Often times you cannot pinpoint the moment where something begins to change or evolve in the video game industry. It’s only after it has definitely changed that you can look back and see it. Treyarch’s Black Ops II is this moment. I’m not sure yet if it’s the moment in first person shooter evolution or if it will strictly be a Call of Duty evolution, but this game is something different from what we have seen before. Whenever there’s a change to the norm, not everything will come across perfect; however it’s a step in the right direction... usually. When I heard David S. Goyer was consulting on the campaign story, I knew instantly that Black Ops II was going to be epic. For those who don’t know who David S. Goyer, he’s the man behind story in the Blade Trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trifecta and the upcoming Man of Steel movie.

Speaking of amazing story, the single player campaign is worthy of being a Hollywood movie. You play majority of the game as David Mason who is the son of Alex Mason, who was the main character in the original Black Ops. Seeing as the game takes place in 2025 this makes a lot of sense. You go to visit your dad’s old friend Frank Woods and that’s when the flashbacks start and you go back to the Cold War era and play as Alex Mason. There are several varying storylines throughout the single-player campaign that all have ties to the Cordis Die group and main villain Raul Menendez. Raul Menendez is a different kind of bad guy as he’s not pure evil like you would expect. He has this human quality to him that makes you relate to the pain he went through during the Cold War era and why he is the way he is and why he wants vengeance so bad. Menendez has this kind of duality to him that makes him a great character. He’s evil but also in pain which makes him act out on that evil side of his. The nature of Menendez’s character is brought to life through his subtle and outlandish actions and is an example of how great the story is. In previous Call of Duty games, did you ever feel bad for the villain? I highly doubt it because they were all just evil and were out for themselves. Menendez has a reason for wanting it.

The campaign uses the multiplayer load-out trick from the first game. For every mission in the single player campaign, you can adjust your load-out. They provide one for you with the recommended weapons and perks they think you can use but if you’re partial to other weapons you can switch them out and customize the load-out. Although most of the game takes place in the future, you do have missions that take place in the past so to keep history intact they don’t allow you to pick weapons that didn’t exist in the past. As you advance in the story new perks, as well as weapons attachments are available for you to use.

This amazing story is coupled with a new addition to the gameplay and that’s the effect of choices and consequences. What I mean by this is that Black Ops II is no longer about failing a mission and restarting the mission till you get it right. There are certain moments that will impact the game and change the way it ends. Failing objectives can make the game and story branch off into other missions that are different and more challenging rather than getting a chance to replay the mission you failed at. People you choose to kill instead of sparing could affect the game in the future whether that’s positive or negative and you won’t know until those actions plays out. You’re now a part of the story as opposed to just playing the story and seeing where it goes. This is a major departure from the way the Call of Duty franchise campaign has been and finally adds replayability to the campaign that has never been there other than playing it on a harder difficulty for trophies or achievements.

Another new addition to the Black Ops II campaign is the Strike Force missions. I will admit I didn’t care for the Strike Force missions but if you’re worried about how the ending will turn out you definitely should play them all. There shorter missions that basically put you in command of a group of soldiers or drones and the AI are dumb. They will rush headfirst to their deaths so you have to think more for them [soldiers] and move them as a group and even get involved yourself in the fighting to make sure the mission is a success. The controls are buggy or just doesn’t work the way Treyarch intend them too and this is what makes these missions suck.

Once you have completed the campaign and if you’re like me replayed the campaign a couple more times and made some different choices to get a different ending, you will want to play the thing that people will obsess about for the next year and that’s the Multiplayer. Treyarch went a bit nuts when they made Black Ops II cause there changing the way multiplayer will be done from now on. First off Prestiging is now different; there are 10 levels of Prestige and usually after every time you Prestige your stats get reset. Finally someone said why punish you for leveling up and doing all that hard work? That’s over and gone now; you just continue on after you Prestige and will receive a token that will let you unlock any item FOREVER. Don’t matter what the level requirement is you will be able to do this once you Prestige. You will also get an extra Create a Class slot, a refund on all unlock tokens you used and u can reset your stats if you choose too. This changes things up greatly because I use to play and hated when you prestige and having to start over; now more people will definitely go for it.

