It’s a well known fact that the Call of Duty franchise has a large following. Because of their popularity, the games have quickly become the standard by which all other military first person shooters aim for. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 continued the tradition and garnered a great deal of acclaim for it’s improved storytelling, multiplayer and Zombies mode. In fact, Black Ops 2 received Gaming Illustrated’s Editor’s Choice Award because of how far it pushed the series. Now Treyarch is looking to add onto the robust online with Black Ops 2’s first DLC content: Revolution. With four new multiplayer maps, a new weapon, a new zombies map and new zombies mode does the this first DLC outing deliver?
Because this is the first time a weapon has been made available through DLC for the series, it’s generated a lot of questions. Will it break the game’s balance? Can someone buy their way into victory? The answer is no. Said DLC weapon, the Peacekeeper, is a good gun but not that good. The Peacekeeper can best be described as a hybrid SMG and assault rifle. With the lightweight nature of an SMG and the distance benefits of an assault rifle, the Peacekeeper strives for the best of both worlds. Most will look at the weapon and assume it will have the firing speed and deadly close range capabilities of SMGs. In fact, it does better damage from a distance and has a lower rate of fire than what is expected. These drawbacks are compensated with low recoil and decent damage. The Peacekeeper is actually a great starter weapon because of its duality. Veterans will spend time with the gun but only time will tell if it sticks. Thankfully, it also comes with unlocks and attachments so it doesn’t feel like a tacked on addition. Don’t be surprised if entire matches are populated with players using the Peacekeeper. And for those without the DLC, the weapon will still drop for anyone to pick up and use–it’s a clever sales pitch to lure in potential buyers.
Revolution fulfills its requirement as a map pack by adding four new maps: Hydro, Grind, Downhill and Mirage. Hydro tosses players into a Pakistani hydroelectric dam facility that has a central area where flood waters create a deadly environmental hazard. A good reference point for Hydro is the Meltdown map that was originally included in Black Ops 2–maybe that’s because they are both big Pakistani facilities. Hydro is a by-the-books map complete with long lines of sight broken up by smaller pockets of buildings where close quarters fighting breaks out. Ladders and tight corners lead into the underside where surprises and instant death await. The shock of the waters is cancelled out by the loudspeaker warning that prefaces it. Grind is a unique map that uses a skate park from Venice Beach, California as its setting. Maybe it’s because half-pipes and bullets are such a bizarre combination that the map actually excels. At it’s core, Grind still retains the basics of a Call of Duty map but the curved lines of sight add a spin on the normal straight angles present in virtually all other maps. The colorful and playful setting along with the familiar backdrop give Grind a fantastic character. The snow-covered French Alps make up Downhill’s ski lodge. An environmental hazard is incorporated into this map in the form of a gondola system. Downhill is a large map and littered with objects to hide behind. Some smaller buildings make great camping spots but, truth be told, the gondola system is a bit silly. It’s always a bit frustrating to be looking around for targets and forgot that an extremely slow moving gondola is close by only for it to tap you and cause instant death (but if it doesn’t emit a chuckle then the game is being taken too seriously). Finally there is Mirage, an old luxury resort that has been taken over by the sands of the Gobi Desert. There isn’t much to Mirage and, because of that, it feels mostly generic. The map isn’t particularly boring nor is it very exciting. The terrain provides enough variety that it mixes up play styles but will probably be swallowed up by other map choices over time.
On the Zombies side of things, Die Rise is a large map that does a good job at changing up what is to be expected from the mode. Die Rise puts survivors into a set of Chinese skyscrapers where verticality is a focus. Though Wonder Weapons, craftable objects and unlockable sections are in place, Die Rise isn’t as large in scope as the Tranzit map. Though navigating Die Rise can be a pain and players will often find themselves separated from the group, the back and forth between buildings makes for a fun experience. The same can’t necessarily be said for the new mode. “Turned” is great in concept but doesn’t quite come together in execution. In this mode, three players get to finally play as zombies with the fourth as the sole human. The human player is the only one that can score points by killing zombies. If a zombie player kills the human, they take over. The mode is more fast paced than expected but it doesn’t feel as balanced as it could be. It’s also hard to ignore that games like Left 4 Dead have done it much better.
Unlike its title suggests, the DLC isn’t as revolutionary as one might expect. Jumping into a game where the majority of players have Peacekeepers means that because the DLC is new, people will stick with it for a good deal of time. A new weapon provides great new strategies and more ways to level up. Hydro and Mirage are good maps only because they stick with the mechanics that make for a great multiplayer map. Grind and Downhill are the most exciting because of their environments drive variety. Let’s not forget that Grind would make for a good RC-XD stunt course (make it a new mode Treyarch). Unless the Turned mode is adjusted or comes with more variety, it will probably be forgotten for the traditional co-op. Die Rise definitely extends the life of Zombies mode because it adds an interesting map that will drive players to discover its secrets and survive as many waves as possible. There are plenty of ways to extend the life of an FPS whether through a wealth of additions or a unique change up to gameplay variety. The focus here is more on new content but some ideas are in place that can be expanded upon and give something for Black Ops 2 fans that want to more than just shoot people in new locations.
Revolution is the first of four planned DLC packs for Black Ops 2. Those who have purchased the Season Pass for $49.99 are getting the first taste of what’s to come, for everyone else the DLC costs $14.99. The price isn’t unexpected for a game on this scale and those who can’t get enough Call of Duty won’t hesitate to buy it. If new multiplayer maps aren’t of any interest then the Peacekeeper and Zombies content will probably satisfy, if not for a large price. As long as Treyarch attempts further innovation with their maps and adds some more guns and Zombies content, the DLC support for Black Ops 2 should be worthy of investment.
Note: A copy of the DLC was provided to Gaming Illustrated by the publisher for the purpose of this review.