Monday, March 18, 2013

It All Goes to Hell When Hillary Shows Up


[Warning: Some minor spoilers follow]

I should have known that when Hillary Clinton showed up in Black Ops 2, the game's interesting campaign was going to go straight to hell.  Oh, she didn't star as herself - which is strange considering how this game did not shy from including other real people in its cast - but as "President Bosworth".  Nevertheless, as with Oliver North, the similarity of appearance was unmistakable.   Sure, she wasn't running around hiding the Rose Law Firm records, nor did she scream "what difference at this point does it make!" when the bodies started piling up due to the global terrorism unleashed by Raul Menendez, but the bug eyes sort of gave the game away (as well as her apparent affinity for the ChiComs...I, for one, found it strange that "President Bosworth's" first call after the attacks went to the Chinese premier.  Hmm.  Old habits die hard, I suppose). 

Be that as it may, it was shortly after "President Bosworth" appeared that Black Ops 2 story ran into trouble (hmm, sort of like how the State Department ran into trouble when she became SecState), and by "trouble" I mean it basically ended within half an hour!  

By now, we've all seen clips of the fantastic drone attack on Los Angeles that occurs in Black Ops 2....





But what you might not know - I certainly didn't! - was that this was the game's final act. I couldn't believe it.  I mean, considering that the previous six hours of the campaign consisted of flashbacks to the 70s-80s, and some missions set in the days just before Cordis Die, I figured that when the attack finally arrived I could count on at least as much time fighting this new war as I did participating in the events that led up to it.  Nope.  Six hours spent preparing for Cordis Die, one hour (if that!) actually dealing with the attack.  How screwed up is that?

This is a real shame as those first six hours were really good.  As I explained here, I found the bulk of the BlOps 2 campaign to be extremely well executed (and for that matter, I found the final resolution of Raul Menendez to be equally satisfying...no, I won't tell you which choice I made in the final scene so as to not spoil it for you).  It was emotional, dark, character-driven and largely interesting.  Unfortunately, right after Hillary showed up, it seemed as if Treyarch ran out of time or money and said "Screw it!  Just put together two more action sequences and we'll call it a day."  It really feels that...incomplete?  Yeah, that wouldn't be too much of a stretch.  BlOps 2 ends in a very incomplete way - not cliffhanger incomplete, albeit it is clear that Black Ops 3 is being set up, and not in an uninteresting fashion - but just incomplete as I have more questions than I have answers (like:  what was the deal with that kidnapped girl?  Did I miss something?  Whatever happened to that?!?). 

What a shame.  I know it is popular to knock Modern Warfare 3, but I have to be honest: I ultimately enjoyed that game's campaign far more than BlOps 2's campaign largely because at the end of it, you really felt like you accomplished something.  I mean, in MW3, WWIII did not end with a snap of the fingers; you really had to travel the globe and fight for every inch of ground before you could finally nail the bad guy.  Here, it just ends with a whimper. I find this to be a really bizarre design decision.

I will, however, compliment Black Ops 2 for making Raul Menendez a Marxist terrorist in the final analysis.  His statement that ""Los Angeles was the flagship of their absurd materialism, so I destroyed it" pretty much makes that clear.  Albeit, again, here BlOps 2 campaign seems to abandon its more complex emotional motivations for this petty political / economic one.  Nonetheless, in an entertainment industry obsessed with religious and "far right wing" terrorism, it is long past due that the violent left gets its due.

So, all things considered, Black Ops 2 had a much better start than finish.   In fact, it didn't finish as much as just end.  Sloppy?  Lazy?  Or just hooking you for Black Ops 3?  What's your call?  

Early on, I was having a great time with this title, but I am now feeling more and more disappointed.  The campaign fizzled; the multiplayer maps are proving less interesting to me than those in MW3; and I am getting increasingly annoyed by how Treyarch is telling the CoD community how to play its game.  For example, I am still annoyed about how Treyarch told the hardcore community that there aren't enough players for us to have more than four gameplay modes.  What's up with that?  Infinity Ward didn't limit us in MW3 over "fractured community" concerns, so why should BlOps 2?  Then there is the equally strange decision to remove Nuketown and then reinstate it in a strange new "chaos" rotation.  Lastly, I am also annoyed how the new Revolution DLC maps are also lumped into an arbitrary hardcore moshpit rotation.  Again, why is Treyarch telling us how we have to play the game in MP?  So far, BlOps 2 is leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.  It is interesting to note how I was originally hot on Blops 2 but I have now grown cold, while I was initially cold on Battlefield 3 but I am now hot with the arrival of the excellent Aftermath and End Game map packs.  Clearly, one is burning out while the other has finally lifted off....

PS:  I will say, though, that I did enjoy this Easter egg that appeared at the end of the credits. Nothing like an impromptu rock concert starring the game's primary characters!


However, I even found this to be a bit odd considering the dark plot. What, now we are supposed to forget everything that happened and just rock out?  What happened at the end, Treyarch?  Did you just lose interest?


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