"We built computers, robots... whole unmanned armies, and no one ever asked: What happens when the enemy steals the keys?"
— Frank Woods
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the direct sequel to the 2010 game, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Set in both the year 2025 and in the 1980s, the game entails a future Cold War between the US and China over a rare earth mineral called Celerium, and flashbacks in the 1980s detailing the late Cold War. The story of the game is split between the previous game's protagonist Alex Mason (who is playable in the 1980s flashback missions) and his son David (a SEAL Team Six commander in 2025). The two eras are bridged together by a man named Raul Menendez, a Latin American drug lord-turned-terrorist who despises western society and acts as the game's antagonist.The game departs from the traditional linear storyline of previous Call of Duty games, allowing branching storylines. If important characters die or objectives are failed, the game will adjust the plot to accommodate for that.Along with Nazi Zombies returning, the game also features "Strike Force", an RTS-like game mode where the player will take command of a small army, and can even jump in the fray in first-person combat.The game was released on November 13, 2012 for the PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, with a November 18 release for the Wii U in North America, and November 30 for the Wii U in Europe. The first trailer can be seen here.Coinciding with the release of the main game is Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified, a Gaiden Game for the PlayStation Vita that fills in the gap between the first and second Black Ops games. It was negatively received universally for its rushed mechanics and sloppy AI as well as having a plot that failed to live up to its premise.
A.K.A.-47: This is the first Call of Duty game to use this on a large scale; various real-life firearms used in the future missions use fictionalized or altered names (the TDI Kard is the "KAP-40", the QCW-05 becomes the "Chicom CQB", etc.).
Played With. If the Strike Force missions are not completed, the U.S. is forced to counterattack Menendez's attack on Los Angeles on their own. If Strike Force was completed, a pre-mission cutscene in "Cordis Die" shows the Chinese government pledging their support to President Bosworth, and they assist in "Judgement Day" and save the Obama from total annihilation.
This is also implied to be the case for the Golden Ending, should Menendez's plans get derailed by Chloe. Also, with President Bosworth alive, the US would find itself once more in a position to lead the world, albeit alongside China.
Admiral Briggs: America and China, working together. Sec. of Defence: You should be damn proud of yourself, Admiral.
Anachronic Order: The story jumps back and forth between David's storyline in 2025 and Woods' flashbacks to two separate years in the '80s (1986 and 1989), with both storylines alternating back and forth for the majority of the game.
Anachronism Stew: Once you complete the game, you can take 2025-era weapons and attachments into the 1980s.
The flashback missions themselves are much less anachronistic than Black Ops was, due to having mostly the same weapons but being set two decades later, but there are still some goofs if you look hard enough - Woods holding an M16A4 in a flashback to 1972, and the RPD having Picatinny rails at least half a decade before they were standardizednote this is due to the RPD reusing the Modern Warfare 2 model, for instance.
The player takes control of Menendez in "Time and Fate", as he tries to save his sister from their burning home during an American attack. To emphasize his uniqueness, Menendez is noticeably more powerful than a normal Call of Duty protagonist, and on Normal difficulty plays a lot more like the Doom Marine. He also is temporarily playable during the strike on the USS Obama, albeit only to choose between executing Admiral Briggs, or simply kneecapping him.
In the Strike Force mission "Second Chance", Chloe Lynch is temporarily playable once you rescue her.
The player takes control of Woods in "Suffer With Me".
In "Achilles' Veil", the player follows Farid, an undercover operative in Menendez's camp. Halfway through the mission, Farid is executed by Menendez if the player refuses to have Farid kill Harper to maintain his cover.
Anyone Can Die: A large amount of the supporting cast can die during the story depending on your actions, but Hudson, Farid, and Erik Breighner are the only ones who are impossible to save.
Artificial Stupidity: The friendly AI for the Strike Force missions are dumb as rocks and can't shoot for shit, often forcing you to assume direct control of one of the soldiers in order to get the job done.
The AI in Declassified manages to be even worse.
As Himself: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North voices himself during his cameo appearance (he also worked as a historical consultant for the game's 1980s missions).
Attack Drone: Featured heavily throughout the campaign, most notably in "Fallen Angel". Menendez's plan is to take control of every drone and have them self-destruct, to cripple the world superpower's defense grids.
