The Call of Duty series has become a kind of shorthand in many circles, many of which I frequent. It’s often the punchline whenever eggheads like me decry annualized sequels, toxic online communities, overly-scripted gameplay, and jingoistic stories about glorious war heroes. The latest installment, Black Ops II, doesn’t really refute any of this.
Outside of Madden, Black Ops II is perhaps the most mainstream traditional video game of the season. It’s the game that gets prime time commercials. It’s one of the titles that folks who only buy a couple games a year eagerly await. It’s a summer blockbuster in November, something carefully marketed and crafted to appeal to as large an audience possible. It would be completely understandable if the search for such a broad appeal led to a bland product; trying to please everyone usually negates a lot of interesting ideas.
And yet, I always look forward to playing a new Call of Duty game. The foremost reason being that the snappy controls and dopamine-inducing multiplayer progression system create a compelling one-two punch. However, I’m equally drawn to the bombastic, single player experience campaigns. Despite being squarely in the mainstream, Black Ops II broaches topics that few other games touch.