My games of the year 2016 (GOTY 2016)

Best Action game

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God Eater 2 Rage Burst (PSVita/PS4)

Without a natural leader like Bloodborne last year, hard to choose between the three great ones today. But God Eater 2 Rage Burst somewhat stands out, because of its memorables momenta and heated battles. Full of adorable characters and playable in coop, it goes well beyond the hunting genre to become a great saga.

Runner-up : Fate Extella (PSVita) & The Division (PS4)

Best Shooter

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Battlefield 1 (PS4)

In Spring, I would have bet anything on Overwatch for this title. But that was underestimating DICE’s efforts to make Battlefield not only innovating by its theme, World War I, but also a thrilling sniper experience thanks to the best TDM maps since I know the series. The remarkable atmosphere and the gorgeous graphics are just the cherry on the cake.

Runner-up : Overwatch (PS4)

Best Strategy game

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Kan Colle kai (PSVita)

Kan Colle kai is the new Advance Wars. The addictive management of units and the desperate defense of positions brought me tears of joy when the final trophy popped. Gifted with rich and unique design and having a game system as enjoyable as Pokemon plus outstanding challenge, Kadokawa’s game is one to remember.

Runner-up : Pokemon Sun&Moon (3DS)

Best RPG

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Persona 5 (PS4)

Persona 5 being my first «true» Persona game (after Persona 4 Dancing All Night last year), I hadn’t how massive this series was. And here it is, the hype is 170% deserved, because Persona 5 is an RPG like you seldom see. Great narrative & characters, fantastic combat, dream-like design, deep game system, overflowing content… the new King of JRPG is here!

Runner-up : Tokyo Xanadu (PSVita)

Best puzzle game

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Rose and the Old Castle of Twilight (PSVita)

After a superb Yomawari, Nippon Ichi Software is at it again with Rose and the Old Castle of Twilight. Not adventure this time but pure a 2D platformer featuring lots of puzzles for hours of intense brainstorming, with far better controls than The Firefly Diary.

Runner-up : Ace Attorney 6 (3DS)

Best Sountrack

初音ミク Project DIVA Future Tone

Hatsune Miku Project DIVA Future Tone (PS4)

The tracklist in Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone speaks for itself : in the 228 tracks, you’ll surely find dozens of your liking. Every J-pop style is widely represented, with a lot of novelties compared to portable Project Diva games (Hôkai Utahime, Gothic and Loneliness). Yet this PS4 game also features classics like Remocon or Envy Cat Walk.

Runner-up : Hatsune Miku Project Diva X (PSVita/PS4)

Best graphics

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The Division (PS4)

Open world of impressive scale, The Division is visually the most striking game I’ve seen this year. Ubisoft re-created New York with great realism and the post apocalyptic touch makes it an immersive experience.

Runner-up : Battlefield 1 (PS4) & Hatsune Mike Project Diva X (PSVita)

Best innovation

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Overwatch (PS4)

When Blizzard does something, it rarely fails. Overwatch is a competitive FPS like you’ve never seen before. Close to an RPG by its characters and skill mechanics, it allows for a great variety of gameplay blowing everything else in the genre. You’ve got an innovative set of roles like defenders (D.Va) or support characters of which the recently added grandma Ana is a stunning example.

Runner-up : Mary Skelter Nightmares (PSVita)

Best narrative

futaba

Persona 5 (PS4)

Persona 5 is the master of suspense and intrigue. The passion in those personal destinies, the will of the characters, the bond uniting them, all this conjugated with the onimous plot set by wicked elites is a delicious cocktail that you keep pouring during dozens of hours.

Runner-up : Tokyo Xanadu (PSVita)

Best atmosphere

rose-flashback

Rose and the Old Castle of Twilight (PSVita)

Nippon Ichi Software is at its best when creating dark and crooked universes. Rose and the Old Castle of Twilight is no expection and delivers gloomy art that chills the bone : blood, death and despair are the key elements here. The developments, the very logic of the game and the touching conclusion make it emotionally beautiful.

