Nintendo is the creators of the Friend Code, the convoluted networking system they used on the Wii. So when Nintendo said they were serious about online integration of their new system, the Wii U, people scoffed. But then rumor started spreading that Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the largest online multiplayer game on consoles, would have its best console version on the Nintendo’s newest device and maybe, just maybe that would be the way to go this year. Yeah, no.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is virtually identical to its console counterparts and our review of those versions should suffice for those wanting the basic gist of what the game is. However, due to the nature of the Wii U gamepad and the Wii U online service, there are some aspects which deserve to be dealt with separately.
The biggest difference between the Wii U version and every other available iteration is the Wii U gamepad. The game features the ability to push the video directly to the pad, allowing for play on either the primary display device or on the pad itself. While it may seem like a silly feature, being able to have a football game on while playing Team Deathmatch is a huge bonus. Alternately the option to use the gamepad as a loadout manager and map is also possible. Personally I found this aspect to be somewhat unnecessary as taking one’s eyes off the action in a Call of Duty game is a sure fire way to get yourself killed quicker but it is there if needed.
Playing Black Ops II on the Wii U is just like playing on any other system, provided you make a mild adjustment to the button layout, which has been altered slightly from the standard layout of the other versions. Fortunately the Classic control option puts things back in order and the only other adjustment one will have to make is to the analog sticks being awkwardly placed on both the Gamepad and Pro Controller. The Gamepad actually feels more natural than the Pro Controller, which I found somewhat odd considering the design of the Pro.
Outside of the added functionality and different control schemes, one other thing does need to be mentioned and that is the online user base. At the time of this review, over two weeks since launch, the overall player base for this version of Black Ops II is very minimal. During our review period the total online player count never got above 1026, with most sessions hovering in the high 800s, low 900s. And over half of these players were situated in the Team Deathmatch mode. Other modes faired less favorably with zero players often being seen in many of the other modes, including the popular Kill Confirmed and the all new League mode.
From a technical level, Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Wii U is on par with its competition but two-thirds of the draw of Call of Duty is the online multiplayer and at this time the lack of players makes it hard to recommend this version over others if you have the means to play them.