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Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Innovations, Storylines, and Unprecedented Success

Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the sequel to Call of Duty: Black Ops I, surpassed another milestone. All its magnificent surprises left the audience wide-eyed. Let’s delve into the details.

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Throughout the development of Modern Warfare 3. TreyArch had been hard at work on their next project. The development intended to address the growing concern over the franchise’s perceived lack of innovation. TreyArch decided to take the franchise completely out of its comfort zone to implement innovation. They set the game’s narrative in the near future with a heavy focus on high futuristic weaponry and deadly drones. The result was 2012’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The development aimed to address the growing concern over the perceived lack of innovation in the franchise. It was the first entry to be released for the Nintendo Wii U.

Black Ops II: Gameplay – Single Player

Characters And Setup

Call of Duty: Black Ops II has a campaign with two interconnected storylines. The first takes place from 1986 to 1989 during the final year of the First Cold War. It follows protagonist Alex Mason’s efforts to thwart the primary antagonist, Raul Menendez. In 2025, the second installment unfolds amid a second cold war and a rare earth trade dispute between the United States and China. Alex Mason’s son David (codenamed Section) is the protagonist in this section. Menendez seeks to manipulate tensions between the U.S. and China.

The narrative unfolds with these characters at the center of geopolitical conflicts. The game features various characters, including returning ones like Frank Woods, Jason Hudson, Lev Kravchenko, Viktor Reznov. It also introduces new characters like Mike Harper, Javier Salazar, Admiral Tommy Briggs, and others. Moreover, it also includes appearances by historical figures like Jonas Savimbi, Manuel Noriega, Oliver North, and David Petraeus and a cameo by Jimmy Kimmel and the rock band Avenged Sevenfold.


In the narrative of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the story unfolds across two distinct time periods. Events in 1986 and the early 1990s showcase the First Cold War era. The bulk of the action takes place in 2025 during a new Second Cold War and a rare earth trade dispute between the United States and China.

1986-First Cold War Era

The story begins with Alex Mason, a retired soldier, living a quiet life in Alaska with his son, David. Their relationship is strained but is to put the test when Jason Hudson recruits Mason for a mission. They aim to rescue Frank Woods and his team, who have gone missing while attempting to dismantle an arms smuggling operation in Angola. The CIA disavows their actions but Hudson hopes to save any survivors. During their mission in Angola, Mason, and Hudson find themselves working with Jonas Savimbi UNITA rebels, fighting against the Marxist Angolan government.

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Here, they encounter Raul Menendez, a ruthless Nicaraguan arms dealer, in the company of Cuban military advisors. A fierce battle ensues, leading to their rescue by Savimbi. It’s revealed that Menendez was responsible for the torture and death of Wood’s team. The CIA authorizes a strike against Menendez, who is now profiteering from the Soviet-Afghan War. The team heads to Afghanistan and collaborates with Chinese intelligence operative Tian Zhao to assist the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets. They capture Colonel Lev Kravchenko a significant figure and attempt to interrogate him.

However, Mason’s past brainwashing resurfaces, causing him to struggle with his impulses. If the player is successful, Kravchenko discloses that Menendez has infiltrated the CIA, before Woods executes him. Unfortunately, the mujahedeen betray the Americans and Tian Zhao, leaving them stranded in the desert. Two civilians eventually save them. During this rescue, Mason hallucinates that one of them is Viktor Reznov, a character from the previous Call of Duty title. The backstory of Menendez’s deep-rooted anti-American sentiment is unveiled.

It stems from a tragic incident where his sister Josefina was severely disfigured in an insurance fraud scheme involving an American businessman. A subsequent earthquake led Menendez and his father into the drug trade, resulting in the CIA assassinating his father. Several weeks after their ordeal in Afghanistan, Mason, Woods, Hudson, and forces led by General Manuel Noriega of Panama launched a raid on Menendez’s compound in Nicaragua. Woods consumed by anger and seeking vengeance, tries to kill Menendez despite orders to capture him. Chaos erupts leading to Josefina’s accidental death by grenade and Menendez is presumed dead in the explosion.

