Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, Windows PC)

During the campaign, you play either regular missions set in three different time periods or ‘Strike Force’ missions, the latter being a much more tactical kind of play mode, during which you use an overhead view to direct and control troops, ‘CLAW’ and other remote units and sentry guns.

If you like, you can ‘jump’ into a unit, taking direct control of it but these missions seem designed for you to remain in the tactical overhead view, so you’re more likely to succeed if you do.

The tutorial for controlling all of these is brief (although can be repeated) and it feels like you’re thrown into the first Strike Force mission without being fully prepared for the onslaught, although you can opt out altogether if you want and concentrate on the main missions. I hated these, so did, mostly.

Call of Duty games always attract an enormous and loyal following in multiplayer and it’ll be no different for Black Ops II.

While the game modes seem pretty standard – and the novel Perks are present and correct – the execution is still top-notch, so there’s no reason to believe that multiplayer will be any less popular this time around.

For us, however, we’re getting tired of the same old multiplayer modes and really look forward to the day when a competent developer decides to change the status quo and actually try and innovate on the usual mindless fare of racking up kills in death-matching.

COD’s narrative is pushed along as you reach ‘trigger points’, so one minor irritation is that you can be in what you think is the right spot, but the game fails to move on because you’re not actually where the game needs you to be, introducing a little trial and error to some missions.

On the up side, the same trigger-initiated design means that the game will wait for you at certain junctures, so even though things are blowing up, people are shouting and everything is crashing around your ears, imparting a sense of urgency to proceedings, you can take your time to get to the checkpoint, and even stop to admire the scenery if you like.

Which you will want to do, as Black Ops II may take you by the hand and drag you along its linear path, but that same limitation means that the artists can go crazy on making your world of hurt look beautiful and they’ve done splendidly, creating generally impressive environments with the occasional ‘oh my god!’ moment thrown in.

A lot of companies these days charge in very early and very hard with their PR and marketing efforts, creating over-excited hype around their games for months that promise the earth and, almost inevitably, generate crushing disappointment when they finally arrive. November seems to be the mad month for releases and we’ve already seen several so-called ‘AAA’ titles suffer just this ignominy.

But not so for COD: Black Ops II which, while pretty much following the formula established by its forbears, decisively leading the player by the hand through a fairground-style ride, produces a vivid, exciting military-themed shooter experience that touches on just the right mix of mindless blasting and considered tactical movement.

Not only that, but it’s most likely the first and last tine you’ll ever witness a game that features a virtual representation of CIA chief David Petraeus.

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