Progressing Through Call of Duty: Black Ops II

[Note: For our review of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, please click here.]

The Call of Duty franchise created the “oh-em-gee new unlocks!!” craze that is now standard in the genre. So standard, in fact, even Halo 4 adopted a similar model. There’s something inherently spectacular about leveling up in a  Call of Duty game. Other games have tweaked the formula to create a different experience, but few capture the magic of progressing through Call of Duty: Insert Subtitle Here.

Gameplay, too, is drastically different. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (I’m a Battlefield guy, truth-be-known), but it has a following to say the least. In the first “Progressing Through..” article, there was a noticeable difference between the two big shooters from last year. An even bigger difference came when comparing statistics from Modern Warfare 3 and other shooters that came out this year. In that vain, let’s see how Black Ops II feels in comparison to it’s Infinity Ward counterpart and a few other key shooters.

18:00 Hours – Getting our feet wet

The first few matches of any Call of Duty game are spent using some preset classes that the developers threw together for you. As usual, I went with an assault rifle once I was able to create my own class (after my second game). Instead of using the COD points from the first Black Ops, Black Ops 2 uses tokens earned at every level-up to buy new equipment.

A quick bit on the new “Pick 10″ system used, you can now opt out of taking certain things into combat in favor of things you will use. If you don’t want to take a tactical grenade onto the field, no worries. You can use Wildcard slots to bulk up on things you will use, like maybe a second Perk 1. I use Hardline and Ghost, personally.

I accumulated 91 kills in the first hour, which adds up to 1.5/kpm (kills per minute). The switch to Scorestreaks instead of Kill Streaks played a big part of that, no doubt, as doing objectives helps build that meter. A mix of game modes were played, but mostly Kill Confirmed because I simply love that mode. Plus, you level up quite fast playing it. After just an hour of playing, I was level 11 and had played seven games.

There were also so many unlocks, I don’t even know where to start. Once you unlock “Create-a-Class”, you get one to two items in every category. I won’t focus so much on gear in the hourly marks to save time (and space), but attachments are a big deal. I only used the MTAR (unless I used my secondary briefly) and wound up with five new ones to pick between. I still hadn’t seen some of the cool customization things by the end of hour one, though, but I still ended up unlocking a whopping 19 items (after the default unlocks of course).

19:00 Hours – Confirming the kill

I tried to switch things up in hour two and played a round of Domination and a round of Team Deathmatch. After that, I went back to Kill Confirmed for the next seven rounds (making it nine matches total). The thing about Kill Confirmed is that you can feel useful even if you end up with a negative KDR. You get 50xp for killing someone but 100xp for collecting the dog tag. So you can be a complete ass and just steal tags from teammates. Which I would totally do.

In a very odd, ironic moment, I tallied another 91 kills in the second hour. I did my math twice to make sure it was correct. I finally unlocked a few camo’s, which are earned the same way as they usually are (getting headshots with said-weapon) and unlocked a new recticle for my red dot sight. These are unlocked by getting kills by aiming down the sights with red dot sight equipped. Quick note – the final recticle is the predator sights (dots arranged in a triangle).

I ended up with three new attachments for the MTAR and was level 16 by the end of the second hour. Six new toys also became available, whether it be weapons, perks, etc. At this point, I realized the perks didn’t level up. I was used to the basic perk and a “pro version” after doing a certain task after so long. I always thought that was a cool aspect, that pretty much everything “leveled up” to a certain degree and I was a little sad about this missing aspect.

20:00 Hours – Finding our calling card

Let me tell you, during hour three I was fully committed to both the game and, subsequently, the article. Every few matches, new things were popping up. Guns (I was not using, mind you), perks, camos, recticles, scorestreaks, I think at some point I even saw new tractors pop up for Farming Simulator 2013. It’s thrilling when you finish a round and window after window pops up with new things to try out.

One could say I hit my stride in hour three, too. 135 kills were had, with my final level being an even 20. As is usually the case, leveling up takes exponentially more time as you go up the ladder. I went from ten level-ups in the first hour, to five in the second hour, to four in the final hour.

Five new attachments (I never ended up switching from the fast-change magazine and red dot sight) became available after wrecking havoc on fools with my MTAR. Other jim-jams unlocked included amongst other things, a new secondary weapon and a new recticle. But during the final match, I got the last “double kill” I needed in order to unlock my very first calling card. These are the little banner things from past games, mind you, and are generally pretty creative. However, most of them are a pain in the ass to unlock or just take a lot of time and persistence.

The Final Numbers

(Please note, I have included the numbers from a few games in this series of editorials to use as a benchmark. Please refer to “Progressing Through the Modern Battlefield“, “Progressing Through Starhawk“, ”Progressing Through the Future (Soldier)“,, “Progressing Through (Spec Ops) The Line“, and “Progressing Through Medal of Honor: Warfighter” for further reading.)

Games Played:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II: 25

Medal of Honor: Warfighter: 23

Battlefield 3: 15

Modern Warfare 3: 24

Total Kills:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II: 317

Medal of Honor: Warfighter: 208

Battlefield 3: 208

Modern Warfare 3: 294

Final Level:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II: 20

Medal of Honor: Warfighter: Level 16

Battlefield 3: Level 7

Modern Warfare 3: Level 23

Weapons Unlocked:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II: 4 weapons (excluding starting guns), 13 attachments, 4 weapon camos

Medal of Honor: Warfighter: 13 classes unlocked, 14 paint schemes

Battlefield 3: 5 guns, 21 attachments

Modern Warfare 3: 8 guns, 16 attachments

Field Report Conclusion

This is still very much a Call of Duty game; high kill counts and lots of games. However, even though the basic system is the same, it feels a little more thorough than the Infinity Ward entries in the past. By that I mean simple touches like recticle options paint a more personal experience.

A lot of things are actually locked until you prestige. I prestiged after five nights with the game (and a weekend of double-XP) and found even more things to do. Certain challenges open up, like attachment-specific challenges for example, after you dump hours upon hours into the game. In a way, this is very refreshing. once I prestiged I had more things to earn, more goals to accomplish. After around 15 hours of stomping all over kids’ dreams online, I really didn’t feel better about prestiging, per say, but I was still eager to earn that next award or next challenge.

Note: Activision provided a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops II for this article.

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.