Runner-up : Battlefield 1 (PS4)

Best design

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Kan Colle kai (PSVita)

While Persona 5 sure blows things out in terms of design, I might stick to Kan Colle kai for this one. Really unique concept with risqué fan service included, Kantai Collection does a great job drawing friends and foes, and decorating your HQ is a lot of fun too.

Runner up : Persona 5 (PS4), Mary Skelter Nightmares (PSVita) & Pokemon Sun/Moon (3DS)

Best game you might never play

nagato

Kan Colle kai (PSVita)

I’m actually pretty sure you won’t play Kan Colle kai, unfortunately. Kadokawa has already announced that the game would be pulled back from shelves, further evidence that relations with the IP owner DMM.com aren’t exactly easy. You still have a few weeks to order an import version and a fat kanji dictionary with it.

Runner-up : none

Most disappointing

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Sword Art Online Hollow Realization (PSVita/PS4)

You’d need to be really incompetent or seriously cynical to keep this unwanted «title». Mr. Futami Producer of Sword Art Online games, must be this kind of guy. Incapable of keeping the progresses made in Sword Art Online Lost Song, he’s badly rehashed Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment with Sword Art Online Hollow Realization : romoved playable characters, boring linearity, thin storyline, outdated engine… everything indicates he wanted to maximize profits by minimizing efforts. This logic seems actually be going on with Sword Art Online vs Accel World, the first screens of which are horrendous. This time, my money will go the more capable and ambitious developers.

Runner-up : Summon Night 6

mini Platinum-trophy Game of the Year

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Persona 5 (PS4)

mini gold trophy Kan Colle kai (PSVita)

mini Silver_Trophy Rose and the Old Castle of Twillight (PSVita)

mini-bronze_trophy Tokyo Xanadu (PSVita)

Preview – Tom Clancy’s The Division

TD

The Division is one of the «big 3» AAA I’m waiting for eagerly this year. Having missed the boat of the closed beta because I pre-ordered and registered too late, I’m more than happy to give it a try in the public version.

Not much blah-blah in Ubisoft’s beta. The story of the game is barely hinted at and you have to fathom what’s really going on in Tom Clancy’s New York. A highly dangerous virus is decimating the population, and at the same time, armed men calling themselves the rioters started to act violently within the city.

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Despite the scenario being vague, we do contemplate the fabulous atmosphere in this TPS/RPG. It’s Christmas time, it’s snowing, and yet an eerie silence looms on the Big Apple. The city’s last defenders (you) are preparing their counterattack in improvised HQ, there are decontamination facilities everywhere, you can see a memorial to the victims etc. The main musical theme adds the mysticism and your allies scream in the coms when the situation is really bad. The post-apocalyptic setting is fairly convincing.

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Graphically speaking, downgrade or not, it’s absolutely impressive. New York looks as real as you could expect and animations during combat feel very natural. The lightning effects and the changing weather make wonders. It’s tremendously good to look at, but I expected no less after Watchdogs’s magnificent Chicago.

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The command center is in shambles. Up to you to rebuild it by looking for key persons gone missing (medic, engineer), all this in order to reopen the various wings of the base (hospital, security and engineering). Once you’ve brought back the specialist, you’ll have to improve the department via its own exclusive ability points (for example, the hospital wing needs supplies points). Each time you do that, your character receives new abilities to be used on the field. Perfect transition to remind you that The Division is a true RPG, as you get experience points, level up and have to assign combat/support abilities to L and R.

Following the know-how from Watchdogs, The Division seems to already have the basics of a good open-world game. New York seems somewhat busy despite the tragic events, although stray dogs outnumber the panicked passers-by. But the most interesting point is that there’s already a big density of missions to be done. In addition the main story, several side missions are spread at nearly every corner : taking an enemy hideout, getting rid of a murderer, helping in skirmishes, freeing hostages, fixing a sabotaged antenna… Still, those missions feel more or less the same and aren’t as complex or interesting as Watchdogs’s so far. Funny thing : a sewer network has been modeled and you can move under the city.

