Dear David Vonderhaar

I have been playing Call of Duty games for quite a long time. Starting with Call of Duty 4, I was hooked to the series. I wasn’t enjoying any one of Treyarch’s games until Call of Duty: Black Ops II. With Black Ops, I liked the overall game design, as in the way the little details are designed; animation, controls (yes, there’s a certain feel to it), and the map design. But the problem with World of War and Black Ops was the theatre setting; World of War is in the climax of World War II, and likewise, Black Ops is in the Cold War. Games like Metal Gear Solid 3 can get away with it, but with Call of Duty, I expected the games to be current. For example, Call of Duty 4 took place in a risky theatre; our recent times, in a world where extremists are the norm.

Impressions of Call of Duty: Black Ops II after a month of play
Black Ops 2 is a better game than the previous games that Treyarch has developed. It has its share of problems. I’ll start with the positives and then get down to the problems.

The overall single player campaign is great. A little confusing sometimes, but still a good campaign. Black Ops 2 mixed it up; by alternating between the past and the present time, which the story is about. Then the game got really intense at the climax of the story, where Raul Menendez starts getting real pissed off. And best part is, the story showed how it all started in Nicaragua. And at the end of the chapter, it goes on to make a large scale “revolution.” It was at this point, when the developers used every single technical poweress to show off how well designed their levels can be. I mean, a BUS being rolled over to you? That was awesome. Infiltrating a top secret lab? Very nice. Very nice, indeed.

The only thing that I found a little disappointing was the Strike Force mode. The mode while a good experiment by Treyarch, I feel that it’s a little out of place for the story. The mode, while understandable, doesn’t really fit into the overall Black Ops 2 story, and likewise the gameplay is a little confusing. I understand Treyarch designed a tutorial to learn how to play Strike Force, but it is still confusing after the fact. Mostly because when you start playing the mode without the directions, you’re lost anyway. When you want to do something, it doesn’t really do exactly what you want. You want to move some of your squad to a particular place. It instead calls your entire squad to go there. A little more freedom to split your squad into little twos or three would be a welcome addition to the mode.

While the Strike Force mode is actually made-up of side missions, it doesn’t feel right in the story. It would have been a little better if the locations of the maps were “nearby” the actual story maps. This way, the story feels a little more consistent. For a mode that’s supposed to be side missions, I really do not like the idea that the mode directly affects your overall story campaign in some shape or form.

Now, let’s dive into Call of Duty: Black Ops II Multiplayer
Let’s get this out of the way before we begin: THIS is how you design maps! Seriously, I like the overall map design, everything from the visuals, to the map design, to the setting of the maps. All excellent. I especially liked the interactive environments. In “Express,” I loved it. The first time I saw it, I was like “holy $#i^!” Mostly because it reminded me of Mortal Kombat. Either you, or your enemy can be killed by this train! In “Raid,” there’s this pool that runs outside of the map like a river, and you can swim in it.

I can’t get over how futuristic the level designs are. Sure, I wish there were maps that make you feel like you’re in the middle of the future, like most futuristic movies do these days. But at the same time, I understand that we’re not at the point where this is possible. Maybe next generation.

The single player and multiplayer weapons are great, too. I like how Treyarch crammed in the newest technology in terms of console technology, and the actual weapon technology. Games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City show off see-through walls, but they have to be turned on in order for it to work. With Black Ops 2, the designers puts Arkham City to shame in this department, because they were able to make it so that you can see it in a holographic sight-style module called “MilliMeter Scanner.” Not only is it crisp, it’s designed well.

The sound is something Treyarch does, that differentiates them from Infinity Ward or any other FPS company. Black Ops has some of the best sounds in First Person Shooters genre, and Black Ops 2 takes this to a whole new level. The only problem that I find with Black Ops, and Black Ops 2 is the smaller details, when it comes to the sounds. Like some people think that there isn’t this hitmarker sound that’s usually in Modern Warfare line of games. Others think there isn’t much “kick” to the sniper rifles in Black Ops games.

The biggest change I’ve seen so far is the controls. It feels smoother, tighter than the previous Treyarch games. I’m thinking to myself “THIS is how it’s done!” Player movements are faster, aiming down the sights is faster, and much more sensitive when you move the aim. Call of Duty 4 has this design, and so, it seems like they’ve listened to players. The only problems with the controls I have are the grenade “kick,” and the dolphin dive. I can’t count the many times that I wish it was not in BO2, mostly because, when I go prone near the goddamn domination flag… It goes past the radius! GAH! And so, when I pull backward, it’s too late, another player killed me. Thanks!

Now, I’d like to get into the biggest problems with Black Ops 2
Lobby Freeze/Lag: Although, it’s been fixed in the 1.03 patch – I think that Treyarch pushed too much memory consumption to the lobby itself. While it’s nice to have an animated background, I think it’s too much for current consoles. Keep in mind, that – the world map’s dots are derived from your location, and the other players. So this 2MB bit of information is useless with all the other stuff that’s going on in the lobby. We have the option to check a player’s emblem, rank, and showcases – Great Idea, by the way. And we also have the option to check the player’s combat record in the same lobby. I still think this is way too much. That’s an extra 4MB or something like that. When you have this much information going on at once, it can hinder the console’s ability to sustain the lobby connection.

Because, honestly, you’re not just pulling info from the Call of Duty servers, you’re pulling information from your own Call of Duty Elite account – which I presume is running in the background somewhere to sync your Call of Duty info with the Elite servers, and then you have either PlayStation Network (which at the time of the freezings went through an overhaul that may have conflicted with BO2), or Xbox Live.

