"Black is the Future"
This generation, Activision's Call of Duty series has risen to the top of the heap to become the biggest game of the year whenever it comes out. A huge part of the series' success has been because of the perfect mix of a compelling campaign and a deep multiplayer mode that quickly becomes addictive. Call of Duty: Black Ops II takes the same risk that 2007's Modern Warfare took (going even further in the future), and it comes through with flying colors, although it can't quite make the same impact that title did.
Going even more modern than Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Black Ops II takes the series all the way to 2025. This setting gives the creators some room to create interesting weapons, while still adhering to the realistic tropes that series is known for. In it, you follow the main playable character of the first Black Ops, Alex Mason, through flashbacks that tie into the future story that follows his son David Mason. The campaign constantly jumps between the 1980s and 2025, slowly introducing the player to all of the newer weapons and their mechanics. In addition to the new settings, the replay value of the campaign has been expanded through the ability to customize a loadout of weapons and perks before starting a mission and a branching storyline based on what happens in missions.
This is still pretty much the same Call of Duty campaign structure, one that guides you through a series of set pieces, but there are things in place to change the gameplay for those seeking a different experience.
Multiplayer, arguably the reason that many purchase the title, is part of Black Ops II as well, taking the gameplay from the original Black Ops and adding more options. Players are able to customize just about everything here, from the emblems to the loadouts that they receive when in the middle of a kill streak. What has been changed is how things are unlocked. No longer will players have to level up to access different game modes, and prestiging won't remove unlocked items and is now instead a requirement to actually unlock everything. While all multiplayer modes are unlocked from the get go, however, some modes won't level up weapon proficiencies, so tread carefully before you get attached. Maps are varied enough that everyone will find one that they prefer, but some of them do lend themselves well to camping more than others, more so than in any other Call of Duty game I've played.
The Zombies mode is back in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and it has been expanded, with two new game types which build upon the standard horde-like mode. Players essentially kill hordes of zombies and rebuild their fortress to prevent zombies from overrunning them. Points to purchase stronger weapons are earned through killing zombies and fortifying windows and doors. In addition to the standard survival, there's also grief, which pits two teams of four against each other and an ever-increasing amount of zombies, and a light story mode that slowly expands the level as players unlock doors and complete objectives. Out of my playtime in the standard survival mode, I found the Zombies mode requires more effort from the player, simply because it changes the gameplay around so much.
With its three play modes (campaign, multiplayer, and Zombies), Call of Duty: Black Ops II feels genuinely like three games in one, and it offers a lot of bang for its buck. Building upon the template from the previous title and adding plenty of replay value to all modes through the many game types and making weapon loadouts available in the campaign guarantees that there is something here for everyone, as long as shooters are their thing. The game does everything to ensure it is the leader in the FPS arms race.
GameDynamo's Score for Call of Duty: Black Ops II (X360)
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