Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Review and Release Date: Fantastic New Elements Yet Instantly Familiar

1. Call of Duty Black Ops II

The only game that will likely sell more copies than Halo 4 this year, Black Ops II is the latest in the Call of Duty line and already a guaranteed success. As always, the game will be instantly familiar to any fans of the franchise but Treyarch has done well to introduce some fantastic new elements. The latest addition that is sure to please the fans, particularly those who struggle to keep up in battle, will be the ability to “shoutcast.” At any point before the game begins, one player can choose to relieve himself of playing duties and become a shoutcaster, which is essentially someone that has the ability to look over the entire place and provide commentary of what is going on in what part of the map. The shoutcaster will be provided with visual cues as to what is going on where, making analysis as simple as scrolling across a screen. The game also employs a League system, where players will be automatically matched up with people of similar skill level. Whether you are a legend or just plain terrible, you will be placed in one of seven classes and how well or badly you perform will decide where you move in the rankings. Finally, there will be a way for you to always be a spectator across numerous devices, ensuring that there is an alternative to playing. As for the gameplay and multiplayer itself, Call of Duty has already done virtually everything so the entire game is really just a variation of past successes but the story is now unique in that it is both past and future simultaneously, with branching storylines. Also, as one thing that might bug people while exhilarating others, it even incorporates some elements of real-time strategy in that you can control things from a sky-view point rather than the foot soldiers themselves. Of course, this happens sporadically and the game still stays very true to its shooter roots.

Publisher: Activision; Developer: Treyarch; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 13, 2012; Console: X360, PS3, PC, Wii U.

2. LittleBigPlanet Karting

A game that is built around the premise of making your own levels, Karting follows in the footsteps of the franchise by allowing players to construct their own obstacles for them and friends to fight through. It works like a standard platformer in the sense that you are not exploring a track but rather, entirely unique worlds. This is from the developer of ModNation Racers and the influence on driving can be seen, but in the way it constructs an entire stage to race around, it seems more similar to their open world action game Sleeping Dogs. Of course, it may be the kid-friendly design or the supposed lack of difficulty (which is only a result of uncreative gamers), but LittleBig Planet never quite gets included in the discourse for videogames the way something like Uncharted or Metal Gear would. Hopefully, this will allow gamers to see past that and become diehard of this fantastic franchise as well.

Publisher: SCEA; Developer: United Front Games; Genre: Driving; Release Date: November 6, 2012; Console: PS3.

3. ZombiU:

A game that does not have too many details available, which is usually a bad sign just a few months away from release, ZombiU is still looking to be rather interesting. The game stars a group of survivors as they attempt to live through another zombie apocalypse. However, before you start to go that it is another zombie shooting game, keep in mind that this game really takes the Wii U to full effect. When you need to change inventory, you must stop looking at the TV and start looking down into your tablet, all of which happens without the game pausing. If the character you played as, who you even had the option to name, dies, then you restart the level as someone else and actually have to go back to that part. There, your old player will be a zombie and you have to kill him to get all your stuff back. The Wii U peripheral also serves as a radar detector, a seeker for items and essentially your lifeline. When players enter certain areas, the Wii U will intentionally start displaying static and the incredibly, hilariously mismatched hero will then have to fight off zombies without any help from the radar. If it works out well enough, this could be the game to revitalize interest in the undead after zombies have become so ridiculously ever-present.

Publisher: Ubisoft; Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 13, 2012; Console: Wii U.

4. Scribblenauts Unlimited:

The series that promises to offer the world but is perhaps perennially doomed to be too ambitious for its own sake, Scribblenauts Unlimited once again sees players assuming the role of Maxwell as he solves all sorts of puzzles with nothing but a pen. Now, before you start to think that he is some kind of journalistic hero, understand that Maxwell is a little kid with the power to summon anything he writes. This is one regard in which the series has always succeeded; you really cannot stump their dictionary. Want to summon a haggis? Go ahead. Want to fight using Excalibur? It’s available. Want to summon a suspicious looking guy? Type in “I see what you did there.” Or maybe you just want a cannon that shoots out ninjas and hobos. Of course, this game allows you to do that. The latest ability that is being hyped is the ability to edit items, such as putting fairy wings on a dinosaur or giving a blue, medium-sized Afro. It’s all there. The one place where the series always fails, however, is in creating genuine functional difference. A beach ball and volleyball will essentially do the same job for you and, even though there isn’t much difference in real life (don’t hate me athletes; I exercise once a full moon), the game certainly feels more repetitive as a result.

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; Developer: 5th Cell; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 18, 2013; Console: Wii U, 3DS, PC.

5. Disney’s Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

With production by the legendary Warren Spector, Epic Mickey 2 has been on several radars. While the original Wii exclusive was a bit of a disappointment, it was still praised for its unique art style and its solid basis as an ode to Disney classics. The game allows for numerous ways to approach any level, an element of choice that has been heavily advertised. In one section, players will have the choice of taking a platforming route, meaning the focus is on acrobatics, or an alternate path where the focus is on combat. As always, combat in Epic Mickey 2 involves paintbrushes and using colors to blot out evil enemies, something that isn’t particularly violent. As for the platforming, one could keep the world the same and challenge themselves with obstacles or they could slightly edit the world using their paintbrush, such as sawing a tree to make a bridge. The concept of choice does not end there. Mickey and Oswald, the two protagonists (the latter is an old Disney character that many may not know), are at one point tasked with either destroying criminals or sparing their life. The ending will always be the same but there will be slight alterations and no system will tell you whether you have done right or wrong; that is a choice you have to make. Also on display were numerous weapons that clearly show an affinity for all things Disney, such as an anvil or a television that distracts your enemies with old cartoons. Warren Spector hopes the game will be seen as a game for all ages, not just children and, if players are encountered with choices like these again and again, this will certainly be a game that will fly above the heads of children. 

Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios; Developer: Junction Point; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 18, 2012; Console: X360, PS3, Wii U, PC.