2025-Second Cold War Era

In 2014, Raul Menendez, operating under the alias Odysseus, founded a militant populist movement known as Cordis Die. By 2021, Cordis Die orchestrates a cyberattack crippling Chinese stock exchanges. This action ignites a Second Cold War between NATO and the Chinese-led Strategic Defense Coalition under General Tian Zhao. Cordis Die boasts an estimated two billion followers by 2025. David Mason now a DEVGRU Lieutenant Commander condemned Section leads JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) efforts to neutralize Menendez.

Following a raid on a Cordis Die compound in Myanmar, they discover that Menendez plans a second cyberattack using a rare-earth element called celerium. This element utilizing quantum entanglement can be transformed into a powerful computer virus. The team also learns about Karma a skilled hacker named Chloe Lynch who Menendez is after. JSOC eventually captures Menendez in Yemen in a covert operation assisted by undercover CIA agent Farid. However, Menendez forces Farid to execute captured soldier Harper. Menendez is then taken abroad on the aircraft carrier USS Barack Obama commanded by Admiral Tommy Briggs.

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During an interrogation, Javier Salazar, a Nicaraguan-American DEVGRU operator, helps Menendez escape. Salazar is revealed as Menendez’s mole inside JSOC. The fate of Lynch, Farid, and DeFalco determines the exact consequences of Salazar’s betrayal. After wounding or executing Briggs, Menendez hacks into a military satellite via a celerium virus he smuggled abroad on the USS Barack Obama. He gains control of the entire American drone fleet. He uses it to launch devastating attacks on major cities, including Los Angeles, during a G20 leaders’ meeting. The attempt is to create chaos and kill them, setting the stage for a significant plot development.

The Section is tasked with escorting the U.S. President to safety. Menendez’s trail leads to Haiti, where JSOC raids the Cordis Die facility holding him. The section confirms Menendez at a military checkpoint now faced with a moral dilemma regarding whether to capture or execute to villain.

Black Ops II: Single Player Possible Endings

The player’s ending in Call of Duty: Black Ops II depends on various factors, including character fates and mission completion, Possible endings include:

  1. Menendez’s execution led to global chaos, setting the stage for Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
  2. The Menendez’s capture and Lynch’s survival stopping his cyberattack.
  3. Menendez’s capture, but with Lynch’s death or absence, leading to a successful cyberattack.
  4. Alex Mason‘s survival reuniting Woods and Section or David’s retirement if Mason dies.
  5. Completing all Strike Forces missions resulted in a U.S.-China alliance, ending the Second Cold War.
  6. Anon-canon ending with a concert featuring Menendez and Woods from the game with Avenged Sevenfold in a music video scene.

Black Ops II: Gameplay – Zombies

Characters And Setting

In the Zombies mode of game, the storyline spans different time periods mainly in a post-apocalyptic world resulting from a Moon-launched missile strike on the Earth. The narrative mainly revolves around ground new characters: Samuel Stuhlinger, Mariton Johnson, Abigail “Misty” Briarton, and Russman. Dr. Edwards Richtofen, a character from a previous game, returns the demonic announcer guiding these characters Dr. Ludvig Maxis, another returning character, instructs the new group to help him defeat Richtofen. Players can choose to assist Maxis or Richtofen leading to different outcomes in the story.

Additionally, the “Mob of the Dead” map introduces a new crew of characters. This includes Albert “The Weasel” Arlington, Billy Handsome, Michael “Finn” O’Leary, and Salvatore ”Sal” DeLuca. On the other hand, the “Origins” map features an alternate version of the original crew, including Tank Dempsey, Nikolai Belinski, Takeo Masaki, and Richtofen, along with Maxis’s daughter, Samantha.

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This diverse narrative takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting with various characters and that impact the story’s direction.


In the Zombies mode of the game, the storyline is quite complex. A team of CIA and CDC operations starts the narrative by investigating a nuclear testing site called “Nuketown” in Nevada. Zombies attack them during this investigation. Dr. Edwards Richtofen takes control of the zombies from Group 935’s moon base.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ludvig Maxis, along with his daughter Samantha teams up with Richtofen’s former allies including Tank Dempsey, Nikolai Belinski, and Takeo Masaki to thwart Richtofen’s plans. This leads to Maxis launching nuclear missiles filled with Element 115, which causes the zombies to outbreak at Earth destroying its atmosphere.