Menendez is a highly lethal man, even in his old age, so as a result people around him don't question his authority because of how easily he could destroy them.
In the '80s missions with Woods and Alex Mason, they notably take command of the situation when the shit hits the fan because they are the only ones skilled enough to defeat their current foe. As Woods puts it during the mission "Old Wounds", they are the only ones that know how to properly use the weapons and equipment they loaned to the Mujahideen, and they are far more familiar with the tactics of the Russian army. No one really argues with Woods after that.
As a member of the Navy SEALs' elite SEAL Team Six and holding the rank of Commander (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel outside the Navy), David Mason holds the distinction of not only being the highest form of Special Forces operator there is, but also being the highest ranking playable character in the entire Call of Duty series. David's status can only be contested if one counts Nazi Zombies whereby John F. Kennedy, being the President of the United States, is the highest ranking playable character (as the President is the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S Military).note Though arguably Fidel Castro, being an absolute dictator, technically has less checks on his power.
This distinction is reflected in the dialogue. Every other player character in the series receives orders, or if they speak, answers to their superior officer with, "sir", as would be expected of a grunt. Commander Mason is seen giving orders to multiple characters in the story and is responded to by those receiving these orders with, "sir". Since David Mason is a member of SEAL Team Six, he matches the "ass-kicking" part of the trope very well.
Jonas Savimbi is one of these as well, charging into battle alongside his men.
The Bad Guy Wins: Unless you get the Golden Ending, Menendez appears to succeed in his grand plan to bring down the First World and level the global playing field. Even killing him doesn't make a real difference to his scheme.
In fact, it is stated, by Menendez himself, that doing so would spark the destruction of the first world.
Bash Brothers: Woods and Alex Mason in the 1980s, and David Mason and Mike Harper in 2025.
Batman Gambit: Menendez allows Section and the JSOC to capture him in Yemen so he can be imprisoned on the USS Obama, thus perfectly positioning himself to utilize his mole, escape custody and take control of the U.S. drone fleet with his Celerium worm. The kicker? He's had the chip containing the virus on it with him the whole time... hidden in his glass eye.
Bear Trap: "Pyrrhic Victory" has some in a locked shed. If you held on to your mortars, you can turn them into makeshift land mines.
Been There Shaped History: Much like the first game, Mason takes part in several notable historical battles, including the civil war in Angola, the skirmishes between the Mujahideen and Russians in Afghanistan, and the U.S. invasion of Panama.
Bling of War: The horrific gold-plated trim reappears, and Black Ops 2 ups the ante with diamond camo that adds diamonds on top of the gold, unlocked by reaching gold camo for all guns in a certain class (all assault rifles, shotguns, etc.)
Blood Knight: In "Pyrrhic Victory", Savimbi sounds like he's having the time of his life fighting the MPLA.
Bloodless Carnage: Like most COD games sold in Japan, it's been censored a bit by Square Enix to remove most of the gore. SE justifies it due to the CERO Z rating, which is equal to an Adults Only rating.
Bloodier and Gorier: Especially evident with the machete and pulwar sword weapons, which can dismember or decapitate enemies when swung at the right angle. Body parts and heads exploding return in the single player, but only with heavy machine guns, as in Black Ops 1.
Book Dumb: Harper at one point asks why Menendez hates America so much. Even without knowing his personal backstory, he knows that Raul is Nicaraguan. Ever heard of William Walker or Luis Samoza, Harper?
Book Ends: At the end of Celerium, the second mission, Harper calls Menendez a sad, old, pitiful man. If you capture him in the end, Section tells a Marine to not gag Menendez, calling him a pitiful old man talking to himself.
Menendez's appearance begins and ends with a child holding his injured sister.
Another one comes from Woods and Old Mason. When Mason walks in, he tells Woods he looks like hammered shit. Woods says the same thing to Mason in the first Black Ops.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Mason, again. The discovery of Kravchenko in "Old Wounds" causes Mason's vision to be filled with numbers, and in a later scene in the same mission, you have to stop Mason from pulling out a gun and firing it at him. It's very, very difficult.
But Thou Must: In "Suffer With Me". You have to shoot the hostage when he appears, but you can choose to non-fatally wound him in the legs instead of taking the headshot, as Hudson suggests, though you have to follow up with a headshot. Doing so changes the ending.
