Treyarch has realized something quite important; namely, that a lot of people are growing tired of playing in a corridor and going from shooting gallery to shooting gallery. They've tried to create more variation in the gameplay for Black Ops II, and I'm impressed. For example, in a franchise first, you can now pick your loadout before each mission. A lot of effort has also been put into breaking up the monotony of always being on foot with a gun: From time to time you'll get off your feet and do something a little different; you'll perhaps ride a vehicle for a few minutes or do a wingsuit flight through a canyon. This is common practice for Call of Duty, but Black Ops II does it with enough imagination and frequency that it has an impact on the gameplay experience; there's always a sense of curiosity as to what might be coming up next, and fairly often, there is indeed a little something special waiting where you least expect it.
Stay on target! Almost there…
One gameplay variation worthy of note is a section played on horseback. This section sheds the corridor shooter format. You'll freely be able to move across an open map and go from objective to objective, which feels very refreshing and liberating. At times, this even lets you plan the gameplay your own way, choosing whether to attack head on, or come in from the side and flank. Unfortunately, this is the exception, and not the rule. The majority of the time spent free roaming is little more than an illusion: You'll still be funneled into narrow areas when you get close to your objective markers, in order to preserve the scripted and choreographed gameplay we're used to seeing.
Black Ops II further diverts from the standard shooter formula because it lets you choose your way among branching paths, sometimes even offering you different gameplay choices for those paths. Specific choices taken in game will alter the ending and indeed, there's quite some attention to detail, as certain actions will lead to characters becoming scarred or different factions helping you in the end game.
Perhaps the biggest change though, is a series of missions known as "Strike Force" missions. These are available between certain chapters of the campaign and play completely differently than the rest of the game. In Strike Force, you don't assume the role of one particular character, but rather, you control a squad of soldiers, along with turrets and drones. The game plays like a mix between real time strategy and shooter, allowing you to control units from an overhead command view, or assume direct control and jump from unit to unit in first person view. The missions vary in their objectives offering you many different challenges.