For years, Nintendo fans have had to watch whilst Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC users have gotten the full-fat Call of Duty experience. Sure, there have been Call of Duty games released on the Wii, but they’ve always been lesser ports, or alternate version focusing instead on the motion control capabilities, in short, they aren’t the same games.
So with the Wii U, a fully HD console with a proper controller (whether talking about the Gamepad or the Pro Controller), Activision have seen fit to release a feature complete version of Black Ops II, with all the bells and whistles that a connected console can offer, and some nice additions and surprises that you won’t find anywhere else. But is that enough to satiate Nintendo gamers, or even bring existing players to the Wii U?
One of the surprises about Black Ops II is that this time around, a Call of Duty game appeared to have focused on giving the player a satisfyingly good single player portion. A genuine attempt at making a story worth playing means that just like the other versions of the game, the Wii U single player is enjoyable from start to finish, whilst retaining the 60fps (for the most part) we’re used to with Call of Duty titles. There are moments of slowdown, but this is also true of the Xbox 360 version, though the Wii U fares worse in high-intensity areas. Overall, it’s still an enjoyable romp from start to finish. The ability to play the game on the Wii U’s gamepad means that you never need to stop playing, and can continue the game long after the TV has been commandeered by someone else in your house.
ZOMBIES AND ONLINE MODES:
Right out of the gate, one of the best features about the Wii U version of Black Ops II is that you can happily play local co-op or multiplayer without having to share a screen. Once upon a time this sort of multiplayer was all the rage, with people gathering in the same room to play a game together, without the need for any kind of internet connection. Of course, as you’d expect, you can take your local multiplayer online to join others, and the Wii U Gamepad has a port for a headset, so it’s again, feature complete.
The odd part is that when sharing the gameplay with a friend locally, the frame rate is halved. Now, it may seem obvious to some, but of course, the console is rendering the game twice for the two local players, and just like a traditional split-screen experience, that means you won’t get the silky smooth 60fps you are used to. The reason it feels odd is that when you can see a split screen, you can comprehend why the frame rate drops, having the effect of two screens, it’d be forgiven for thinking you’d get 2 x 60fps, it’s almost a form of trickery, you’re still playing split-screen, just on two different screens.
It’s a brilliant feature though, allowing for the full TV and/or Gamepad screen to be all yours, and despite the Gamepad not being a 40″ wonder, it still means you can focus on the real estate you do have, and more than one guest has commented that, for the first time, they felt like they were enjoying a Call of Duty. This is possibly the effect of having a screen up close to you (the Gamepad), or it could possibly be that there simply aren’t the elite core players on the Wii U version of Black Ops II yet.
Speaking of which, the player count is horrendous. On multiple occasions there were just over 1000 people playing the game. Read that again, 1000 people playing Black Ops II multiplayer on the Wii U, with even fewer people playing the Zombies mode. It must surely be a huge concern for Nintendo that so few people are playing these hardcore games (that were so important to a certain audience), instead sticking with the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version. You can’t blame them though, people aren’t going to go and buy a £350+ machine for a game they can just pick up elsewhere. It’s a shame though, because waiting for a match has never been an issue in Call of Duty, but at times, the low player count meant it was easier to just play the standard modes, and smarter to give up on playing the more interesting, less straight-forward ones.
When you’re playing alone, the Gamepad screen can act as a map, with touch-screen controls to select streaks. The best feature, however, and one you won’t find on any other platform, is the ability to play the entire game on the Gamepad. Along with the touch-screen buttons, there’s also a button called “Display” which (whenever you feel like it) allows you to show the game on the pad, so you can switch off the TV and play away with some headphones on. If you don’t fancy using the Gamepad, you could just play the game with the Pro Controller, which really does make it feel like the other versions of the game; you’re playing Black Ops II on an Xbox-like controller, in HD, online – excellent.
There are issues though, quite bizarrely, in some areas (for example, the main multiplayer menu) you cannot press the Wii U home button, so if you have finished a session of multiplayer and want to exit the game to play another, you’ll have to back all the way out to the single player area, just to get back to the Wii U home screen. This may be because you’re connected to the Call of Duty servers when in the multiplayer mode, but it seems bizarre to bar the player from pressing the equivalent of the Guide button, or to stop them bringing up the XMB.
SHOULD I BUY IT?:
It shouldn’t be a shock, because we know the Wii U is capable of excellent visuals, but this version of Black Ops II attains parity with the Xbox 360 version in all but frame-rate. Having the Gamepad presents not only unique ways to play the game, but problems in itself. Frame-rate is a big draw to the Call of Duty series, so whilst it’s great to be able to play the game solely on the Gamepad, only you know if you can take the hit in smoothness. On the other hand, playing solely on the Gamepad is a draw all on its own. If you already own Black Ops II, you’re probably happy with your purchase, but if you’re a Nintendo fan and have waited for this moment, you’ve not been let down, because the Wii U version is an excellent version of the game, even if the extreme lack of multiplayer numbers is a real worry, if that’s the big reason you play Call of Duty.
Given that Activision’s development studios have had year upon year to perfect how the game performs on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, this first foray into the world of Wii U is a good achievement, meaning future purchases might just come down to how much you play the competitive online modes.
Read our original Call of Duty: Black Ops II review here.