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Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Peter Krastev), 11/22/2012

Stagnation. It is hard to believe, but Black Ops 2 is the ninth installment of the successful Call of Duty series. The current spin-off wants to score points with its contemporary setting, immersing story, and freedom of play. Read here why the shooter series has not moved forward despite the innovations.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Almost no other action franchise is as successful as Call of Duty. In addition to the various sales records, the publisher, Activision, enjoys a high reputation that transcends the gaming scene. Whether it's newspapers, movies, or TV series: no other first-person shooter is mentioned so often. One could almost speak of a mass phenomenon.

Activision is well aware of the importance of this and provides the community with a new installment every 12 months. The odd volumes are done by Infinity Ward, while the even volumes come from Treyarch. With the title World at War, the US developer was considered the weaker team, not reaching the quality of the CoD founder. Ever since the previous chapter, Treyarch can be considered equal or even better. The reason: Black Ops offered a surprisingly compelling story for the Call of Duty setting.

The newest family offspring should continue this trend and bring some fresh air to the series thanks to innovations. Is the project successful? Our article deals solely with the single player mode.

Description

The beginning of Black Ops 2 turns out to be rather disappointing. First, we need to support allied troops in a dismal Angola and then rescue kidnapped colleagues. Instead of presenting a reasonably credible story, the mission quickly becomes the usual shoot-out. With weapons ready we mow through a seemingly endless mass of enemies. While this was quite fun in the first Call of Duty volumes, it has become somewhat tiresome by now.

Fortunately, Blacks Ops 2 quickly picks up in the next couple of missions. The game is not limited to a single time period, but rather changes from level to level - from the 70s and 80s to the future (Anno 2070). The several decades of action revolve around the bad guy, Raul Menendez, who wants to provoke a global war between the USA and the People's Republic of China. Because of the control of rare earth metals (essential for modern technology), China becomes a lucrative target.

Part of the story takes place in the 70s and 80s.
Part of the story takes place in the 70s and 80s.
As usual, the story is told quite quickly.
As usual, the story is told quite quickly.
China's stock market is under a cyber attack.
China's stock market is under a cyber attack.
In the first mission we support the leader of the Angolan forces.
In the first mission we support the leader of the Angolan forces.
Black Ops 2 is well packed with action...
Black Ops 2 is well packed with action...
...but often degenerates to a brainless shooting.
...but often degenerates to a brainless shooting.

Typical for CoD, we do not always control the same person in the missions. While in the flashbacks this is Alex Mason, the hero from the first part, in the futuristic passages his son David takes the lead. The story is tied up together by the memories of the (former) soldier Frank Woods and the already mentioned antagonist Raul Menendez.

In general, Black Ops 2 feels relatively story-heavy. In contrast to the older Call of Duty titles, the story does not feel like a foreign body, knitted without love, to the action missions. Innovation: several decisions will affect the course and outcome of the campaign. However, we are not quite happy with the story. Because of the constant leaps in time, the story leaves a somewhat chaotic and overly hasty impression. Although in terms of shooters the story is great, you shouldn't expect any miracles. Black Ops 2 is miles away from the narrative level of L.A. Noire.

The graphics are now outdated.
The graphics are now outdated.
Treyarch has naturally incorporated some slow passages.
Treyarch has naturally incorporated some slow passages.
The Call of Duty series offers many exotic sceneries.
The Call of Duty series offers many exotic sceneries.
Important characters are well detailed.
Important characters are well detailed.
The scene could also have come from Crysis.
The scene could also have come from Crysis.
Weather effects aid the mood.
Weather effects aid the mood.

In terms of gameplay, there are hardly any surprises. Anyone who has played Call of Duty will feel right at home. We mostly run with a couple of teammates through the diversely designed and well staged levels, enriched by a number of scripts. As the areas have become more open, the player has more freedom of movement than in the previous titles. The new Strike Force missions (we get a limited number of troops and can issue orders - bird's-eye view is available) introduce a bit of tactics to the series.

