COD Black Ops 2 and Halo 4: A Literary Review

Why would I review these two games together?  Besides the fact that they’re my favorite XBox franchises and two of the best first person shooter games of all time, I found that they’re actually similar in many ways. But the one I’m going to look at here is that they share a common theme, with real drama and a heart-breaking story at the center of it.

Drama? At the heart of one of the biggest tough guy video games ever put on Xbox? COD Black Ops 2 was written by two dudes, one of whom was David S. Goyer, the guy who penned the revamped Batman films for Christopher Nolan and the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel. Not surprisingly, the story reads like a movie, with plot twists and everything.

The game opens in the future, Frank Woods is sitting in a wheel chair. He’s just an old man telling big fish stories at this point, so the game goes back and forth between a distant past when Frank Woods was an idealistic ops guy just trying to bring the baddies to justice, a less distant past where he’s the seasoned operative leading a bunch of younger guys around (namely you), and the present in the story, which is like twenty years ahead of us.

He’s retelling his experience with a nemesis of his, a crime boss named Raul Menendez. Menendez has a personal vendetta against Woods for inadvertently causing the death of his sister Josefina, who he had been taking care of ever since she almost died in a fire when they were kids.

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Menendez is like the only guy in the world Frank Woods can’t seem to kill. He always gets the jump on Frank and his scarred up face makes him seem like an even bigger monster.  But this isn’t some two-dimensional bad guy we’re dealing with; Menendez is introduced as a little boy who saves his sister. It’s like Grave of the Fireflies except the big brother grows up to hack the US government’s military defenses and almost blow up America.

I’ve read that Black Ops 2 is the first game to offer multiple endings depending on which option you decide to take in the story, such as between arresting Menendez and shooting him in the head. But anyone who’s played Bioshock knows that claim to be false. I won’t give away the ending cuz it’s about as dramatic as it gets. Not as dramatic, of course, as when Ghost gets killed in Modern Warfare 2 (mainly because he’s a good character that people actually care about) but they’re really playing the violins in this one.

Halo 4 focuses on this cyber relationship Master Chief is having with the AI Cortana. This one is so compelling I think because Master Chief is like part robot, he’s got no face really, just a helmet, so he’s not really all that human, more superhuman if anything.  But to see how delicate he is with Cortana, these exchanges they have where he seems to be staring at her longingly and you can hear in her voice that she – an artificial life form – really cares about him, well, it’s touching to say the least.

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He’s been carrying Cortana around ever since she chose him in an earlier Halo to be her protector. They’ve got this damsel in distress/knight in shining armor thing going on between them which really gets played up in Halo 4. It’s his mission to protect her but at the same time, whenever he’s in the shit, he just pops her into a terminal and she interacts with the host computer to save his ass. And she does it a bunch of times throughout the game. But sadly, A.I.s only have a 7 year life-span or there around so she’s slowly starting to disintegrate. You can see where this is headed. Get out your Kleenex is all I’m gonna say.

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If you haven’t played these games already, and you like shooting stuff and blowing stuff up, go out and buy these games right now! Or go to Redbox and rent them for a few days until you finish the game. They’re both phenomenal not only in the maps but in the action and the advanced weaponry that both games offer this time around, not to mention their stories.  Rating: A++

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