Evolving 'Call of Duty'

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Entertainment,Greg Prince

The "Call of Duty" franchise is known for its solid campaigns and fast-paced multiplayer.

In "Black Ops II," developer Treyarch actually decided to take risks on plenty of new ideas, rather than rehash everything that came before -- and it mostly works out for the better.

"Black Ops II" takes the campaign portion in a relatively different direction, focusing a lot more on storytelling and choices instead of just huge set pieces and big explosions.

In the near future, David Mason, son of "Black Ops" hero Alex Mason, is a member of SEAL Team Six. He and the military are searching for Raul Menendez, the leader of a terror organization bent on starting another Cold War between China and the United States. While the missions jump around a bit in time, it fills in much of the back-story and makes both Masons playable characters (Alex in the past, David in the future). David's portion is filled with interesting new weapons and plenty of drones, while Alex's side shows how Menendez rose to power and the reasons for his hatred of the West.

'Call of Duty: Black Ops II'
» Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
» Price: $59.99
» Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The cast includes suburb vocals by Sam Worthington, Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, as well as music by Trent Reznor. However, the gun sound effects ring a bit hollow.

Along with a greater focus on plot, "Black Ops II" makes player decisions count. So the choices made during parts of the campaign greatly affect the ending.

The campaign isn't the only place Treyarch tried to evolve the series. Multiplayer has a new system for loadouts called Pick 10. Each option is worth one point -- guns, attachments, grenades, perks. It allows players an even greater range of customization to fit their play style. Also, there are plenty of crazy, futuristic score streak rewards such as mini-quad copters and killer drones.

The multiplayer feels even more fast-paced and frantic than that of "Modern Warfare 3." For those who spend a lot of time in online firefights, the Pick 10 system can be quite rewarding. However, casual gamers and those new to the franchise could easily become frustrated, as the loadout system can take a while to fully understand and most of the stock loadouts aren't very effective.

"Black Ops II" makes huge strides in both the campaign and multiplayer modes, all of which do wonders to move the franchise away from stagnation.

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