Apart from a couple of vague driving and airplane passages, the controls are comfortably smooth and neat. Although the sound quality is worse than that of Battlefield 3, it is worthy of a good score. The AI in Black Ops 2 deserves criticism. As we know from other action titles, the enemies are often very stupid and love to run towards our character, as to prove their intelligence.

In order to ensure a certain standard, Treyarch relies on quantity instead of quality, meaning hundreds of enemies. And here lies the problem. Many of the missions and situations are unrealistic and even ridiculous, making it hard to take the title seriously. Although this flaw is common in this genre, some action titles (Borderlands 2 for example) employ a certain self irony, which Call of Duty is painfully lacking. We find it strange to massacre our own village as the one-man army Raul Menendez or to hunt air missiles with an armored horse. 

In short: the relatively authentic story is offset by a vastly exaggerated and childish gameplay. Call of Duty should finally decide whether it is a grown-up military title, or a pure fun shooter. We do not find the pseudo middle to be a good solution.

We sometimes take control of Alex Mason's son (main character in Black Ops 1).
We sometimes take control of Alex Mason's son (main character in Black Ops 1).
The climbing gloves remind us of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
The climbing gloves remind us of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
No, those are not bats - those are our teammates.
No, those are not bats - those are our teammates.
The developer seeks visual variety.
The developer seeks visual variety.
The levels seem more open than in other Call of Duty titles.
The levels seem more open than in other Call of Duty titles.
Under this temple is a secret research complex.
Under this temple is a secret research complex.

The biggest criticism is the outdated technology. Even at maximum settings the graphics can be described as decent at best. Blurry textures, polygon and detail lacking objects, no physics goodies: the drawbacks list is long. Only the characters and some effects are reasonably good. In comparison: the Frostbite 2 engine by DICE (Battlefield 3Medal of Honor: Warfighter) sometimes looks better even in low settings. Technically, Call of Duty has not been able to keep up.

Treyarch has also made a mistake with the game design. In the course of the campaign we came across a couple of trial & error passages. Wait a second too long, go a meter too far, or press the wrong button: Bam, mission failed! But the customizable equipment (before each mission you can select among cool upgrades and gadgets) makes up for this.

You can now choose your own equipment in single player mode as well.
You can now choose your own equipment in single player mode as well.
The customization options are endless.
The customization options are endless.
Some weapons look quite futuristic.
Some weapons look quite futuristic.
There are various attachments.
There are various attachments.
The choice of grenades is also abundant.
The choice of grenades is also abundant.
Such perks used to be exclusive to the multiplayer.
Such perks used to be exclusive to the multiplayer.

Benchmark

To make things easy we test the beginning of the game. In the mission, Pyrrhic Victory, the main character must help out the Angolan troops. As you can see from the video below, the benchmark sequence is about 50 seconds long. The average frame rate is measured with Fraps. We start the recording as soon as the fire and the burning hand appear. When the main character gets on the truck and the mission details are displayed in the left corner, we end the sequence.

In our experience, the frame rate during the benchmark sequence corresponds to the average fps in the whole game, although some passages run significantly slower. 35 fps seem to be the indication of decent playability.

Settings

The 18 graphic options are divided into two different menus. In addition to the usual suspects (brightness, shadow quality, texture filtering, etc.) there are a couple of exotics - an FPS counter and a manual frame limiter (Black Ops 1 was limited to 90 fps by default). In terms of anti-aliasing we have FXAA, MSAA, and Nvidia's brand new TXAA. VSync was of course deactivated during the benchmark. Good: any setting can be changed during game play, without requiring a restart.

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

We are not entirely satisfied with the loading times. Black Ops 2 takes a while to load at the start of the game and a new level, as did the predecessor. With a conventional HDD, we often have to wait a long time. In addition, the title does not seem to be completely stable. When using the GeForce GTX 660 Ti our desktop system struggled with a couple of crashes in the Myanmar 2025 mission (Forceware 306.97 & 310.51). With Windows 8 we also encountered problems with Optimus (incorrect assignment).