At one point, David and Harper pass through a Cordis Die interrogation room extremely similar to the one Mason was interrogated in back in Black Ops. Harper even mentions that the CIA used to use such rooms for psychological manipulation.
Wood's extreme focus on killing Menendez is suspiciously similar to Mason's Numbers programming.
Mason in the endings where he survives: "Hey, Woods, you look like hammered shit."
Woods repeats his "You can't kill ME!" line while escaping from another POW/torture sequence.
Flashback cutscenes from the first game, including Mason and Woods escaping from the Viet Cong, and Mason shooting Steiner in the place of Reznov.
The Cameo: Victor Reznov appears in one scene, but doesn't say anything or have any major role in the main plot. The game even leaves it ambiguous as to whether he was real, or if Mason was hallucinating again.
General Petreaus makes an appearance as the Secretary of Defense. This was, of course, right before the real-life scandal ousted him from the CIA.
It can be a positive or a negative, depending on player choices. If your fail the Strike Force missions, General Zhao remains in control, the Premier is actively hostile towards the U.S. President and if their Menendez-controlled drones do attack China, the result will probably be World War III. However, if you complete the Strike Force missions, Zhao - who was backing Menendez and holding rogue operations into neighboring countries - ends up assassinated, severing any SDC support Menendez had, and they end up as your allies. They even assist you in the final assault on Menendez in Haiti.
The hidden intel files in Black Ops reveal that the game ends with Mason and Hudson on the run from the U.S. government, who have categorized them as a potential security threat and dispatched an assassination team to kill them. This is completely ignored in Black Ops 2, where Mason and Hudson are still working for Uncle Sam as though nothing had happened. Subverted in that both are mentioned as having gone rogue...in 1978 as a means to follow a certain lead.
The PS Vita game Call of Duty: Declassified is supposed to bridge the gap between Black Ops and Black Ops 2, but no mention of Hudson and Mason going rogue is mentioned, and most of the game is more Cold War attacks on Soviet interests by Mason and Woods, with no mention of how Woods got out of the Hanoi Hilton.
Cold War: Two of them in fact. Both the historical one, and a fictional one between the US and China over Rare Earth Minerals.
Crapsaccharine World: The Colossus resort in 2025 is a large floating paradise for the wealthy. But from the facial recognition ads to the crass, excessive consumerism on display, you can't help but feel at least a bit unnerved. No wonder then that Menendez was able to get many followers, as the whole place is pretty much the poster child for everything Cordis Die is fighting against. This is also where Salazar makes some peculiar comments hinting at his status as The Mole to Menendez later on.
Cruel Mercy: Choosing to spare Menendez in the ending is essentially what fate this leaves the man in. David Mason even lampshades it by calling him, "A sad old man talking to himself.", essentially meaning that he will have to suffer knowing that his plans were ruined and that he has to live with the consequences of what he did.
Also the reason why Menendez didn't kill Woods. By letting him live, Woods now has to live as a cripple with the knowledge that he was tricked by him to kill Mason in belief that he was Menendez.
Cutscene Boss: Played straight with Menendez. Averted with The Dragon, DeFalco, in "Karma" - if you catch up to him, he can be shot and killed in normal gameplay, and goes down as easily as any other enemy.
And Kravchenko yet again.
Cycle of Revenge: Prior to the events of the game, the CIA ordered the assassination of Raul Menendez's father, who had built himself up as a drug kingpin. Raul later captures Woods and kills the latter's entire unit before placing him in a storage container. Alex Mason (unbeknownst at the time) ends up blowing Menendez's eye out during a confrontation in a communications building. Soon after, the CIA execute a raid on Menendez's home in Nicaragua that results in the man's sister, Josefina, being killed due to an errant grenade thrown by Woods. Three years later, in Panama, Menendez kidnaps David Mason, Hudson, Woods and Alex (with the latter Mason potentially dying if Woods shoots him in the head) and kills Hudson to make a point about how they must all suffer. Three decades later, Menendez returns as the leader of Cordis Die, and David eventually finds and stops his plot to lead America into a war with China. If Menendez is spared and Karma isn't alive at the end of the game, the former tracks down Woods and kills him before visiting his sister's grave. If Menendez is not spared, his followers retaliate against the U.S. one year later in his name.