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Fighting has proved to be quite exhilarating. Everything’s down to your capacity to find the best cover and change it when needed. Every attempt to attack in the open is pure suicide given that your character has little resistance. You therefore have to be clever and move while in cover so as to flank the enemy, or be quick and precise in crossfire. It’s urban warfare like we seldom see in video games. But there’s a snag : X button is for cover, and circle is used for jumping over obstacles, with the result that the player is likely to make unwanted inputs. So I’d say the precision of the controls is not for the best as it is. The weapons physics are astonishingly realistic : the kick of the M4 is monstruous. You do have to learn to adjust your aim and fire small bursts.

Tom Clancy's The Division™ Beta_20160220181117

But we are in an RPG and you’ll have to increasingly improve your gear. Like in Destiny, your character’s level needs to match the one of weapons and armor. The higher the level, the better the equipment is. And after that you can customize rifles with various accessories (suppressor, better scope, foregrip for better handling), which allows the player to personalize their loadout. Frankly, money looks hard to come by in this game and you can’t really rely on vendors. The best option is to loot enemies, method that gave me this little one. This is actually the Mosin-Nagant, a very old Russian sniper featured in the Metal Gear Solid series.

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Very quickly, you do realize that the challenge in The Division is no joke. Mission 2 is nearly impossible to complete. You need to empty 1 or 2 magazines to take out one rioter, and those possess a fierce IA : they move constantly, aim extremely well and overuse their stun grenades. And given the tricky shooting due to the realistic weapon physics, it turns out that you’ll need help. And help is here, because you can join a cooperative session like in Call of Duty Black Ops III. That is if you do understand the kafkaesque machtmaking, but once you’re in a party, the game is very hooking and the servers seem solid.

I’m satisfied of this beta because The Division is turning out to be exactly as I had imagined it : a connected, cooperative experience which mixes the pleasure and intensity of gunfight with the incomparable flavor of an RPG progression system.

Review – Call of Duty Black Ops III

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Never again. That’s what I was saying to myself after the terrible Modern Warfare 3 : never buy again a Call of Duty at launch. But given the positive memories I have from Black Ops I & II and that it’s crucial year given the first Playstation partnership, circumstances make me shed 70€ at this end of year.

Even though the multiplayer was decent at that time, campaign was the main interest in the past Black Ops games. I therefore naturally throw myself into solo play in this third episode.

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The story of Call of Duty Black Ops III unfolds on a world plagued by natural disasters and civil insurrection. An interesting setting but isn’t being developed correctly afterwards. In the somewhat dull first missions, you face several paramilitary groups and chase a traitor from your unit. Nothing very original or exciting so far.

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The campaign becomes increasingly enjoyable as it allows you to customize your loadout like you would do in competitive multiplayer. It’s actually the same frame, so it will feel familiar immediately. The other good news is that the weapons are unlocked way faster than in competitive multiplayer, which allowed me to try this little one, the SVG-100, very peculiar bolt-action sniper rifle with its little air vents that cool it down after firing. You are also able to choose an upgrade your DNI, cybernetics equipment. Because in Black Ops III, very much like Deus Ex Human Revolution, you are half-machine.

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Call of Duy Black Ops III is into futuristic warfare like never a Call of Duty has been before. Besides human soldiers, the campaign will throw you against various robots and mechanical weapons. Their patterns of attack are fairly different from each other, which will surprise the player almost every time. Treyarch does deliver some quality action scenes despite other having little interest (the aircraft sequence for example). It’s even more enjoyable that the campaign-related trophies are unlocked in Hardened difficulty or higher, which makes you give your best and it’s very rewarding. The overcome that, you have the choice between 3 skill trees of cybernetics : hacking, brute force and jamming. This allows you to use the technology according to your own style, or try them all. Jamming can make robots implode or disturb guards, but the must remains hacking enemy mechas to turn them against your opponents!

