Game Mechanics and Multiplayer
Treyarch has infused the single-player campaign with many different multiplayer elements, to both help the player game how they like and to also add to the re-playability factor. Before each mission, you'll be able to customize everything about your loadout. Guns, projectiles, attachments, perks - it's all up to you. You'll even be able to change the skin for each weapon. Like the multiplayer portion, almost everything will have to be unlocked, either by completing a mission or accomplishing a certain objective.
Single Player Campaign Mode. Decisions, decisions -
Then comes the most important addition to the Call of Duty series: choice, and consequence. As you progress through the game, you'll encounter optional "Strike Missions" which require you to be successful for the best possible outcome. Those that you fail will result in the story being affected. At the end of the game, you'll be shown how your failures have impacted the world. This being the case, Black Ops II has multiple endings - another first for the series.
Strike missions are varied in their design; some feel like a game of tower defense, while others merely have you infiltrate houses to find a target. Some are very difficult, and failure is not pleasant. You're given an opportunity to replay a Strike Mission over, but with a penalty. If you ultimately fail all of your chances at a mission, replaying it will mean starting a new campaign. The biggest complaint I have with these missions is that the tactile overview (seen below) is finicky. Ordering units to specific location offers a true exercise in patience.
That gripe aside, everything mentioned here comes together to deliver the best Call of Duty campaign I have ever experienced. At the same time, this game also becomes the first in the series that makes me want to play the single-player campaign over again right away.
Multiplayer Ch-ch-changes -
Multiplayer will feel familiar to anyone who's played any other Call of Duty, but some significant changes / additions have been made. The most noticeable is the "Pick Ten" system, which limits the amount of equipment, perks and score streaks you can have. If you sacrifice equipment, you can add something else. Never use your side-arm? That's a good reason to get rid of it and add a perk or attachment. Overall, it's an interesting system, and one that's likely to be "love it or hate it".
Unlocking equipment and weapons has also changed a little bit. Instead of automatic unlocks, players can earn tokens as they level to use for purchasing equipment. While there are still level requirements that first need to be met before you can purchase most things, this does allow you to overlook certain equipment in favor of saving some coin for something else later.
Instead of "Kill Streaks", we now have "Score Streaks", which means XP you earn is for more than just levels. It results in the kill / death ratio being less-important than before, and it means things like Assist bonuses are actually useful during a match
While I'm appreciative of all the changes to the single-player campaign, I'm still up in the air with regards to the changes in multiplayer. It's going to take a lot more gametime to be able to reach a final conclusion, and in the end, players will likely have wildly varying opinions of each and every changed feature.
Ah yes, and something for the newbs -
Although Call of Duty has been around for a while, there are still players who haven't ever played it online. Realizing this, Treyarch has introduced a "Combat Training" mode that allows people levels 1 - 10 to team up with others and wage war against bots. XP here is earned at a normal rate, so it allows newbies to get into the action quick, but not against other live players.
Some new modes that come with Black Ops II include Multi-Team, one that presents three teams of three people each to dominate their section of the map and various "Party" modes that aim just to be silly, including "Sticks and Stones" that only allows projectiles to be used, and "Chamber", which gives you a single bullet until you make a kill.
Based on the immense popularity of the "Nuketown" level from the original Black Ops, it has made a return here as if it were styled in 2025. The layout is identical, but the graphics updated. With teams of at least 6 people each, this level still delivers absolute madness.