Dark and Troubled Past: Both David Mason and Menendez have tragic pasts, with Menendez's father getting assassinated, and his sister first getting horribly scarred in a fire and then killed during a botch assassination attempt. David never had the best relationship with his father, and was kidnapped by Menendez as a child and is forced to see his father (presumably) die.
Darkhorse Victory: A meta-and-semi-example; The Wii U Version actually received better scores on Game Rankings than the PS3 version, and comes close to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions in Metacritic and other reviewer sites. Notably, it comes with all features of the other versions of the game (sans minor things like Achievements and live recording), and due to the nature of the controller, has an ideal layout for two-player split-screen play.
Kravchenko, who was The Dragon in the first game, is revealed to be alive but only has about five minutes of screentime before getting unceremoniously executed.
Dewey Defeats Truman: David Petraeus is Secretary of Defense in 2025. He resigned as CIA Director on November 9, 2012 due to an extramarital affair. While career comebacks are not unheard of in politics, such an event is rather unlikely to happen.
Of course, up until that date, he was still a possible candidate for that position, hell, even the Presidency, so it was a safe assumption on Treyarch's part at the time. However, having to come to light only 4 days before release makes it practically impossible to change the story.
Disappeared Dad: Alex Mason suffers this fate due to the fact that Woods accidentally mistakes him as his target and kills him, causing David Mason to have to be raised by Woods. Strangely even in the event that this doesn't happen, as the player can choose differently by shooting Alex Mason's leg instead of his head, Alex Mason still disappeared from his son's life without any explanation as to why.
Disproportionate Retribution: According to Woods, Menendez wants to claim 20 to 30 million lives for the CIA operations that claimed the lives of his father and sister. It goes even further than that... Menendez's real plan is to bring down capitalism itself for the way the system has treated him and his country. The scope of his plan is completely insane, but it seems he's actually got the capabilities to do it.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: An incentive to let DeFalco escape in Karma, since this allows the mission Second Chance to be playable, and DeFalco will play a much larger role in the story. This also opens up more interesting dialogue.
Dragon Their Feet: It turns out Kravchenko outlived Dragovich by more than 20 years, and ends up leading part of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In fact Dragovich isn't mentioned at all in Black Ops 2, with Woods blaming Mason's condition solely on Kravchenko (granted, Woods never met Dragovich, so this kinda makes sense).
Earn Your Bad Ending: Getting the absolute worst ending is almost as tricky as getting the best ending.
Easter Egg: In "Celerium", just after the wingsuit sequence, the player can find and explore a cave that has Mjolnir in it. Unfortunately you cannot grab it.
The Eighties: Several missions throughout the game are set in 1986, with the last ("Suffer With Me") being set in 1989, during the U.S. invasion of Panama.
Elites Are More Glamorous: During the missions set in the 1980s, you play as Alex Mason, a member of a CIA Black Ops team. During the missions set in 2025 you play as David Mason, the Commander of SEAL Team Six, the U.S. Navy's elite counter-terrorist unit. Also, one of the playable factions in multiplayer is the ISA (Intelligence Support Activity), a tier-one US Army special operations unit.
During the flashback mission in Afghanistan, the Americans, Mujahadeen, and Chinese team up to fight the Russian invasion. The fact that the three different factions become arch-enemies in the present day after the fall of the Soviet Union is made note of.
If the player completes all of the strike force missions, America and China will set aside their differences to go after a common enemy: Menendez
During the mission in Panama, Mason and Woods capture Noriega, but are then ordered to treat him like a VIP and escort him to safety. Given that the U.S. has declared Noriega an enemy, they're understandably pissed at this and are in no mood to deal with the guy. At one point, the three have to travel through a dangerous neighborhood, and Noriega asks for a gun. Mason hands him an M1911, but ejects the magazine, telling Noriega that he asked for a gun, but didn't say anything about bullets. Noriega eventually recovers some ammunition, like during the brief moment when he escapes, and shoots a Panamanian soldier to prevent "witnesses".
Eye Scream: Menendez gets this when Alex shoots him in the eye in the first mission, "Pyrrhic Victory", but he survives. It turns out he keeps the Celerium worm virus in his hollowed-out glass eye.