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The campaign is even better with friends in the brand new cooperation mode, huge innovation of Call of Duty Black Ops III. Even though finding a public match turns out to be a headache at times, it’s quite easy to begin any mission with some buddies. The game system emphasizes interdependence and mutual aid because if one player die, the mission is a failure! The cyborgs are more solid and fiercer than ever, for more heated combat. Cooperating with 3 other players really transforms the campaign’s experience : as a sniper, I found myself covering the others from afar, which I can’t do alone. The only drawback is that you can’t filter difficulty, making it necessary to get in and out until you find a suitable game.

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Despite de very bland start, Black Ops III’s story takes a very different turn compared to other Call of Duty games. The chase of the traitor quickly becomes a desperate struggle against some computer virus affecting soldiers. This is not about patriotic war and stuff, and y the way, your own administration turn out to be shady characters. This bold setting is welcome, even though the narrative is too imprecise to connect the various ideas in it. There is still a somewhat deep design work in Call of Duty Black Ops III, including some psychedelic delirium in the 2nd half and interesting concepts like the Forzen Forest, which personally recalled deep-rooted memories. In its chaos, the story eventually makes relevant sense and develops a vision of what it wants to communicate to the player. The music was quite discreet, except here again the theme of the Frozen Forest.

Graphically speaking, this last entry indeed looks a lot better than the previous PS4 games. The modeling has been refined quite dramatically (it’s obvious when you play Advance Warfare just after), backgrounds and lightning effects are far more impressive, the outlines feel sharper.

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Then we come to competitive multiplayer, and that’s where Call of Duty Black Ops III fails, horribly. The idea of specialists is good, but there is a snag : they aren’t extremely specialized in whichever way! Just choosing one special move/power between two isn’t much. I did expect passive skills to make a difference. I picked the Outrider, basically the recon class with some kind of modern Ninja look.

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The bow is as cool as you would expect, but tricky to use and not that much of an advantage in battle. You can modify the range your your shot with the analog button to adapt your current situation, and in any case it makes a small explosion at impact (like the arbalet in Black Ops 1). Note that as it is a Specialist weapon, you can have it only during a certain timeframe. The problem is that you lose it immediately when you are killed, which is not the best choice given how fast the action is. The Outrider’s second tool is a sonar which allows you see nearby enemies through walls, but its reach is far from being good. In the end, the Outrider is a recon soldier without any relevant advantage (not even like the sniper perks of the Modern Warfare series), and actually nothing more than a skin of the standard soldier (when you look at other players, she is never used as a sniper).

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Let’s stress again the fantastic general design of Call of Duty Black Ops III, futuristic weapons being crafted in the smallest details. Just look at how precise the modeling of those tiny parts is! It really is a damn fine interface for modern weaponry lovers. The user interface is also splendid : the Specialist here seems to be lurking in what appears to be some sci-fi city like Coruscant.

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But the dream collapses after just a few hours : the maps are ridiculously tiny and full of obstruction. It is a MIRACLE to have even 30m of range! In those conditions, scoring with a sniper rifle is absolutely impossible. It’s unbelievable : the maps in Modern Warfare 2 were 3 times as large, and that was in a PREVIOUS generation. Look, there are CORRIDORS IN THE FOREST! Multiplayer battle are still 6 vs 6, while Battlefield 4 have been delivering 64 players maps for 2 years now. This translating a very clear intention from the developers to keep the gameplay as poor as possible so that worthless noobs can have fun. And the magnifying of the scopes is pitiful, x2 at best… Seriously, even the PSO1 on my airsoft gives more precise aim!

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As always since Modern Warfare 3, the episode of infamy, assault rifles and light machine guns are a lot to precise from any distance for us snipers to win any encounter. Not only that, but run speed has been increased and double jump causes the enemies’ movements to be unpredictable. It’s like duck hunt but here the ducks are hunting you too! Every game is a unbearable confusion of mediocrity and random game design. Team Deathmatch looks like a Free-for-all and Search & Destroy is not even an option given the awful weapon balance. Like my character says when she loses : “I didn’t sign up for this shit”.

