Another year, another Call of Duty game. It is 2012 so that means it’s Treyarch’s time to take the wheel of one of the most successful franchises in recent history, and provide us with a single-player and multiplayer experience filled with action, adrenaline, bullets and zombies. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 delivers just that, with one of the best single-player campaigns the series has seen so far and a solid, if a bit mundane, multiplayer mayhem. Black Ops 2 is a welcomed return to the Black Ops storyline, featuring some of a best characters and narrative in a modern Call of Duty game. So grab your active camouflage suit and your see-through-walls rifle, and let’s begin.

The game is set in the year 2025, aka The Future. A dangerous terrorist is threatening the world’s economic stability, and it is up to the player to step into David Mason’s combat boots and take him down. David is the son of Black Ops protagonist Alex Mason (the one with all the numbers stuck in his head), who also makes a few appearances alongside everyone’s favorite badass Frank Woods. You see, the game’s narrative takes us through a compelling and interesting story, spanning decades, from the jungles of Nicaragua of the late 1970’s to a floating giant city in the Cayman Islands of 2025. In old Call of Duty Fashion, the story switches from one character’s prospective to another across time and space, but still somehow manages to stay perfectly coherent and easy to follow. Combine all that with the sensitive and even a little contemporary subject matter and you get a good story that compliments the fun and intense gameplay the series is known for.

Another feature previous COD games are known for is the epic set-pieces, and Black Ops 2 does not disappoint. While not as memorable as “No Russian” from Modern Warfare 2 or “Vorkuta” from the original Black Ops, BO2 has plenty of intense and exhilarating missions you’ll want to relive again and again. A daring escape through a crumbling city or shoot out in a futuristic night club are just small examples of what awaits you in the campaign. It’s such a pity you can’t play through these epic moments together with a friend in co-op play, but it is understandable when taking into account the game’s biggest addition to the series single-player experience – choice.

As you progress through the story, you’ll be faced with some difficult choices that ultimately shape the way the game continues and ends. Some choices are made by simply pressing a button to decide the outcome of certain events, but others are more organic and completely depend on the actions of the player during actual gameplay. This is a first for the series, and it really adds to the game’s replay value, especially if you didn’t get the best possible ending the first time around.

“Strike Force” missions are another new addition that can influence the way the game plays out. They are smaller missions in which the player commands a few military units (all futuristic and quite powerful) from a birds-eye view (or satellite, in this case). While the player can take control of an individual unit, and play them as a pure first-person shooter, these missions are intended to add a layer of strategy to the campaign. Ordering your units to attack or defend a location, using all sorts of tactics, can be quite fun at first, but the units A.I. is so poor it can get frustrating as hell. Soldiers won’t attack nearby enemies unless you specifically order them to, and the hulking CLAW units are so slow they are practically useless; most of the time you’ll feel compelled to assume direct controls of your units and do the dirty work yourself. The Strike Force missions are in no way mandatory if you just want to breeze through the story, but they are essential if you’re going for the best ending possible.

Black Ops 2’s single-player campaign is also one of the more visual and even gory in the series, so it is a good thing (or bad, depending on your views on gore) it is the best looking game in the series as well (unsurprisingly). Characters all look good, even (or especially) when horrible, horrible things happen to them. Each environment looks great, be it a vast rocky desert, a lush jungle or a high-tech research facility, and fire and explosions fill the screen with beautiful destruction. The game’s engine may be a bit old and some noticeable glitches, both visual and in the audio, can occur, but for the most part it has aged with grace and can still hold its own, much like the game’s aging protagonists.

Speaking of aging, it is time to mention the game’s zombie mode. BO2 tries to take the co-op zombie killing experience to a new level, offering a sort of a standalone campaign with something you can call a story. Unfortunately, this is probably the least fun mode to play, being nothing more than a series of closed arenas with wave after wave of the shambling undead. It may be a fun distraction to try out with friends, but why bother with the zombies when you’ve got such a fun and addictive multiplayer?

Black Ops 2’s multiplayer mode is nothing less than what you would expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer; and nothing more. If you’ve played last year’s COD title online, then you pretty much know what’s coming, gameplay-wise. It’s a fast-paced and highly competitive (and addictive) experience, with many pretty straightforward modes and tons of guns. The multiplayer is at its best in the domination-style modes, when all the action is focused around one to three areas in the map, resulting in wonderful and chaotic gunfights. The main reason these modes are not the best to play is the small number of players on each team, at least on consoles; with teams of 6 players, it can sometimes get lonely in the bigger maps, resulting in a weird feeling that all the action is happening somewhere else. Still, when you’re in the middle of it all and high on adrenaline, like in the extremely fun “Sticks and Stones” mode, Black Ops 2 offers some of the best competitive action out there.

While most of the multiplayer experience stayed pretty much the same, there are a few changes players will notice immediately. First is the new “10 items” class system: when customizing your class, you can choose up to 10 items to carry with you; this includes guns, attachments, grenades, perks and wild cards. Wild Cards are what gives every player his or her edge, letting them equip themselves with more perks or an assault rifle as a secondary weapon. As with all other items, they also need to be unlocked by leveling up. This new system feels a little limiting at first, but as more and more items become available, you can create a ton of possible setups for different modes and maps. If you don’t want to have to wait for unlockables to create your dream setup, you can join the League Play boards, where everything is available from the very start, and the playing field is much more balanced.

A great single-player campaign and a solid multiplayer make Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a definite proof that you can teach old franchises new tricks. Even the tiresome zombie mode can still be fun to play for an hour or two between multiplayer matches, just to shake things up. The game looks good, sounds good and the gameplay is as fun as ever, except maybe the Strike Force missions, depending on how you play them. With entries like Black Ops 2, it is safe to say that the future of the series is secured.


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