The fourth and final map pack for “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” has finally been released for the PS3, just in time to give you a few weeks to increase your kill/death ratio to a reasonable level before moving on to “Call of Duty: Ghosts.” Activision has this thing down to a science. The minute that one map pack gets boring, they release another, all the way up to the release of a new game. Overall, this is probably my least favorite pack (the other three packs were “Revolution,” “Uprising,” and “Vengeance.”) All four map packs are worth getting (which means you should just buy a season pass) but half the maps here are retreads of previous ones, and, believe it or not, those are the best two. The brand-new maps are just kind of meh, especially when compared to “Black Ops II” DLC gems like “Grind,” “Vertigo,” and “Hijacked.” Still, less-than-perfect “Black Ops II” maps are still addictive playgrounds for fans of this game. In the order I vote for them in Public Matches…
I adore “Dig.” It’s a variation on “Courtyard” from “Call of Duty: World at War” with a ton of different areas, levels, and hiding spots. At first, I thought it supported the twitch players (those who have mastered the hand-eye coordination of a twitch shot as they come around a corner), but it’s a deceptively perfectly designed map in the variety of gameplay it can support. There are long-range areas, where one can see over most of the map, along with a dozen close-combat rooms for a range of action. It fits well with both Team Deathmatch and objective-based games like Domination. It’s so simple but has fast-paced, intense gameplay. It gets my vote every time, even over a large number of the on-disc and previously-released maps. It’s one of the maps that could bring me back to “Black Ops II” even after “Ghosts” is released just to play it some more.
Remember “Stadium” from “Call of Duty: Black Ops First Strike”? It’s a brutal map, filled with areas to get you trapped (those damn stairs) and with a variety of levels that make it great for Domination. It’s back. And it’s barely changed. Recast as “Takeoff,” the original “Stadium” design now rests on a launch site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Unlike some of the other redesigned maps from “Call of Duty” maps, “Takeoff” feels like a literal retread. The map is nearly identical, even in appearance, but it’s fun enough to revisit “Stadium” that players won’t care about the familiarity. Personally, I had a lot of frustrating, awful games in “Stadium,” which means I get to have them at “Takeoff” now too. Something about the design doesn’t lead to a lot of Scorestreaks for this gamer.
When I first powered up “Frost,” I was excited by the change of scenery. The map, which takes place in a European city covered in snow, has a different feel than the dilapidated rubble that takes up most of the other maps. Wait, a map that doesn’t take place after World War III? Neat. And yet there’s something about “Frost” that feels a bit off. The graphics seem more lackluster and the design less impressive. I’m betting it’s in the last map pack for a reason; the last deleted scene included on a special edition with the knowledge that it never would have made the actual movie. While a lot of these maps, more than any DLC series in history, would have been perfectly acceptable on the actual game itself, “Frost” feels underdeveloped. I still like it, which says something about the quality here overall, but less than a vast majority of other options when the Public Match vote comes up. Still, it’s better than the really frustrating…
Argh. More than any other map, “Pod” feels based almost solely on luck. There are too many blind corners, places for enemies to hide and snipe, and other design issues within the map that made every time I came across it a frustrating one. It actually shows how well the other maps are designed, especially for objective-based combat, when compared to this one, which feels like total chaos. Spawn, shoot, die. Do it again. It reminds me of lesser games of the “CoD” ilk like the recent “Medal of Honor” series.
"Zombie Mode: Origins"
Fans of About.com will know that I’m a multiplayer guy without much interest in the massively-popular zombie modes of “Call of Duty.” They have their moments but time is valuable and I’d rather use it in Domination of my all-time favorite multiplayer mode, Kill Confirmed (or play a full zombie game like “The Last of Us” or “Dead Island”). And so when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed “Origins,” know that it comes from a very casual fan of the zombie mode. It’s a journey back to the start of the undead invasion, taking gamers into a Dieselpunk-stylized World War I-era France with the four original heroes from “World at War” – Tank, Nikolai, Takeo, and Richtofen. Fun, fun. And so we end where it all began. Now go practice for “Ghosts.”