This means war
Two of the biggest shooter franchises unleashed their latest entries into their respective series this holiday season, which automatically spurs the question, "Which one is better?" Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops II brings the setting to the near-future, improves the multiplayer systems, expands on the popular Zombies co-op mode, and introduces several campaign elements that have never been seen in a Call of Duty game before.
Bungies Halo franchise was passed on to a new developer, and the result was absolutely magnificent. Halo 4 is arguably the best Halo game ever, with a strong multiplayer, single-player, and co-op showing. But is it enough to best Treyarchs Black Ops II? Its time to find out.
Halo 4: 343 Industries revamped Halos campaign, focusing more on story than Bungie ever did. Characters are well developed, and the narrative does a good job of kicking off a new Halo saga instead of retreading old ground. Its a bit on the short end when compared to past Halo games, clocking in at around five to six hours instead of the series typical 10, but it introduced awesome new enemies and weapons, and is action packed throughout..
Call of Duty: Black Ops II:Black Ops II's campaign is a bit different from the Call of Duty games that came before. Rather than focus on bigger explosions and gigantic set pieces, the main thrills come from the twists and turns of the campaign's events--which are based on your performance and choices. Though some aspects of the campaign fall flat (like the flawed Strike Force missions), the branching story and multiple endings will make you want to play through the campaign more than once.
Winner: Halo 4. While we were impressed with Call of Duty's choice-driven narrative, Halo's campaign really stepped it up, delivering something incredibly refreshing.
Halo 4: Halos multiplayer hasnt evolved much since Halo: Combat Evolved hit the original Xbox (save for the addition of online play, obviously), but Halo 4s competitive side does move the series forward a bit. Sprinting and other gameplay changes make it feel faster, and the addition of Ordnance Drops--343's take on Killstreaks--add some nice variety to matches. Being able to choose loadouts is a nice touch as well, but Halo multiplayer is still Halo multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Treyarch didn't just slap together a few new maps, change a few weapon skins, and call it a day. Some significant changes have been made to make the competitive multiplayer even more engaging than before. The new Scorestreak system encourages players to work for the greater good, and the "Pick 10" customization system opens up even more freedom to loadout creation, allowing you to equip only what you want to use and nothing you don't.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Pick 10 is awesome, and it moves things forward more than Halo 4's half-step into the modern era.
Halo 4: Besides co-op for the entire campaign--which is totally amazing, and an absolute blast on the harder difficulties--Halo 4 also adds Spartan Ops to the mix. Spartan Ops is a side campaign broken up into episodic levels, downloaded for free every week (for Xbox Live Gold subscribers). These episodes are even given their own light plot elements, giving you reasons to come back week after week to play more co-op with friends.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Treyarch's co-op Zombies mode has become one of the biggest draws to the developer's Call of Duty games. For Black Ops II, Zombies has expanded well beyond the previous game's Survival mode to an open world Tranzit mode and a competitive Grief mode. Who needs campaign co-op when you have a zombie-filled side campaign?
Winner: Tie. Spartan Ops is an excellent addition that keeps us intrigued, but we also can't stop playing the new Zombie mode.
Halo 4: Halo 4 is, by far, the best-looking Halo game ever made, and one of the prettiest shooters in recent memory. 343 Industries has gifted Halo a new graphical style that has a nice, slick sci-fi feel, looking like a merger of classic Halo and Metroid Prime--and thats not, in any way, a bad thing. The soundtrack, too, is incredible, with a score that impresses from beginning to end.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Black Ops II is no slouch when it comes to impressive visuals and immersive sound design, and it all feels like a step up from the first Black Ops title. The 2025 world makes one of the most interesting settings in the series. Futuristic nightclubs, cities floating in the middle of the ocean, and the war-torn 2025 version of Los Angeles are all awesome sights to see.
Winner: Halo 4. Black Ops II looks good, but not nearly as impressive as Halo 4.
Halo 4: Sure, 343 could have found an excuse to reignite the human-Covenant war, bringing back everyones favorite conglomeration of evil aliens for another battle, but it didnt. Instead, the developer acknowledged the roots while moving forward, leaving the past in the past and starting a totally new saga with new aliens, new weapons, and new characters.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Call of Duty hasnt been known for being the most original shooter franchise in quite some time, but Treyarch did put effort into bringing something new to the table. The branching story mechanics of the campaign have never been done in the series before. The guns, gadgets, and futuristic locations that were spawned from the 2025 setting also gives us somewhat of a new experience, but in the end, youll still feel like youre playing a Call of Duty game.
Winner: Halo 4. Treyarch moved Call of Duty forward, but its still wrapped up in the same tropes as before, whereas Halo definitely upped the ante.
Halo 4: Besides playing through the campaign, co-op, and multiplayer, Halo 4 includes multiple other ways to interact with the world. Forge, for instance, allows you to create your own multiplayer levels, and Theatre lets you capture the best moments from your games and share them with others. Sadly, neither has recieved huge upgrades since Halo 3.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Outside of the three main gameplay modes, Black Ops II offers plenty of other things to do. The Elite service gives you social features and stat tracking so you can organize clan matches and track your performance. Theater allows you to create, edit, and share videos. The brand new CODcasting feature lets you commentate on matches like an eSports shoutcaster. You can easily spend hours in Black Ops II without ever once firing a bullet.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Elite, Theater, and CODcasting all work together to create an impressive package, and Forge simply isnt as impressive as it was when Halo 3 released.
Verdict: Halo 4 wins
It was close, but we feel that Halo 4 is, in this case, the better game. It has a more original and interesting single-player campaign (complete with four-player co-op action), a solid multiplayer side, and the incredibly imaginative Spartan Ops, making it the better package on the whole.
That doesnt discredit how good Black Ops II is, though. If youre looking at just the multiplayer portion--as many people are--wed actually recommend going with Treyarchs shooter. Pick 10 totally revamps how creating your class works, and the addition of CODcasting and Elite should help enable the community in a big way.
Which do you prefer?
Weve given our verdict, but we want to know which game you think is better. Do you side with Treyarch and Activisions Black Ops II, which moved the series forward further than the last few games combined, or are you more of a fan of Master Chiefs new journey? Let us know in the comments below!