Treyarch has also come up with the Pick 10 system which is probably the most major change to multiplayer. You get 10 points to spend any way you want and this throws the load-out rules out the window into rush hour traffic on the freeway because they’re totally obliterated. Every attachment, weapon, grenade or perk count as 1 point and you can create any combination you want. You can now have a gun equip 4 or 5 perks and still have 3 points to add other weapons or grenades or whatever attachment to that gun you want. Or you can put 3 attachments on a weapon and have 4 perks and grenades. The load-out system will never be the same again. And if that wasn’t enough they threw in Wild Cards which let you spend more points which breaks their Pick 10 rules also. Experiment with this and you will learn to love the flexibility of the new system and it’s just fun to create totally weird load-outs that you would never have imagined.

With this change to the load-out system they also replaced the Kill streak system with Score Streaks. So no longer are the matches driven by how many kills you can get and what your Kill/Death ratio is but more about getting the highest score. This will make people more interested in accomplishing the objectives and keep them from just going HAM on people for the kills. I doubt this will keep people from obsessing about their KDR, but it will make them more part of the team and play the actual mission.

Weird that I have talked about multiplayer so much and haven’t even gotten to the modes; that’s how much Treyarch has put into this game. Team Deathmatch returns along with Capture the Flag, Search and Destroy and all the other ones. They have added a couple new modes like Hardpoint in which you have to capture specific points and hold them for as long as you can. This increases your points total and this helps your Score Steak also. There are also now multi-team battles where you can have 4 teams of 3 going against each other in all the different modes. For those new players out there that are not as seasoned as some of the other COD vets out there, they have included Combat Training, which from level 1 through 10 you can play against bots for normal XP and after level 10 you can keep playing bots but you only get half XP so there won’t be any boosting used here. This allows people to get better at the games without feeling they have to join the public games and get owned because this discourages people from playing the multiplayer when they think they can’t survive.

Speaking of survival that’s what you will have to do in Black Ops II Zombie mode. Whenever I play Zombie mode I always feel reminiscent of Resident Evil. I’m not saying the gameplay is the same; just the zombies make me think of that franchise. This is a welcome changeup from the normal warzones in COD. This mode is a decompressing mode. The tension is lowered when you play this mode by allowing you to have fun with you and your friends as waves of zombies come after you. There are secrets and Easter eggs, along with machines and objects that you can build and use as defense; however you will have to figure out what to do with them and how to use them. There’s the area of Tranzit that you can play in or you can play one of the different modes and play on a smaller area. There are two modes Grief and Survival; Survival mode has you play in a smaller area and have to defend it against the zombies. In grief mode you play in a small area also and are split into two teams and battle against one another while also trying to survive a zombie attack. The beauty of Grief mode is that you can throw meat at or even stun the other team which makes them more tempting for the zombies to go after. Zombie mode, whether you play it in the bigger world or in the different modes, is a fun distraction that adds hours upon hours to the game

I can say I’m more impressed by this game than any other Call of Duty game I have played before. When I first heard about this game I was like… “What they’re going to go into the future?” That means they will have to actually create a story and not just use historical references to build one around. Wasn’t quite sure how this would work or if it would work at all and I was pleasantly surprised. The graphics in the game and multiplayer are impressive and the best in the whole COD franchise. All the voice acting and sound effects further push the franchise into the blockbuster movie feel area. All the additions and tweaks they made to the campaign to give it replayability was a welcome change. When I first get a game I like to play the campaign because I want to see what story their going to tell. With the help of David Goyer they told a very convincing story and the fact that certain decisions you make in the game can branch out and change the outcome of the ending is a welcome change for the franchise. Multiplayer returns and its better than ever with a bunch of new systems like Pick 10 and Score Streaks, which will forever change the COD franchise. It’s an evolution in innovation and I’m glad Treyarch made the leap. The Theater system makes a return and allows you to share video of your gameplay with the world. With a game that focuses on future tech so much it’s nice to see how social networking keeps influencing the genre. Call of Duty Black Ops II is the best entry in the Call of Duty franchise. If you are a first-person shooter junkie or have wanted to get into a Call of Duty game but never made the jump, this is the COD experience for you. I suggest you make the leap for this game. It’s an evolution in video gaming and in this franchise you will not regret adding this game to your collection. So go out and get you a copy ASAP. Oh yea don’t forget the ZOMBIES!!!!

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