Given the fact that we’ve already covered the other releases of Call of Duty: Black Ops II in quite a bit of detail, this review of the Wii U version of the game will instead focus on how it measures up against those versions. If you haven’t already read our PS3/Xbox 360/PC review, we recommend you do so now by clicking here
Now that that’s out of the way, we have to say that we’re actually rather impressed with how this Wii U port has turned out. Since the Call of Duty titles available on the original Wii were far from spectacular, it’s something of a novelty to be sitting down and playing a non-watered down version of the game on a Nintendo system.
Our earliest concerns centred around the system’s GamePad. Given the ergonomically refined controllers offered by the PS3 and Xbox 360, a quick glance at the GamePad is enough to fill a seasoned FPS veteran’s heart with fear. Surely such a big bugger couldn’t be of any great use in a first person shooter? Well, that’s precisely what we thought but, not for the first time, we were spectacularly wide of the mark.
The fact is that the GamePad is actually a great fit for FPS titles. The finger rest at the rear of the device make it comfortable to hold for prolonged periods, the analog sticks are responsive and well spaced out, and the trigger and shoulder buttons are perfectly located. Chalk that one up as a serious surprise! For those of you who don’t want to stray too far from your comfort zones, however, the Pro Controller offers players an equally enjoyable gameplay experience, albeit one that’s going to set you back a few bucks in the process.
While many of the other Wii U launch titles have tried their best to work the GamePad’s touch screen into gameplay, Black Ops II instead focuses on the core shooter experience. You can choose loadouts or check your map using the second screen, should you wish, but it’s rare that you’ll bother – mainly because it does nothing to add to the experience.
Where the second screen does come in handy is allowing you and a friend to play on the same system without the need for split screen play. The GamePad player simply needs to tap the display button on the screen and switch their display to the handheld controller. It’s something that quite a few developers have done with the system, but nowhere has it come in quite as handy as here. The real beauty of it is being able to play online with a friend on the same machine, with each of you having your own screen. The days of cluttered split-screen gaming may just be a thing of the past!
Visually, the Wii U version of Black Ops II looks almost identical to the other console versions – that is to say it looks pretty decent. The textures and character models are impossible to differentiate between the Wii U and Xbox 360 versions, with the PS3 version suffering slightly in this regard. Clarity is also top notch, with nothing being muddied or watered down, which is nice.
Unfortunately, and somewhat inexplicably for what is supposedly next generation hardware, the Wii U version does fall down a little when it comes to frame rate. It’s not an ongoing issue, and it’s only really something we’ve encountered while playing the single player campaign, but it is something that left us feeling a touch disappointed. Whether it’s down to porting to a unique system in terms of architecture, something that developers may take some time to get used to, or simply that the Wii U isn’t up to the task is something we honestly don’t know – but we’d be very surprised if it turns out to be the latter.
Fans of CoD Elite and the Live Streaming feature found in other versions are in for disappointment too, as neither are present in this version. For us, that’s not really an issue, but we do know that some people really get into the stats that Elite provides, so that might be a genuine issue for you. If it is, we recommend you take a look at one of the other versions, at least for now, because there’s a chance we’ll be seeing it making an appearance on the Wii U at some point in the future apparently (and we mean the Black Ops II future, not the next game). Live Streaming though doesn’t seem to have the same level of optimism surrounding it, which will, again, only affect certain players.
After a slow start, the number of players participating in online play has increased quite a bit, so while you can’t quite look forward to the level of variety you’d find on the other systems (which is to be expected given the fact there are so many more of them) you’ll still have no problem finding a busy lobby to join. One thing we did notice, however, was that the standard wasn’t quite as competitive on this version as it is elsewhere. Take that however you will, but for us it meant that things were a little more enjoyable when it came to jumping in for the odd game here and there. We’re by no means awful at the game, but we’re sure you’ll all appreciate how frustrating it is joining a game full of ridiculously skilful players when all you wanted was a quick half hour blast of some team deathmatch.
So, there you have it, the Wii U’s Call of Duty debut is a damn fine one. It looks great, has pretty much all the same features, and boasts the ability to play two player split screen without splitting a screen. On the down side you lose out on Elite and Live Streaming, and the frame rate can be a little unpredictable in the campaign – but none of these things are game breakers for us, and for that reason Call of Duty: Black Ops II on Wii U scores the same as the other versions. It’s still great, and we still love it… and we still didn’t think we’d be saying this 2 months ago!