Ten years later, Earth is in ruins, and four survivors, Samuel Stuhlinger, Abigail “Misty” Briarton, Mariton Johnson, and Russman- band together to survive in Washington. They receive instructions from both Richtofen and Maxis, now an AI. They help either Richtofen or Maxis power up towers, leading them to a crumbling skyline in Shanghai. There, they encounter The Flesh, a cult that eats zombie meat, and witness a new pandemic of Element 115.

Stuhlinger with a dark past, is the only one who can hear Richtofen’s instructions. The group moves on the Rift in Africa seeking answers about their predicament as Richtofen instructs Samuel to “means the rift’. In the canonical ending, they assist Maxis, who seeks to reach Agartha and is willing to destroy Earth to do so. In the non-canon ending, they help Richtofen, who gains unlimited power over the Aether. Richtofen kills Maxis and condemns Samantha’s soul.

Following the canonical ending, Samantha reaches out to an alternate Maxis in Dimension 6, who attempts to secure German victory in World War I with the help of Group 935. They battle zombies, and Maxis joins the flight with his brain in a drone to free Samantha. Entering Agartha, they are rewarded with Samantha playing with the toys of the characters.

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In a separate story, “Mob of the Dead” four mobsters attempt to escape Alcatraz but become trapped in a cycle of purgatory reviling their escape attempts. They finally realize the truth and in the canonical ending manage to break the cycle by killing Weasel, one of their group.

This intricate narrative encompasses various timelines, dimensions, and characters creating a rich and engaging Zombies mode experience.

Black Ops II Features


Call of Duty: Black Ops II introduces a unique feature called “Strike Force missions” which brings branching storylines to the game. The missions occur during the 2025 storyline and come with permanent death. The player’s choices in these missions not only impact the current mission but also influence the overall narrative’s direction. Opting for one mission locks out the others unless the player starts a fresh campaign.

In Strike Force missions, players have the opportunity to command various war assets like drones, fighter jets, and robots. Notably, if the player fails in a strike force mission, the campaign keeps a record of that loss rather than letting them revert to a saved checkpoint. These mission results can even be after the plans of the antagonist. Raul Menendez, and by the game’s end. The player may have reshaped the course of the new Cold War.

Moreover, in the main story missions, there are moments where players are presented with different choices and paths. These choices and paths affect both gameplay and the storyline. Additionally, Black Ops II allows players to customize their load out before embarking on admission, granting them flexibility in approaching each mission.


One of the notable additions to the multiplayer mode in Black Ops II is the Pick 10 system, a part of the Create-a-Class menu. Pick 10 provides with 10 allocation slots within their class setup, which they can use to allocate resources for weapons, perks, and grenades. This system allows players to personalize their load out, deciding whether to invest more gun attachments or additional perks.

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The game also introduces a change in the Killstreaks system, now referred to as ScoreStreaks. Instead of earning them solely through kills. ScoreStreaks are not acquired by accumulating points. This shift encourages players to focus on objective-based game modes as they can earn points towards ScoreStreaks by playing the objectives.

Another innovation in Black Ops II is the inclusion of a weapon progression system. Players can unlock various weapon attachments as they level up their weapons. After reaching the maximum level for a weapon, players have the option to prestige that weapon, similar to that player level prestige to reset the attachment progress. In return, they gain the ability to customize their weapon with clans tags and emblems.

Furthermore, Black Ops II introduces a competitive mode known as LEAGUE Play. It introduces a change in the Killstreaks system, now referring to it as ScoreStreaks. It adds a competitive dimension to the game, catering to those looking for a more structured and competitive multiplayer experience.


TreyArch officially confirmed the return of the Zombies mode in Black OPS II marking the third Call of Duty game to feature this popular mode after Call of Duty: World at War and Call of Duty: Black Ops. However, Black Ops II brought some exciting changes by introducing new game modes alongside the traditional Survival mode. This time Zombies would run on the multiplayer engine of the game, enhancing the community experience and offering new features.

