Xbox boss Phil Spencer can rest easy – for now. After months of relentless ‘feedback’ from the userbase, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is finally available for Xbox One users via the wonder of backwards compatibility. And not surprisingly, bearing in mind the results of virtually every back-compat title we see these days, Xbox One represents the definitive way to play this library classic – on console, at least.
It’s a fascinating release to go back to, because not only is BLOPs 2 one of the most successful games in the Call of Duty franchise, it’s also the last major installment designed with last generation consoles in mind. Sure, stripped down versions of more recent COD games were released on these older machines, but this was truly the last great title in the series produced with last-gen consoles in mind.
BLOPs 2 also demonstrates how far we’ve come in terms of image quality expectations on consoles since its release. It runs at 880×720 on Xbox 360 – which is rather low – but at the same time, its high frame-rate allows the game to hold up better than you’d expect. It’s not a stunning game by modern standards, but Treyarch was pushing the boundaries of its engine back in 2012 when it was first released. In addition to the 60fps target, the development team introduced new water effects, improved lighting and some other nice features into the mix. The scene where you use a wing suit to infiltrate an enemy compound still holds up nicely today. This is perhaps the most technically demanding Call of Duty game of the last generation.
And this Xbox One re-release also benefits from being built upon the finest last-gen version of the game available. It ran more smoothly than its PS3 counterpart and absolutely wiped the floor with the lacklustre Wii U release (even in its fully patched form – from which we took fresh captures for this new video).
As good as it was though, it wasn’t perfect, with some stutter and slowdown prominent mostly in the campaign. Xbox One essentially takes the existing 360 title and utilises its more powerful GPU to smooth out many of the performance issues. It’s still not quite perfect – perhaps Scorpio will finally get us there – but the fact remains that it is the smoothest console version of this title you can buy.
As good as the campaign is, the chances are that it’s multiplayer and zombie mode you’re more likely to revisit and in this respect, the Xbox One version deliver. Checking out multiplayer first, one of the first things we encountered is the need to download the Nuketown map pack, which is required now. Thankfully, DLC management for 360 games is well implemented on Xbox One and the process went very smoothly.
Once downloaded, we had no issues getting into a game, thankfully – there are still a lot of people playing Black Ops 2 right now. Once into the game, performance goes straight for 60 frames per second and never lets go. Every match we played managed to deliver a near flawless level of performance.
Treyarch’s popular Zombie-based survival mode is still being played by thousands of people and we had no trouble jumping into a 30 minute round. Performance is very similar to the multiplayer mode overall with a nice stable 60 frames per second throughout most of the match. However, when explosions or fire fill the screen, performance is taxed and we end up with a slight dip in frame-rate that quickly dissipates.
Ultimately, the performance on Xbox One is excellent. It’s the best console iteration of Black Ops 2 money can buy, and it still plays great due to its high frame-rate. If you have fond memories of the game and are looking to revisit any portion of it, this is a great way to do so. Just be prepared for the low resolution presentation – it’s the one aspect of the title that has aged the most, but it’s a result of Treyarch pushing its iteration of the COD engine as far as the team could take it in the last-gen era.
And with that, the (possibly indefinite) wait begins for back-compat versions of the two Modern Warfare titles…