'Call of Duty: Black Ops 2' Review Roundup: Critics Praise Fresh Multiplayer, Shrug At Game’s Story
Activision Blizzard’s (Nasdaq: ATVI) finally released “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2," its most important game of the 2012 holiday season, on Tuesday at midnight. But does the game live up to its impossible critical hype and enormous commercial expectations? Activision Blizzard Inc.

After months of anticipation, Activision Blizzard’s (Nasdaq: ATVI) flagship holiday product “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” is finally here. The latest entry (and ninth overall) in the “Call of Duty” franchise was released at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 13. And analysts and retailers alike estimated that the game has already broken pre-order records, if not overall sales records for the entertainment industry.

But now that the game is finally here, gamers and casual Zombies players alike are wondering whether or not the game is actually "good." Sure, Activision will most likely make another billion-plus dollars in record time, but in the world of an expanding free-to-play marketplace for digital media and a concurrent explosion in mobile gaming, is the steep $59.99 price tag (not to mention the additional $49.99 fee for “Call of Duty: Elite” players) actually worth it?

The Guardian asked Tuesday if the “Call of Duty” franchise itself had “peaked” with the release of “Black Ops 2,” or even earlier (“Modern Warfare 3, while is set sales records for the fastest entertainment product to gross over $1 billion, ultimately sold slightly fewer units than its immediate predecessor, the original “Black Ops”). We surveyed some of the major game industry publications to find out.

CVG: 7.8/10 - "Eighty-six years of technology, and there's still so little to split between ‘Call of Duty 2's’ World War II and ‘Black Ops 2's’ World War Next. Perhaps that is the enduring message that ‘Black Ops 2’ has to share with the world."

IGN: 9.3/10 - "The team at Treyarch could have played it safe and ‘Black Ops II’ would have sold well, but instead they challenged assumptions and pushed the series forward in awesome new directions."

Kotaku: gave the game a “Yes” on its “Should you play this game?” scale: “For all that we bemoan the saturation of the shooter genre, I don't think finding a shooter that feels enjoyable or entertaining to play is particularly noteworthy anymore. Obviously some developers falter, but in the realm of AAA, certainly when deciding between major Call of Duty iterations, it's like we're picking between different cuts of steak.”

Gamespot: 8.0/10 - "By reaching forward while remaining rooted in the things it does so well, ‘Black Ops II’ offers a great shooter experience."

Games Radar: 4.5/5, calling it “the best ‘Call of Duty’ game in years” - "Treyarch introduces new ideas to the tried-and-true game mechanics of the series and improves upon them. Every aspect of the game has been honed to a razor-sharp experience, complete with beautiful visuals and rock-solid controls."

Polygon: 8/10 - "’Black Ops 2's’ campaign and Zombies mode are disappointments, especially coming off the across-the-board success of its predecessor. But it's a testament to the extraordinary quality of its multiplayer that ‘Black Ops 2’ won't go down as a forgotten entry."

Joystiq: 4/5 - "Multiplayer is king in ‘Black Ops 2,’ offering plenty of in-game and inherent rewards for its ravenous online community. It's paired with a lackluster story that fails the ambition shown by the branching campaign, reflecting the overall game's forward-thinking but imperfectly executed ideas."

Giant Bomb: 4/5 - "It's the notion that ‘Call of Duty’ is showing some terrific signs of life on the campaign side that left me the most impressed. It's got its share of flaws, but overall Treyarch has assembled a great, fast, and fun first-person shooter that, even if you were thinking about finally skipping a year, is still worth your time."

Destructoid: 8.5 - "It's a great game from a studio that's done everything it can with the tools at its disposal to reinvigorate ‘Call of Duty,’ even if it doesn't refashion the series completely."

Game Informer: 8.50/10 - Despite some frustrations, ‘Black Ops II’ is yet another massive, polished, finely tuned entry in a series that shows no signs of slowing down. Even if Treyarch misses the mark on occasion, I respect the developer for taking chances with a series that would sell just fine if it stuck with the status quo.

Shacknews: no score given - “There is fun to be had in Black Ops 2, but it can be hard to see it at times through the sea of shortcomings. The compelling narrative and Goyer's script is marred by lackluster tech that can't fully realize its vision. The fun gunplay made possible by the futuristic setting is disrupted by an overpowered weapon that upsets the game's balance. And while the standout Strike Missions prove that the franchise still has worthwhile innovation left in it, their brief appearance in the campaign will leave you wanting. Activision will need to have something truly special lined up for 2013, if they expect its already-dated technology to stutter its way for next year's game.”

G4: 4.5/5 - “Despite the slight dings in Strike Missions and Zombies, the series continues to shine with its incredibly ambitious, globe-spanning, epic single player campaign, which is now augmented with an incredibly high replay factor. And it should come as no surprise that the multiplayer continues to shine, and will dominate the online game boards in the weeks and months to come.”