Facial Horror: Josefina in the endings where Menendez breaks out of prison and digs up her grave - a flashback of her horribly-scarred, eyeless face is briefly shown.
Fanservice: The silhouetted pole dancers in Club Solar. What? You're suggesting there was some other reason they got put in?
Fate Worse Than Death: Prior to "Pyrrhic Victory", Woods watched his entire unit get massacred in front of him by Menendez, just before being put into a shipping container filled with their rotting bodies and left for weeks. Mason and Hudson finally discover him sitting at the back of the container, near-catatonic and sitting among the corpses of his fellow soldiers.
In the Golden Ending, you can mete out one to Menendez. Imprisoned in a maximum security facility, without any power or influence, he can do nothing but watch as Cordie Die falls apart and his year-long plan to escape is thwarted by Karma. The realization that he's gone from the most dangerous man on Earth to a Jimmy Kimmel joke actually triggers a Villainous Breakdown. Also a decent bit of Fridge Brilliance: he had a penchant for leaving his worst enemies alive, but crippled, so they could witness the destruction of all they cared for at his hands. David ended up doing the same to him.
Fighting The Lancer: David and Harper have a sparring match in a boxing ring midway through the campaign, highlighting that David is off his game because he's remembering what Menendez did to his father.
"The fire finished him. Sometimes, it's too late to save a man." Those are the first words any NPC speaks to you during actual gameplay. And while they were spoken in an entirely different context during that scene, it's also an entirely apt description of the personal journey of the game's Big Bad. It also applies to the choices that the player has to make, such as having to kill Harper so that Karma may live, which means that some times you have to make difficult choices in order to save the day. You can't save everyone as much as you would like to. And if Alex died, Menendez lights himself on fire in the ending.
Some more in regards to Salazar's future betrayal. The statement that he grew up in Nicaragua during Menendez's rise to power, and lines such as "so this is how the 1% live", and "no wonder Menendez rallies so much support", makes it quite obvious.
During the missions taking place in the '80s, if you successfully interrogated Kravchenko in "Old Wounds" and picked up a hidden file in "Time and Fate", you discover that there is a possible mole working for Menendez within the CIA. Said mole is Jason Hudson. Hudson's overreaction to Kravchenko's accusations is an especially big tip-off.
When the ISI Leader and Menendez are talking during Fallen Angel, the former mentions that most drones have a self-destruct mechanism programmed to activate as a failsafe against hacking. Menendez disregards the consequences of this because of what he does at the end with the American drones he hacked.
Four Star Badass: Jonas Savimbi. Bonus because his uniform actually has four stars on it.
Also Admiral Briggs, who is is a 4 Star Admiral.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Menendez, who rose from a lowly drug lord to the greatest threat to the Western World. Also, Zhao to a lesser extent: having risen up the ranks from a field agent to the head commander of China's armed forces.
Genre Shift: The "Strike Force" game mode introduces RTS-like elements, including managing squads of soldiers to follow your commands.
Glasses Pull: Hudson at the end of "Pyrrhic Victory". Subverted when, just after saying a one-liner and putting his glasses on, he gets shot in the shoulder.
At some point, Menendez says: "Buen fortuna, DeFalco". He meant "Buena suerte, DeFalco" ("Good luck, DeFalco").
PMCs often say: "¡Están empujando hacia adelante!", which is a rough translation for "They are pushing forward!" ("¡Están avanzando!").
Golden Ending: In order to get the best possible ending, you must save Chloe and Alex (as hinted at in the game achievements), spare Briggs, let Farid kill Harper in "Achilles' Veil" and spare Menendez at the end, along with completing all Strike Force missions.
Guide Dang It: The requirements to get the Golden Ending are so specific and easy to fail that it's unlikely you'll get the best ending on your first playthrough unless you use a guide.
Gunship Rescue: Jonas Savimbi at the end of "Pyrrhic Victory". In 2025, David Mason is saved from a drone by Anderson, who is piloting a futuristic F-38 that can double as a gunship as well as fighter.
In Achille's Veil, if you try (and fail) to shoot Menendez instead of Harper, Section and Salazar show up in a helicopter, with Section manning the minigun. It's likely that Menendez would have stayed and shot Harper too, or captured him, if the two hadn't shown up.
