Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
With the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops has traditionally featured stronger campaigns than Modern Warfare, but has received flak for weaker multiplayer options. Black Ops II continues to deliver engaging storytelling—with a great villain with whom we empathize, but still hate—but the welcome surprise is a robust multiplayer experience. The campaign weaves gamers between the late-1980s and 2025 and stands as a prime example of developers pushing the limits of current-gen console hardware to deliver excellent graphics—though at this point it must feel like wringing blood from a stone. There are also optional real-time-strategy/first-person-shooter mashup missions that are incredibly fun and alter the story. Taking a few cues from Modern Warfare and running with them, the multiplayer features league play, various new game modes, unlockable emblem and gamer-card customizations, and—most important—some amazing maps. Almost every map exceeds expectations, but “Hijacked” is poised to become a longtime favorite. The perfect mix of close quarters and mid- and long-range combat options make it a crowd pleaser with great versatility. Watch out, Modern Warfare, Black Ops just grabbed a flak jacket and has you in its sights.