's a brief outline.
| PRE-RELEASE||9th Nov.||A brief outline of the expectations and chatter over the past 3 months, and this table.|
| FIRST IMPRESSIONS||15th Nov.||Simply my reaction to a first glance and run around on the latest COD.|
| CAMPAIGN||19th Nov.||Upon completion, my assessment of the non-linear campaign with no spoilers.|
| MULTIPLAYER - GAME REVIEW||24th Nov.||A breakdown of matchmaking, lag, hosting, competitive playlists, ranking up, game modes, new features and general gameplay satisfaction.|
 FUNCTIONALITY -
3+ MONTHS ON
|1st quarter 2013||A review of the fixes, updates and the stability of matchmaking into the new year (along with DLC).|
The last few months have brought many rumours and some have been confirmed. With multiplayer, we have been given information about what is at our disposal and how it works. Questions remain over key features for release day, such as scoring points towards scorestreaks, gun recoil, ranking up unlocks, competitive playlists and league divisions. There's further items to factor in when considering (free) ELITE and clans.
The futuristic setting has already subsided in its novelty and people are focusing now on "pick 10" create-a-class, new maps, new Zombies and whether or not we will finally be free of the functionality crisis which happened to BO and MW3.
The last issue is the biggest for me. I care about many things in my game, but if I can't play it for long without being frustrated or disappointed, it's not worth playing.
This week, this forum has had increased activity, understandably. For a game released on the 13th November it has been disappointing to hear of so many people already with copies in hand. It's not their fault in many cases but someone's broken rules. What this does is fragment the community a little and instigates a plethora of teenage angst posts of frustration that they cannot yet play online. Even reading about a campaign glitch one player has experienced reveals information about an early NPC character.
That said, multiplayer is rightly on hold until Tuesday, November 13th, and my next update.