He Knows Too Much: The U.S. Government placed Frank Woods in the "Vault," an area completely isolated from society. Given all the sensitive information he knows, Woods very well can't be allowed into the public again.
The Hero Dies: Played straight if Alex Mason is killed in "Suffer With Me" or Farid is killed in "Achilles' Veil". Ultimately subverted if Alex is shot in the legs, after which he returns in the ending.
Hero Killer: Menendez. Discussed in the final cutscene in "Suffer with Me" when, after flashing back to Menendez's plot that caused Woods to (possibly) kill Mason by accident, and then murdering Hudson in front of Woods and David, Woods says, "Me and your old man, we were the best...and we still couldn't stop him."
Heroic BSOD: Farid experiences one in "Achilles Veil" if he kills Harper, standing there in shock and having to be led away.
Heroic Sacrifice: In "Suffer with Me", Hudson tells Menendez to kill him so that Woods and David will be spared.
In "Achilles' Veil", Harper openly taunts Farid into shooting him so that Farid's cover as a CIA mole won't be blown. You can choose to kill Harper, or refuse, which blows Farid's cover and leaves him dead.
Hide Your Children: Notably averted in "Pyrrhic Victory". Several child soldiers are seen brandishing guns when Alex takes Menendez hostage, and were very likely caught in the grenade blast that destroyed the communications shack.
Historical Domain Character: Manuel Noriega plays a major role in the flashback missions, Jonas Savimbi plays a large role in the first mission (Angolan Civil War), in the same mission Colonel Oliver North makes a brief appearance (played by himself), and David Petraeus shows up as the Secretary of Defense in 2025. The inclusion of Petraeus as a character is notable since sci-fi rarely uses real life figures who are still politically active. (This is somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight, as Petraeus resigned, supposedly due to an extramarital affair, on the same day the single player campaign was leaked.)
Historical Hero Upgrade: The game skates over Jonas Savimbi's many flaws, turning him into a Crazy AwesomeFour Star Badass. Whilst he certainly possessed physical courage, he was also a cruel and brutal man, who killed many civilians, sold conflict diamonds to fund his war machine, accepted arms and financial backing from apartheid South Africa, and re-started a bloody civil war because he lost the first post-war election. And on top of all that, he effectively ran the UNITA-held territories as his own personal kingdom.
Manuel Noriega goes from simple, corrupt drug lord to quadruple-agent backstabbing monster whose personal soldiers are constantly amped up on drugs and beat civilians to death, and who was only taken out, simply because he worked with Menendez, and (possibly) tricks Woods into slaying Alex, and ensures Hudson's death and Mason's crippling, just because. And all with the hugest, smuggest smirk on his face.
History Marches On: Woods observes the stupidity of building an army based upon materials that a foreign power holds a near monopoly on, namely China's global stranglehold on Rare Earth Elements. However, barely two months after the launch of the game, the US announces the construction of a massive Rare Earth mine which will enable them to surpass China's production, followed shortly by the EU negotiating a huge trade deal to purchase their supplies of REE's from the US. Combined with the flagging Chinese economy and the rise of 3D manufacturing encouraging the EU and US to pull their investments out of China, there's serious doubts about China's future as an economic titan, let alone a serious threat to US dominance.
Hold the Line: "Odysseus" involves the player trying to hold off Menendez's forces, who are assaulting the U.S.S. Obama, until help arrives. Depending on the player's actions during the campaign, the Obama either repels the attack with the help of reinforcements, or has to be evacuated.
In "Pyrrhic Victory", Mason takes Menendez (who is working as a radio operator at the time) hostage to stop several soldiers (including children) from shooting him. This is immediately subverted when Menendez breaks out of Mason's grip and tries to stab him, leading to Mason shooting Menendez in the eye (just after the latter pulls the pin on a grenade) and leaping out the window of the communications shack.
In "Odysseus", Menendez takes Briggs hostage this way. The player then has the option of sparing or executing him.
In Da Club: Solar, the club aboard the Colossus in "Karma".
Inferred Holocaust: Strongly hinted as being the case should Menendez win through Cordis Die. America is overrun, the First World "overthrown" by the 99% and anarchy becoming the norm across the world.
Ink Suit Actor: Tian Zhao is essentially a digital copy of his voice actor, Byron Mann.