One of the notable additions was the introduction of “Grief”, an 8-player co-op game mode where two teams of 4 players compete to survive. This was a departure from the previous games which supported only 4-player online co-op. Each Zombies map in Black Ops II, like its predecessors, includes “Easter Eggs” as side quests used to advance the storyline.

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Additionally, a new mode called “Turned” was introduced in some downloadable content maps. In this mode, one player attempts to survive to sure while three other players control zombies and try to turn the survivor into a zombie. These changes and additional game modes added depth to the beloved Zombies mode in Black Ops II.

Acclaims and Awards for Black Ops II

Call of Duty: Black Ops II received “generally positive” reviews for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U versions, but “mixed or average” reviews for the PC version, according to review aggregator Metacritic.

IGN editor Anthony Gallegos described the game as:

“A good example of how to evolve an annualized franchise.”

Gallegos commended the game for delivering a genuinely captivating story. He also praised the crafting of a villain that evoked his empathy. This was to the extent that he found himself questioning his own actions throughout the narrative. However, he did express criticism regarding the artificial intelligence of allies in Strike Force mode and the concluding moments of the campaign. While he acknowledged that the ending’s disappointment stemmed from the choices he had made, it still left him wanting more.

Marty Silva of graded the game B+ and quoted:

“I was surprised with the risks that TreyArch took in the name of delivering a unique and creative experience. Not all of them paid off, but knowing that the team was willing to eschew the safe route helped ward off any stagnation that may have begun to creep into the series as of late.”

Steven O’Donnell and Stephanie Bendixsen, hosts of the Australian video game talk show Good Game, assigned the game a score of 8.5 out of 10. They lauded the gameplay in both multilayer and zombie mode. However, they expressed reservations about the campaign’s intricate storyline and the Strike Force missions. Specifically, Good Game took issue with the campaign’s opening battle, in which the player engages in combat against fleeing African rebels, perceiving it as gratuitous inclusion aimed solely at creating shock value.

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Black Ops II Lawsuit

In 2014, Manuel Noreiga filed a lawsuit against Activision. He claimed that he had suffered lost profits due to the use of his likeness in the game. Additionally, he asserted that his inclusion had contributed to higher sales of Black Ops II. Noriega appears in the Cold War segments of the game, where he assists the primary antagonist. The lawsuit aimed to secure compensation for lost profits and damages. He felt he was depicted as a “kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state” in the game.

However, on October 28, the Los Angeles court dismissed the lawsuit, citing protection under free speech laws for Noriega’s inclusion in the game. Additionally, Activision faced legal action in a French court. This legal action came from the family members of Jonas Savimbi. They believed that his portrayal in the game was inaccurate and portrayed him as a “barbarian.” Three of his columns sought 1 million euros in damages, and the French court ultimately dismissed the case in 2016.

Number’s Game

Activision announced that Black Ops II achieved a staggering $500 million in sales within its initial 24 hours., marking it as the most significant entertainment launch up to that point. This record stood until September 2013, when Grand Theft Auto V surpassed it. Remarkably, the Call of Duty series had consistently broken this record four consecutive years. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 crossing $400 million on its first full day in 2011, Call of Duty: Black Ops earning $360 million on day one in 2010. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 bringing in $310 million in 2009.

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By November 24, 2012, Black Ops II had already sold more than 75 million copies in the United States. The success of Black Ops II continued to soar, surpassing $1 billion in sales with the first 15 days of availability, surpassing the record set by Modern Warfare 3 by one day. On November 5, 2013, IGN confirmed that the game had sold 24.2 million copies, making it the third highest-selling game in the series, following 2010’s Black Ops and 2011’s Modern War. Call of Duty: Black Ops II has an excellent game pass on Xbox for $49.99+ to this day.

Final Word on Black Ops II

A few days after the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Activision announced that the game had surpassed the theoretical grosses of major motion picture franchises. This included highly successful ones like Harry Potter and Star Wars. The achievement was described as quite amazing. This huge response led the developers to set their sights on the upcoming generations.

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