I can hardly be satisfied of Call of Duty Black Ops III given its main feature, competitive multiplayer, is broken like never it has been in the series. Campaign was a cool experience, especially in coop, but are 10h of gameplay worth 70€ nowdays? It’s another debate. The illusion of the Frozen Forest echoes another, the ghost of the Call of Duty of the Golden Age when every gameplay style could join the party and have fun. I recommend to keep Advanced Warfare which is a lot more enjoyable in multiplayer, or invest in Battlefield 4 for true sniper gameplay.

Impressions – Bullet Girls

Last Summer, I had my finger on the «buy» button for the digital version of Bullet Girls… but I didn’t push, remembering the terrifying backlog I had on PSVita. Why didn’t I have the same reasoning during the D3 Publisher PSN sales, when I eventually pushed that button for half price.

Trophies unlocked : 9% (rank E on PSN Profiles, campaign 70% cleared)

Reason : Ragequit at a idiotic sneaking mission

Bullet Girls is actually Senran Kagura with firearms. Including a M82 Barrett, reason enough for to buy this, with of course the tsundere who bears it and the destructible costumes. Costume break which applies to the main heroines as well as to the random (all female) enemies. That said, you do deactivate it at once given how it hurts the flow of gameplay. Those are also too short to compete efficiently with the likes of Senran Kagura. Ecchi part quite average, but at least better than the meaningless dialogs that make you snooze within minutes. But the worst of all remain the support characters, who support you in nothing and tirelessly rehash the same line…

Bullet Girls is a pleasure for the eye, especially in its near-perfect character models, cornerstone of the genre. Stages are generic and feel flat, but you have no time looking at them anyway.

Because you immediately spot the main characteristic of this game : it’s insanely difficult! Very unlike the quite simple Action Neptune or Senran Kagura which does have a easy mode, Bullet Girls is a TPS that requires maximum concentration at all times and flawless aiming. In the first chapters already, my fingers hurt like they never did because I was clinging onto the Vita like a madman. It is folly : the missions only last a few minutes but it seems an eternity since your HP can deplete in no time at any moment. To make it even more hellish, everything must be done in limited time and believe me, you have no time to breath.

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In general, I’m not against difficulty as driving the player to use his ultimate resources often ends up rewarding. Controls didn’t feel fishy, the cover system is neat, but the weapon balance is terrible : this game has decided, in defiance of all war principles, that an assault rifle was better than a rocket launcher to destroy containers, and that a shotgun doesn’t deal damage if not half a meter close to the target (oh, sorry, Black Ops had already established this “fact”). But I can get over all this, I can. But in chapter 6 I can’t anymore, D3 is making a fool of me. Explanation : I must go from A to B without being spotted. OK, let’s go. I headshot the first guard : game over. I do it all over again, this time running until the garden with no cover. I shoot another guard : game over. And here I realize that I’m playing a bloody Metal Gear Solid in which I AM NOT ALLOWED TO SHOOT and where I must go through blind spot I have no idea about.

Final sh**, this game puts the Barrett in the assault rifle category. No, just… no, it’s unbearable.

Sniping in Black Ops II – Map analysis

Maps are a great strength of Black ops II multiplayer. I’ve been playing for quite a while now, here’s my sniper impressions on all of them, in no particular order with homemade screenshots.

PLAZA

Pretty difficult to master even in the long term, Plaza is a shopping mall composed with two elevated terraced structures and a plaza above some stairs in-between. The terraces have some excellent cover but there are not so many kill opportunities. On the plaza on the other hand, you’ll never be short of targets, but you will be sitting ducks for the players coming from all directions.

CARRIER

Chinese carrier whose deck is in shambles. It is a rather flat map with quite a bit of obstacles, but numerous spot are slightly elevated and give a good view of the comings and goings of your opponents. The clear side of the deck often hosts sniper duels. Actually quite a dynamic map.

STANDOFF

A small village in Eastern Europe. Le layout is classic but extremely efficient with lots of 1-stored houses, whose windows face each-other and give a clear view of the street under. It makes it possible to attack from the windows or from the streets to surprise your rivals.