In "Old Wounds", when numbers fill Mason's (and the player's) vision when Kravchenko climbs out of the tank, and during the interrogation scene in the same mission.
When Menendez is injured by an enemy in "Time and Fate", his vision becomes redder and more bloody than normal, often filling up close to the entire screen if he is damaged enough.
Mason's flashback missions as a whole make use of a HUD more reminiscent of the first Black Ops. Justified, considering that they largely take place in The Eighties.
Interface Spoiler: The "Family Reunion" achievement (which is not a secret achievement, and is awarded when you shoot the hostage (Alex) in "Suffer With Me") distinctly says, "There are two futures," thereby tipping off that there's more than one way to complete the objective (thus changing the ending).
In the Blood: The fact that David Mason joined the military like his father, and his grandfather who fought in World War II, seems to imply that the Mason family just can't stay out of the military. Also it usually takes about 20 years of service on average for someone to reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (David's rank of Commander is the Navy's equivalent to Lt. Col), meaning that much like his father Alex Mason David has been with the military for decades.
Woods' interrogation of Kravchenko in "Old Wounds" - he beats up the latter and stabs him in the hand with a knife while questioning him. It's also pretty clear that Woods had suffered worse treatment while he was Menendez's prisoner.
Salazar to Menendez, once they are back on the Obama. It may have been part of the act, considering Salazar's a traitor.
Hudson in "Suffer With Me", just before Menendez slits his throat. Woods also gets this courtesy of Menendez, although he survives.
Menendez treats kneecapping like punctuation. If he honors Salazar's wishes, he shoots Briggs in the leg with a high-calibre revolver. In a particularly gruesome example, he's also fond of doing so with a combat shotgun. Yeah. It's as messy as it sounds...
DeFalco does this in the cutscene before "Fallen Angel".
Menendez' second in command. The concept of morality is understood by him...but irrelevant.
Leap of Faith: In "Suffer With Me", Woods, Mason and Noriega are forced to run and jump off a balcony to the lower floor of an adjoining building after being attacked by a gunship.
Like Father, Like Son: David Mason, the son of Alex from the first game, is the player character in the future levels.
Machete Mayhem: A machete can be used as a melee weapon in "Pyrrhic Victory" and "Time and Fate".
Mandatory Unretirement: Alex stepped away from his work as an Operator to spend more time with his son, and is called back into service by Hudson to rescue Woods. He stays at the job for three more years working with Woods (at least up until the events of "Suffer With Me").
Harper. Depending on your choices, he survives having his face burned in "Fallen Angel", survives the plane crash (and Menendez's attempt to have Farid execute him) in "Achilles' Veil" and gets a piece of wreckage jammed through his leg in "Judgement Day"
Menendez. He takes much more punishment than normal player characters in "Time and Fate" (due to being in an Unstoppable Rage), and he'll calmly stand up and walk to his fate should you choose to capture him in "Judgment Day", despite David stabbing him in the leg and shoulder.
Meaningful Echo: If Mason and Woods discovered the existence of the CIA mole in "Old Wounds" and "Time and Fate", Kravchenko's line about it, "He even has people in the CIA", is remembered by Woods when Hudson tells him to make the shot on the hostage, who turns out to be Alex.
In the worst ending, a little Haitian boy tries to carry his heavily wounded sister to US forces. In the normal ending, it's revealed Josefina was heavily injured and disfigured in a warehouse fire started for an insurance scam, and only survived, thanks to Raul carrying her out...
The Strike Mission "Second Chance" is unlocked if you let Karma get kidnapped. The mission is a second chance to rescue her.
"Odysseus" refers to the Trojan Horse, which was Odysseus' idea. In the mission, Menendez allows himself to be captured so he can be taken straight to the U.S.S. Obama, where he installs a Trojan Horse virus into the ship's systems to hijack America's drone fleet.
Missing Mom: We never do find out who David's mother was, how she fell in love with Alex Mason, or how she died.
Mission Control: Briggs provides this to David (and, likewise, Hudson to Alex and Woods) in the campaign missions, and David himself fulfills this role for the other soldiers in the Strike Force missions.
The Mole: There are three major moles. Farid is the US' mole in Cordis Die, Salazar is Cordis Die's main mole in the Navy SEA Ls, while in the 1980's missions Jason Hudson is Menendez's mole within the CIA. Depending on how you treat a Sadistic Choice, the former's cover can be kept intact, the latter will always help Menendez destroy the USS Obama, while Hudson will be killed by his boss no matter what, although his treachery is hinted at if you pick up a certain piece of intel early in the game.