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

Results

Although the graphics have not improved subjectively, the first-person shooter has higher hardware requirements than Modern Warfare 3 and the first Black Ops. Entry-level GPUs, such as Intel's HD Graphics 4000 struggle even with minimum settings (the HD 3000 is too slow according to our benchmark). For medium details and 1366x768 resolution a potent all-round GPU, like the GeForce GT 630M, is required.

To play Black Ops 2 at higher settings and with quality improvements, you would need at least a GeForce GT 640M. Maximum settings and 1920x1080 resolution are only possible with high-end cards (GeForce GTX 660M and above).

Benchmark-Tabelle: Black Ops 2

Verdict

During the several hours of our gaming session, a constant thought was there: This title is no breath of fresh air. Despite the fresh and long overdue innovations (Strike Force missions, branched action, individual equipment, etc.) the first-person shooter feels pretty old. Even the great staging does not help. The Call of Duty series is outdated, gameplay and technology-wise.

Mindless action is not what drives the gaming scene forward in the long run. In order for the interactive medium to be established as a cultural asset, the developers need to break new ground sooner or later. Speaking of new: Activision should finally replace the elderly engine, which does not meet the requirements of a triple-A title. Black Ops 2 looks like it could have been released five years ago.

The next attack lurk behind every corner.
The next attack lurk behind every corner.
We have already cleaned up here.
We have already cleaned up here.
Handy: the Millimiter Scanner reveals enemies.
Handy: the Millimiter Scanner reveals enemies.
This level is probably taken from the first-person shooter F.E.A.R.
This level is probably taken from the first-person shooter F.E.A.R.
There are lots of drones in the year 2025.
There are lots of drones in the year 2025.
Proper breaks to catch your breath are rare.
Proper breaks to catch your breath are rare.

Test Systems

Most of the results are from devices by Schenker Notebooks (mysn.de): 

  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M(X), GTX 680M & Radeon HD 7970M, 8 GB RAM)
  • XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM) 

The above notebooks used the following GPU drivers: Nvidia 310.51 Beta, AMD 12.11 Beta 7, and Intel 9.17.10.2875. 

