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In recent years, Call of Duty games have really been more about the multiplayer than anything else, tacking on a single player mode for gamers to muddle through before getting into the mode they really want to enjoy. However, Call of Duty: Black Ops II offers the total package this time around thanks to developer Treyarch really stepping up the game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U title.

While the same elements that veterans know and love are still present, Treyarch has taken Call of Duty to a new level, possibly putting them in a more favorable position than Infinity Ward was prior to the fallout in 2010. Even before reaching the main menu, a series of events provoke deep thought about what the player just witnessed, making a great gateway into diving into the story.

The story also takes players headfirst into grey areas that also keep them thinking, especially with a main antagonist who actually shows significant depth, complete with visible motivations and sympathy to boot. This depth coupled with the narrative keep the story with the player even long after he’s finished playing through the game, thanks in part to writer David S. Goyer, who not only worked on the first Black Ops but on The Dark Knight Rises as well. Treyarch also takes it one step further by allowing players to carve their own path through the story with scripted events and choices to make.

The single player mode is not the only one that has seen a vast improvement, however; the multiplayer has also seen a major overhaul. Creating a custom class now puts a focus on a player’s specific style of gaming as well. To create a class, players can pick up to 10 weapons, perks, attachments, grenades and wildcards, which can be equipped to alter allowances. For example, the Perk 1 Greed wildcard lets players choose two Perk 1 options rather than just one. The usual restriction for only taking two weapons still applies, but a player could potentially bring two primary weapons, two secondary weapons or affix three attachments to the primary weapon for the ultimate class suited for him.

Along with the gameplay, the graphics have seen a nice upgrade. Call of Duty: Black Ops II runs smoothly, acting as a true powerhouse in comparison to other games on the consoles. The only exception is in the opening cutscene, which may have simply been from the early stages of development as jagged lines are prominent throughout—not nearly as smooth as the rest of the game. To compliment the gameplay is an impressive soundtrack including the theme song, composed by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.

It wouldn’t be a Treyarch game without the inclusion of the rousing zombie game mode, which is immediately available for gamers loading the disc for the first time. Unlike the zombie mode from World at War and the first Black Ops, this one features a campaign for the first time ever. In addition to implementing the multiplayer engine into gameplay, the zombie mode even increases in manpower, allowing up to eight players to join cooperatively, doubling the limits from the previous games.

As it uses the multiplayer engine, the zombie mode supports different ways to play it as well. For example, Survival is the same kind of gameplay that the previous versions sported, but Tranzit combines different maps while requiring players take a bus to travel to each one. Finally, Grief is a special kind of competitive mode that pits two groups of four players against each other while also attempting to survive the zombie onslaught.

All in all, Treyarch has pieced together a game that retains all of the aspects that hardcore veteran fans have come to love while expanding it further and giving the Call of Duty name a new, refreshing approach that it needed after eight previous games. Black Ops II has made incredible strides in not only the Call of Duty franchise, but the genre as a whole.


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