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Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision, Inc.
Style(s): First-Person Shooter
Activision's massively successful first-person shooter franchise returns to the shady world of clandestine missions and deniable operations, while for the first time adding in branching storylines and near-future combat in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The single-player story weaves between the exploits of original Black Ops protagonist Alex Mason in the 1980s, and those of his son David Mason in the year 2025. A Nicaraguan drug-lord and terrorist named Raul Menendez provides a timeline-spanning villain, with gamers witnessing his formative years and his ascent to power.
The early portion of the campaign finds players joining Alex Mason and other operatives as they fight proxy wars in Cold War hotspots like Central America and Afghanistan; actions that partially spur Menendez into forming his populist Cordis Die movement. The futuristic portions of the game occur after an electronic attack brings down the Chinese Stock Exchange, leading to a new cold war in which China stops exporting rare earth elements. Much of the new war is fought with cyber attacks, robots, and unmanned aerial vehicles, with Menendez antagonizing both sides into a larger conflicts in places like Los Angeles, Singapore, and Yemen. The branching storylines of new Strike Force missions take place in the 2025 portion of campaign, with the selection of one path locking out several other missions, and permanent deaths resulting in constantly shifting goals and conflict-resolution possibilities.
Set exclusively in 2025, the Black Ops II multiplayer modes remain a vital part of the Call of Duty package and have received a variety of upgrades and alterations designed to promote teamwork and make the action more accessible to newcomers. A new multi-team option expands the traditional squad-vs.-squad mechanic to include three or more teams, the Create-A-Class feature has been changed to allow for the creation of custom characters, and Kill Streak bonuses have been renamed Score Streaks to reward gamers for completing specific actions rather than simply offing a number of foes in succession.
Developer Treyarch has also included and expanded its popular co-op zombie action, with the Tranzit mode letting up to four players battle zombies and travel on foot or in a bus through an expansive landscape. The Survival mode asks gamers to defend a single area as waves of undead descend upon them, while the new Grief mode finds two teams of four competing to see who can survive the zombie invasion the longest. ~ Christopher Brown, All Game Guide
Package Contents: Nuketown 2025 Code
Responsible for the "even"-numbered years in Activision's annual Call of Duty franchise, developer Treyarch continues its own take on modern warfare with Black Ops II, the follow-up to 2010's best-selling title. While the game still closely adheres to the same formula as the developer's previous shots at the military series, underneath the familiar veneer are a few interesting twists. Once again you'll choose from three main play modes: the single-player campaign, which relies on heavily scripted, Hollywood-style action scenes; a zombie mode designed as a cooperative survival game; and the competitive multiplayer mode that rewards players with experience points, perks, and other arcade-style accoutrements for each kill.
New to Black Ops II is the ability to shape the campaign's story to an extent by making decisions at certain points along the way, such as whether or not to execute a hostage, but the story is often so idiotic it doesn't really matter what you decide. Treyarch has decided the best route to keeping players engaged is to shock instead of awe, peppering its campaign with some truly stomach churning scenes. One involves witnessing a body being burned alive, while another has you on a blood-soaked rampage, using a machete to butcher bodies. The campaign alternates between two time periods -- the 1980s and the near future -- with the latter offering some gizmos and gadgets to play with, like cloaking devices and robotic drones.
The biggest change to the campaign is the inclusion of real-time strategy missions, in which you stave off waves of hostiles by defending key parts of a compound. It's a welcome change, and the fact that these levels are spun off from the main campaign means you can tackle them at any point as you progress. There's only one small problem: they are a pain in the posterior to get through. It's difficult to control your squad mates, and they need to be constantly monitored. Once you get the hang of moving them into position, you'll realize your troops aren't much more than cannon fodder. This forces you to be everywhere at once, trying to overcome a base filled with brain-damaged allies that think a tactic is a hard mint candy.
The structure of each campaign mission isn't any different than what you'd find in previous Call of Duty games, as you are primarily following a linear path through often cramped squares and rectangles until you reach an exit. On the bright spot, there are plenty of targets to take down along the way, all of which have impeccable aiming skills and like to hide behind pillars, trees, and vehicles, popping up to shoot you as soon as you cross an invisible line. So while the enemy AI is predictable, the campaign missions at least offer plenty of action. The best parts of the campaign are the vehicle sequences, where you'll be able to blast foes from a boat, escape an enemy compound in a jeep, and more.
The campaign falls within the six- to eight-hour range, but there's another way to wring out some extra play time: a high-score mode that has you racking up points for kills, completion times, and more. Of course, most will want to jump into either the multiplayer or zombie mode after running through the campaign. In the zombie mode, you'll be able to team up with three friends in a choice of three areas. Your goal is to survive as long as possible while zombies shamble across the map. Shoot zombies to earn the money needed to unlock doors, shore up defenses, and acquire weapons and ammo. You can also cobble together makeshift items from parts of other objects, adding to the strategy and survival aspects in this crazy spin-off game, which might be Treyarch's greatest contribution to the series as a whole.
The multiplayer is, as expected, fast and brutal, so players will die, respawn, and repeat thanks to the forgiving mechanics (quick scopes, shooting from the hip, and numerous perks that take the skill, if not the thrill, out of the hunt). In addition to the different maps, new wrinkles include the ability to custom design emblems and having more options in building your character class. The biggest knock on the multiplayer is that it still feels largely the same, so if you've grown tired of the running and gunning that's been a mainstay since 2008's Modern Warfare, there's nothing here to rejuvenate your interest. All things considered, Black Ops II is a solid purchase for anyone new to the franchise, as its three distinct play modes offer something for everyone. Black Ops II also deserves credit for trying to shake things up, but for most Call of Duty vets, the "new" can't take away the "deja vu." ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.