'Call of Duty: Black Ops II'
Microsoft Xbox 360 (PC, PS3)
ESRB rating: Mature
Review rating: 4.0 stars
I had my doubts about the "CoD" franchise when it changed from WWII to modern combat, but the new era has exceeded my expectations! Sadly, Activision is content to sit on its laurels and churn out slight variations of the same title year after year using the same outdated gaming engine. With "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," the developers didn't change the actual game play, but at least they changed the way the game is played.
Fortunately, the storyline isn't as convoluted as we're used to, as it follows the exploits of father and son. David Mason is a Black Ops soldier in the year 2025 who's hunting down a dangerous terrorist who plans on unleashing a major cyber-attack upon the free world. He enlists the help of his father, Alex Mason, whose story is set in the 1980s and is told through flashbacks.
Like previous installments, most of the single-player action is aimed at players with short attention spans. It's full of non-stop explosions and gunfire from brain-dead enemies whose strategy resembles that of zombies with guns: shoot, duck, advance. That's why the new strategic Strike Force mode is so welcome.
In this cool mode, players control their entire force rather than one unit. This means they can rise above the battlefield to view the action and issue orders to different squads. Also cool is the ability to jump into any unit and control them in first-person mode. Some levels task players with simply defending an area while others include escorting convoys and rescuing hostages.
Another welcome addition is the advanced zombie mode where players play through several levels of increasingly dangerous waves of undead enemies. I like how players can open new areas and buy more powerful weapons, but I hate how the lava or fire on the ground adds annoying and unnecessary obstacles.
Nevertheless, when you add in the complex, twitch-based multiplayer modes that the series is known for, "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" becomes a great value.