Activision sure has gotten a lot of mileage out of this engine. And why not? It's silky-smooth and lightning-fast. Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the best-looking CoD to date, and the artistic style has an awful lot to do with that. The near-future setting is exploited to the fullest: there are lots of machines, haptic screens, holograms, and fascinating weapons technology at play. I particularly like the wrist-mounted grenade launchers and the GalvaKnuckles. This is easily the most violent Call of Duty game ever made: the very first scene has you watching a comrade writhing in agony inside the inferno of an overturned vehicle. Oh, and did I mention you get a closeup view of the poor guy's skin melting off his face? Limbs fly, blood sprays, and bodies drop.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II might polarize as far as the sound goes. There's a lot of bass and drum in the soundtrack (at least in the near-future levels), so if you're not a fan of dubstep, some parts might annoy you. The voice acting is better this time around, mostly because Sam Worthington's character has a much smaller presence. I thought his performance as Alex Mason was (and still is) absolutely wretched, thanks to his inability to conceal his Australian accent. James C. Burns continues to tear it up as the bitter, misanthropic Frank Woods, and Michael Keaton takes over Ed Harris' role as Hudson. However, there's less Gary Oldman this time around, and while the circumstances surrounding his character make that unsurprising, it's still a bummer. Sound effects are terrific. The Warthog in particular sounds absolutely terrifying.