Multiplayer remains among the best in the industry, with familiar competitive modes and a new co-op game dedicated to the series' Zombies mode. And "Black Ops II" gives gamers more freedom in the multiplayer arena with the Pick 10 system that allows players to customize their load outs precisely as they see fit.
At its heart, "Black Ops II" is undeniably a "Call of Duty" game. But not since the original "Modern Warfare" has a "Call of Duty" title felt this fresh.
"Far Cry 3"
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal. Publisher: Ubisoft. Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99). Rating: M for mature. Score: 9.6/10
Part "Red Dead Redemption," part "Just Cause" and 100 percent fun, "Far Cry 3" is the most enjoyable single-player FPS I've played in a long, long time. Stranded on a tropical island inhabited by murderous pirates, deadly animals and danger at every turn, you must discover your inner warrior to survive and rescue your friends from a colorful cast of characters.
From the first hours during which you are outgunned, outnumbered and struggling simply to remain alive until the late stages in which you are a veritable modern-day Rambo, "Far Cry 3" never ceases to keep the player on their toes. The vast open world in which you're dropped into is full of danger around every corner, be it from patrolling pirates or a hungry tiger (or komodo dragon).
What sets "Far Cry 3" apart are the interactions these non-playable characters have between themselves, whether it pirates attacking the island's natives or the native predators looking to make a quick meal out of any human they encounter. The wildlife that inhabits the islands isn't just for show - you'll kill and skin animals to craft holsters and ammo pouches, and collect various plants to create syringes that provide short-term health boosts or other empowering effects. The open-ended combat allows for complete freedom when engaging the enemy, and the gunplay itself -- whether firing sniper rounds from a distance or picking off guards silently with a bow - is close to perfect.
Beyond the main story - which is excellent -- there are side missions to tackle, hunting challenges and races to test your skills, and a plethora of hidden items to locate. There's easily 25-plus hours of gaming here, and that's not counting the dedicated co-op campaign and the competitive multiplayer modes.
"Far Cry 3" may not have the brand recognition of the other two recent FPS releases, but this is the best game of the bunch. And even though it may not revolutionize the genre, it pushes it forward more than any other shooter this year.
Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jri...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.