Block Ops II is a strange little game. Not to be confused with the much more robust COD title, this mobile FPS is about as shallow as they come. 3D-meets-8-bit landscapes cover the entirety of the game’s look and feel, while clunky weapons hinder the gameplay that’s pretty familiar for multiplayer-centric shooters. Add a healthy dose of repetition, and this game earns itself pretty low marks in my book. But there are a (very) few redeeming qualities.
Before I go any further, I want to touch on one minor caveat with my mostly negative review. If you’re a fan of the Minecraft thing, this game might strike a warm and fuzzy chord. It has the same general feel as the CPU titan, only without the level-design, “my environment is cooler than yours” programming aspect. Some might argue that Minecraft is nothing without the level design angle, but it is worth noting that Block Ops II bears striking resemblance.
The gameplay here is very familiar. You walk around with a dummy D-pad and aim your gun by dragging your finger around the rest of the screen. There are three action buttons on the side of the screen: a fire button, a look-down-sight toggle and a block-placing option. The latter is obviously the coolest features as it allows you to customize your environment in-game with instant cover to hide behind (while also being able to destroy pretty much everything else). Obviously this is part of the Minecraft comparison I was alluding to earlier, and the value here isn’t lost on me. But with the slow-and-clunky movement engine (more to come on that later), I couldn’t fully appreciate the customizable gameplay.
Let me just say that I didn’t play the original Block Ops, so I can’t in good faith speak to the evolution between games. But to be frank, I can’t really imagine how there was another game. There’s just nothing to latch onto as far as single player goes. There are about six-or-so levels when you first start the game and each has a different landscape. That means different hiding places, different vantage points and different strategies—extra points for the level called “Facility,” a la Goldeneye. That is unfortunately where the “narrative” ends. Each of your enemies looks the same, following the same embarrassingly slow AI model. So once you get the hang of dodging their shots and gunning them down, the game gets really easy. Beyond that, there’s really nothing to be said for the single player mode.
OK, OK—before you state the obvious, I’ll admit—this game was meant for online multiplayer. It makes sense that there is no story, because you’re supposed to log on and play against fellow blockheads worldwide. Unfortunately, I found the online experience to be just as shallow as the rest of the game. I logged onto the servers many times (all of which resulted in long wait times and plenty of lag) and found the online enemies also lacked serious luster. This could have just been my bad luck in matching opponents, but the multiplayer simply wasn’t a very rich experience.
So what are the key takeaways here? Well, the most glaring issue with this game is the fluency of gameplay and its physics. With such simplistic graphics, you’d think that the developers would have figured out a way to make the game feel better, even if it (intentionally) looks silly. But even at top sensitivity, I found myself mashing my finger around the screen with frustration, trying to get any enemies in my sight. Sure, I got better at it as I played, but a challenge of a game should be a complement to its physics engine, not a result of it. So that’s where I took off severe points.
At the end of the day, the game does provide the things that Minecrafters love, with in-level customization and comically simplistic graphics. But it doesn’t go far enough. The developers seemed to have stopped just short of achieving an online shooter. What they probably should have done is spent some time with the mobile FPSs that have done it right, because this ground has been covered well by the likes of N.O.V.A. and Modern Combat, to say nothing of snappy smaller titles like Neon Shadow and Critical Mission: Space. Unfortunately, instead of drawing from these titles for inspiration and guidance, Ammonite Design has foisted unto the market yet another mobile game with apathetically laid-out levels, poorly articulated controls and not much resembling real playability. If you can’t stay away from this style of game, then go for it. But if you’re like me, you’ll save your money for a title that’s worth it—that’s more like what you’d expect from a FPS. You know, one that’s fleshed out. Interesting. Fun to play.
A Minecraft-esque shooter that lacks in playability as much as it does in graphic richness (which is a lot).