SLUMS

Useless map. This South American town has narrow and short streets that will lead all your sniping attempts to certain death. You can always take a stand at either ends of the central plaza, but your flanks are wide open. If you really want to go, try SVU-AS + ACOG or Ballista + Iron sights.

OVERFLOW

Not really big map. This environment of Pakistani slums has three big windows facing each other, but also overused path on its sides from which rushers often come. That said, there usually are plenty of inhabitants at the windows. The fallen bus part and the boat bow are useful spots as well. SVU-AS + variable zoom is an asset.

EXPRESS

Long bullet train station. Awesome map in which you can see the other end from afar. The railway is within range and the control box adds pressure in mid-range engagement. Caution if you’re on the footbridge : you’re in permanently danger to get flanked.

DRONE

Futuristic military base lost in a jungle. Drone has insanely long firing lines. Actually, you may well get sniped if you’re at either end of the map. Once you’ve won your duel, the poor guys going through the center or waiting by th window are yours. The sides are somewhat busy at time, but you can quickscope or support behind the mobile front line.

YEMEN

Very complex coastal town. You’ll have to learn the layout to perform, because there are many buildings and as many windows. Being mobile is key as you’ll have to create yourself opportunities. Staying at one place won’t get you anywhere here, you’ll fall asleep! Once you know where is where, you will be able to use the long avenues and seaside paths to your advantage.

RAID

Luxury property cut in three lines. It depends on how others players will play : if people gather in the court at the center, it’s gonna be boring. But if people use the sides, there’ll be plenty of action for you.

AFTERMATH

Post-Apocalyptic scenery on a very large surface. Snipers will prefer the side of the bus, the latter being a dream-like hideout to shoot opponents coming from both sides. Near respawn locations, there are two stored-buildings that allow you to organize defense when overwhelmed. 

CARGO

Very nice map with an open central area. 3 locations are facing each other, which prevents camping. Therefore, you’ll have to be quick on the trigger to win here. High points make support fire possible on the sides.

 

TURBINE

THE ultimate sniping map! Very like Afghan in MW2, average distance is quite long and snipers rule. Bunkers allow you to stay covered and hidden until the moment to strike comes. From other locations you can see half of the map, but the lack of cover makes it risky. Up to you to play it safe or make a gamble to climb the leaderboards. 

Sniping in Black Ops II – Gun analysis

As I was telling you a few days ago, Black Ops II is way more sniper-friendly than many other Call of Duty games. Thanks to League Play, I was able to try all of them. Impressions.

SVU-AS

SVU-AS

This Russian semi-automatic sniper rifle boasts rapid fire rate, light weight, large magazine and low recoil (actually hardly any). That makes it more efficient than its past counterparts like the Dragunov, even though it has the same multiplyers. Variable zoom is a must on it as you can efficiently cover mid and long range, and sometimes keep up with rushers when moving.

DSR-50

DSR-50

This German-made bolt-action sniper 100% one-shot kills above the waist, making it the most powerful sniper rifle in Black Ops II. However, it is extremely heavy and scope-in time is long. Therefore, it is better to use it for long-range engagement only. Ballistics CPU is strongly recommended as it enables you to stabilize your aim faster. It is currently the most widely used sniper rifle in Black Ops II.

Ballista

Ballista

Second bolt-action rifle of the game, this recent American-designed sniper rifle is less powerful than its German counterpart for it one-shot kills chest up. However it is lighter and the aim smoother, making it easier to get headshots. It can equip iron sights for close-range engagement, but it’s almost useless given the superiority of automatic weapons.

XPR 50

XPR 50

This huge futuristic-looking rifle is semi-automatic and can one-shot kill chest up, but its high recoil limits the efficiency of rapid successive shots. It is somewhat similar to the Barrett M82 in less powerful although the aim felt steadier. It looks like a compromise of all the other sniper rifles with no real specialization of its own. FMJs are a good pick to make up for the lack in stopping power.