I posted on a forum that I think applies here…

Here’s what you’re not understanding. Quake 3 may give you the option of adding new weapons, since after all, IWEngine is basically a modified version of the Quake [3] engine. Just one problem you’re not understanding; consoles currently cannot take in more than they chew. You brought up graphics engine; let’s start there.

The graphics can be handled by CPU, too. As much it is controlled by their respective Graphics chips. So, what’s this RAM they’re talking about? Well, multiplayer requires loadable memory. In any multiplayer game’s case, the RAM records:

– How much textures, how much polygons is being used, how fast the game runs.
– Your multiplayer records. Even though it’s sent to the game’s server, it requires saved data on the RAM to recognize the stats you racked up. Every time you finish a match, your stats are sent to the server, this is why it’s imperative to stay in the lobby. By the time you’re in the lobby, your stats are erased from the RAM memory.
This is important because IWEngine isn’t just recording how many kills you made, it also records:
— Your overall XP.
— Your match’s XP.
— Your weapon XP.
— Any accolades you’ve gathered.
— Your Callsign/Eblem.
— Your rank, your accomplishments (I.E. “All Pro.”)
— What emblems you earned, what callsigns you earned.
— What unlocks you earned.

All of this adds up. All of this stuff is stored in your RAM.

Even though that it’s disposable memory, it’s still a lot of memory being used. Especially when you consider that you’re using Call of Duty Elite in the background, and the theatre mode is in the background, recording.

I don’t have to tell you that physics, geometry, hit detection, special effects, and all the other little details adds up into this RAM, too.

For example, because Xbox 360 and PS3 have different architectures, either system isn’t using something the other one does well. For this example, let’s consider that PS3 has the Cell Processor. Is that being used? No, because it’s the same game you’re getting on Xbox 360. Does Xbox 360 have more than 3 cores? No. It has a Tri-Core Xenon which is on the verge of becoming a last-gen processor. PS3 has 7 cores. Precisely it’s 1 PPE & 6 SPEs, but still. It’s got more complex architecture than Xbox 360. Therefore, the PS3 multiplatform games has to be on the same coding wavelength as Xbox 360, or you’ll find buggy problems.

So, developers have to work with a singular mindset. This means multiplatform games for PS3 has to use 30/40% of the console horsepower just to be able to work like an Xbox 360 game. Thus, limiting the engine to a few things, mainly, where the other 60% is allocated.

That’s what they’re saying; the rest of the stuff is where all of this other 20% is allocated to: The RAM. For PS3, the 512 RAM is split into two sections. 256 MB goes to system memory, and 256 MB goes to graphics memory. The Xbox 360 on the other hand has 512 MB of unified memory. Take a good guess where each of the sections I mentioned above goes?

512 MB of memory isn’t enough for developers to work with, though.

Originally posted at MP1st Forums. I wrote it, tho.

You think you’ve fixed everything to do with the freezing? Nope. It’s also in Zombies, but you haven’t heard of this much because it’s an isolated amount of people experiencing it. I’ve experienced some freezing in the Zombies lobby. Yes, in Zombies!

Films: I don’t know why you need to make modifications for Call of Duty “Films,” I don’t like how Films in Black Ops II works. Go to video, select it, go back to “lobby,” then play video. I mean, what the #@^& man? At launch, when I tried it for the first time, it was loading, loading, loading, for a long time. Then I figured out that Treyarch themselves turned the whole thing off. And even when it’s turned back on, I can’t even get Films to work. As in, rendering the videos to my Call of Duty Elite account and then into my YouTube channel.

I had a really, really good match, where I was able to snipe two players at once. Which was legendary. I immediately tried to render it to CODElite/Youtube with my main YouTube account, and it didn’t go through.

I just wish Treyarch didn’t fix this area. That adage holds true here. “Don’t fix what isn’t broke!”

It didn’t work after the 1.04 patch update, either. In fact, all of my videos, including the edited video was gone. Bye bye!

My last complaint of the evening, is something annoying. It’s pissing me off. It’s a bug that did not appear until some sort of MW3/BO2 update.

“Accident Posture Changes.”

More like Accident Glitch: I’m a rusher, I rush. I run around the map like a crazy soldier on steroids. Every time I do, I hit a “bump” of sorts, and when I do, I find my character changing weapons, or reloading my weapons without me touching either button command. On PS3, the standard weapon change is Triangle, and the reload button is Square. Most of the time, I have my thumb to lay on both the X button and the Circle button. When I’m running to a bumpy, but small rock, it switches my weapon. But when I’m close to a player, the weapon reloads for me. It’s not exclusive to Black Ops II, either. It’s in MW3 and has been since Black Ops II was about to come out, and it’s in Black Ops 2 in full force – like I can’t ignore it anymore.

Sometimes, I think the other player is cheating because of this stupid lil bug!

At launch, I wasn’t even a rusher, but because I know Black Ops 2 is one of those fast paced games, I feel like I want to play the game the way I’ve been doing since COD4. Call it a habit, but hey.. I love it. Then these problems come up and I feel like I wasted $43 bucks for nothing.

We all know about these Prestige Master hackers going around in Black Ops 2, and you guys are paying more attention to that than the various problems, including lag compensation. A lot of players are complaining about it, and I’ve experienced it myself, but I can’t complain about it because it’s not as bad as Modern Warfare 3’s lag compensation.

By Carlos Morales

I've been writing about Video Games since 2001. I have become a well-known, recognizable name in the industry. I started in 2006, and has accumulated over 1 Million Users, and 4.5 Million Pageviews worldwide. I'll always be most passionate about this wonderful community.


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    I really will certainly be back a lot more frequently.
    With thanks -Tamika

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