The other way you can affect the story is by successfully completing Strike Missions, which become available at certain points during the campaign. Strike Missions have a real-time strategy feel, and will have you commanding several units in a more sandbox style map, but you can jump into any soldier or drone to control the action personally. The idea behind Strike Missions is great, but the execution is lackluster. The tactical view and controls are passable, but real time strategy is still awkward on a controller. The AI can also make these missions frustrating. It's often better to just Rambo the mission yourself than to depend on your soldiers to follow your orders.
Multiplayer is still Black Ops 2's main attraction. The big new addition is the Pick 10 system, which is brilliant in its simplicity. Rather than selecting a primary weapon and three perks as you have previously, Black Ops 2 makes every option cost a single point. The game then encourages you to mix and match however you see fit with a greater degree of customization. Maybe you'd rather run a second attachment for your shotgun in exchange for one less grenade. There are even additional options called Wildcards that let you double up on perks, weapons, and attachments at an increased cost of two per item. The customization in Call of Duty has always had these RPG elements to it, but this is the greatest amount of freedom we've been given. The gameplay itself has remained more or less the same; it's still very twitch based, the instant kill knife will still feel cheap and camping certainly hasn't suddenly disappeared. However, Black Ops 2 fixes some previously broken and problematic mechanics. For example, Second Chance and all other iterations are gone, so no more scooting around along the ground after death, and the Ghost perk now only grants UAV invisibility if you're moving or performing an action, i.e. not when you're camping in a corner. These changes might not seem like much to newcomers, but fans returning to Call of Duty will welcome them for how they improve the gameplay.
Some other new features are the addition of League play and the expansion of the Zombies mode, and they both contribute to the game with League giving you another wheel and set of goals to achieve and Zombies being a fun distraction. League play ranks you in a ladder after five qualification matches and lets you fight to increase your placement in the standings. These matches tend to feel very satisfying when they go off correctly in that everyone is right around your skill level, so they often come down to the last objectives and kills. Nazi Zombies, now simply called Zombies, has become a bit of a hallmark for Treyarch and it's grown even more for Black Ops 2. Grief mode is a new twist on the survival gameplay, with two teams of four pitted against each other. The goal is to be the last team standing, but you still have to survive the final wave of zombies or the teams will be reset until there is a clear winner. Because you can't simply shoot each other, you have to try and get the zombies to screw them over. Combine League and Zombies with all the various game types from the regular multiplayer, and it seems there is always something new to do even if another game type gets stale.
Bottom Line: Black Ops 2 is conflicted. It wants to move in bold new directions, but it falls back on safe, but aging, mechanics.
Recommendation: It's the first time in a while that a Call of Duty's single player hasn't just felt like just a rollercoaster dragging you along and the multiplayer still has all the normal hooks to keep you playing. Not every new change goes over perfectly, but it's refreshing to see a developer trying to do something new with the military shooter genre.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
For another opinion check out this review from our friends at Smosh Games.