from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012)
low
1024x768
Low / Off
med.
1366x768
Medium / Off
high
1366x768
High / On, FXAA
2xMSAA
ultra
1920x1080
(Extra) High / On, FXAA
4xMSAA
 4NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
256.4
199.4
148.6
 6AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
246.352
213.552
155.12
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
230.8
194.4
145.1
108.1
 14NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
242.52
220.52
1572
108.552
 15AMD Radeon HD 7970
238.2
223.1
146.3
104.9
 19NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
218.92
204.47
156.51
105.2
 20NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
235.5
206.7
140.4
95.4
 22NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
239.4
206.2
155.052
95.15
 28AMD Radeon HD 8970M
187.9
174.4
121.6
72.552
 32NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
214
165.352
109.62
75.33
 33NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
260.6
219.3
144
94.9
 35AMD Radeon HD 7970M
177.4
165.3
120.7
753
 37NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
185.9
171.7
124.4
85.7
 41NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
196.6
169.22
99.53
66.13
 42NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
187
152.4
100.6
66.4
 50NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
186.6
151.1
91.5
57.4
 51NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
127.6
95.9
65.2
 52NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
84.3
54.2
 57NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
172.9
1264
78.354
503
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
lowmed.highultra
 63NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
159
127.1
79.5
50.6
 66AMD Radeon HD 7770
153.3
127.6
70.5
47.4
 67NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
147.7
121.3
81.8
55.3
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
128.4
113.1
71.42
42.952
 77NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
106.1
87.4
57.6
 79NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
135.9
107.8
65
41.1
 83AMD Radeon HD 8870M
99.5
86.9
53.9
36.4
 97NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
132.9
95.72
57.72
37.3
 99AMD Radeon HD 8850M
70.6
59.5
46.9
27.8
 100*AMD Radeon R9 M265X
110.9
90.1
53.5
34.7
 102AMD Radeon HD 8790M
109
82
43
27.9
 108NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
116.8
88.6
51.4
31.6
 109NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
91.352
70.752
44.252
27.82
 110NVIDIA GeForce 840M
73.3
58.5
39.7
26
 112NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
111.4
85.6
48.8
29.1
 116Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
92
67.7
28.4
18.3
 119NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
75.43
69.33
48.43
28.83
 121NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
112
87
54
34
 123NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
54.7
30.5
 136AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
49.1
29.2
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
lowmed.highultra
 137NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
82.732
67.282
37.662
23.122
 139*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
92.8
70.9
41.4
26
 141AMD Radeon HD 8750M
74.6
54.3
26
18.3
 143AMD Radeon R7 M265
79.78
46.54
26.6
18.18
 148NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
84.952
70.052
41.352
25.2
 169AMD Radeon HD 8670D
112
57
26.7
17.7
 173AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
52.8
37.7
19.7
 176AMD Radeon HD 8730M
72
47.8
25
17.8
 193AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
56.3
38.9
19.1
 194AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
45.7
39.1
20.8
13.1
 196AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
48.1
34
16.6
 199AMD Radeon HD 7660D
76
50
22.3
14.2
 217AMD Radeon HD 8650G
45.3
37.2
19.6
 221AMD Radeon HD 7670M
51.2
38.1
20.2
 222NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
56.22
44.052
25.752
16.152
 223AMD Radeon HD 7560D
68
47
20.6
12.8
 227NVIDIA GeForce 820M
60.7
46.9
28.4
 229NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
49.5
39
23.3
 231Intel Iris Graphics 5100
53.1
38.5
24.1
11.4
 235AMD Radeon HD 8450G + Radeon HD 8570M Dual Graphics
25.2
22.9
15.2
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
lowmed.highultra
 238AMD Radeon HD 8550M
36.6
28.6
15.9
 243Intel HD Graphics 4600
62
40.9
17.5
10.6
 248AMD Radeon HD 7660G
61
42
19.6
12.4
 253Intel HD Graphics 5000
40.5
28
14.1
 263AMD Radeon HD 7570M
53.5
34.7
15.7
 266ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
57.4
38.9
18.9
12.8
 276AMD Radeon HD 7610M
75
38
18
12
 278AMD Radeon HD 8470D
73
41.3
18.9
11.9
 281Intel HD Graphics 4400
30.62
22.32
10
 284AMD Radeon HD 7550M
47.2
30.4
13.9
 292AMD Radeon HD 7600G
20.4
15.6
6.9
 318AMD Radeon HD 7480D
49
34
15.6
8.352
 319Intel HD Graphics 4000
31.44
20.94
6.64
6.6
 322AMD Radeon R5 (Beema)
31.8
22.8
11.3
 323*AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)
31.7
24.1
10.5
6.7
 324Intel HD Graphics 4200
27.2
19.1
8.9
 325AMD Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5
46.8
32.5
15.4
8.5
 332AMD Radeon HD 8450G
31.1
23.2
10.3
 336AMD Radeon HD 8400
27.6
18.8
 348AMD Radeon HD 8330
28.5
19.1
8.7
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
lowmed.highultra
 376Intel HD Graphics (Haswell)
25.6
17.6
 406AMD Radeon HD 8250
20.2
14.1
6.9
 413Intel HD Graphics 3000
16.652
12.2
4.4
 434Intel HD Graphics 2500
18
 469*Intel HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
13.62
 473Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
12.4
7.3
* Smaller values are better. / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.
static version load dynamic

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Benchmarked
Author: Florian Glaser, 2012-11-22 (Update: 2013-06- 6)