18 cert, Ac­tivi­sion, Xbox 360 (also PS3, PC)

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES - JOE GRIF­FIN

The Call of Duty se­ries has de­vel­oped a long, gen­er­ally ful­fill­ing re­la­tion­ship with its fans. But it can be hard to keep a re­la­tion­ship fresh, and our heads have lately been turned by other mil­i­tary games. Thank­fully, Black Ops 2 has some au­da­cious new ideas, and the se­ries now looks and feels fresher than it has in years.

Black Ops 2 is told mostly in a se­ries of flash­backs be­fore jump­ing for­ward to the near fu­ture. Af­ter cov­er­ing past wars and mod­ern con­flicts, fu­tur­is­tic gad­gets (in­vis­i­ble cam­ou­flage, for ex­am­ple) are a log­i­cal next step for the se­ries.

Fol­low­ing the long pur­suit of sadis­tic war­lord Raul Me­nen­dez, the game has the usual themes of per­sonal vendet­tas, ter­ror­ism and moral dilem­mas. The story (from Christo­pher Nolan reg­u­lar David S Goyer) is ex­cit­ing, if a lit­tle mud­dled. But it does al­low for some tremen­dous set­pieces, such as com­man­deer­ing high-tech ma­chines and ve­hi­cles; gal­lop­ing on horse­back through a Saudi Ara­bian desert; wad­ing through a flood­rav­aged Pak­istan; drag­ging a trou­ble­some pris­oner through a bul­let-rid­dled slum; driv­ing a jeep through a crum­bling city in a high-speed get­away; and plenty more. The mo­men­tum is re­lent­less, right up to its epic fi­nale.

Once again, you play as a num­ber of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters (in­clud­ing, briefly, the vil­lain), and with some scenes re-played from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives.

For the most part, it’s a teeth-rat­tling, re­spon­sive and im­mensely playable first­per­son shooter. But Black

Ops 2 also adds a real-time-strat­egy el­e­ment. This gives the game a greater sense of scope and va­ri­ety, as you com­mand pla­toons, drones and tur­rets, ma­noeu­vring them around war­zones and achiev­ing mul­ti­ple, si­mul­ta­ne­ous ob­jec­tives. On­line and off­line mul­ti­player work ef­fec­tively as well, not least thanks to the pres­ence of zom­bies!

An ex­cit­ing, grandiose and sur­pris­ingly in­no­va­tive game,

Black Ops 2 is a wel­come step for­ward for the fran­chise.

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