Multiple Endings: There are multiple combinations of ending cutscenes based upon the player's choices throughout the game.
In the best possible ending, Alex reunites with Woods and David at the Vault and Chloe stops the Celerium worm - just before going on Jimmy Kimmel Live to do an interview and calling out Menendez, who freaks out in his cell after seeing it.
If Menendez is spared during the final decision, he breaks out of prison, goes to the Vault and kills Woods before digging up Josefina's body and lighting himself on fire. If he is killed and Mason is dead, the final cutscenes show Woods visiting Mason's grave with David, and anarchy breaking out all over the world.
My Death Is Just the Beginning: Choosing to kill Menendez in the final level guarantees a bad ending where Cordis Die operatives around the world begin to revolt.
N.G.O. Superpower: Cordis Die is not only capable of fielding an army of hundreds of highly trained soldiers capable of going toe to toe with US and Chinese forces, they have also managed to develop high-tech devices that let them hack into and take control of a supercarrier and entire fleets of combat drones. They also have one to two billion followers enamored by their leader Menendez, at least a good deal of whom would spark violent riots across the world at his beck and call. It also helps that much of said devices and army is funded by decades' worth of drug and black market money.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The final mission of Declassified involves assassinating the heads of the major Nicaraguan drug cartels so that the CIA-allied Contras can take control of the drug trade instead. The final target is Jose Menendez. Instead of handing the drug trade to the Contras as planned, this act causes Raul Menendez to rise to power to fill the vacuum left by the assassinated druglords, and also cements his hatred of the United States.
Several choices the player can make also qualify. In "Suffer With Me," did you kill the prisoner? Congratulations, it was actually Alex Mason. In "Judgment Day," did you choose to kill Menendez rather than spare him? Congratulations, his death serves as the catalyst for mass rioting.
Nintendo Hard: Veteran difficulty. Veteran was already notorious in the Modern Warfare series, but Treyarch increased the diffuculty of this game substantially compared to previous titles. The most accurate way to describe Veteran mode in this game is "Online mode enemy damage, but with 20 people shooting you at once". So you have 5 teammates fighting alongside you? No matter, the enemy targets you and only you. And considering the fact that, most of the time, you're dead with 5 shots at most, it's going to take you a while to get this game beat. Special mention goes to the Strike Force missions, which are almost beyond impassable when in Veteran mode.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: A lot of players have noted that the United States President in the 2025 segments of the game bears a strong resemblance to Hillary Clinton.
Noob Cave: The Bootcamp playlist in multiplayer is restricted to players up to level 10. Good for players to get their bearings on the game and unlock Create-a-Class before jumping into the public playlists.
Lampshaded by Frank Woods, a character who seemingly died in the first game. Even he seems to have trouble believing it himself.
"Aside from the fact that I'm still alive, none of this surprises me..."
Besides Woods, Kravchenko is also still alive (and fighting fit, despite the fact he's got to be pushing 70).
Victor Reznov! He appears in a cameo to save Mason and his team, but it's left ambiguous as to whether he was really there, or if Mason was hallucinating again. Woods even lampshades the absurdity of Reznov having survived. He states that if it really were the actual Reznov in the flesh then he would have stuck around and explained himself. Guess not.
If you chose to snipe him in the legs instead of the head, Alex Mason. Woods even lampshades this when Alex shows up at the Vault to meet him:
"Where the fuck you been for the last thirty years?"
Obfuscating Disability: Played for laughs in the non-canon after-credits end. Woods, who is in a wheelchair because his knees were shot out during the story line, jumps up out of the chair when M. Shadow asks if he's ready to rock. Menendez (the guy who shot Woods' legs) asks, shocked, "What the fuck?" Woods' response? "Oh, that shit? Nah, I'm just fuckin' lazy."
One-Man Army: Menendez in "Time and Fate". The player (controlling him) rampages through his burning homestead with little more than a machete and a shotgun, brutally slaying soldiers all along the way to try and reach his sister.
The Other Darrin: Hudson is voiced by Michael Keaton instead of Ed Harris. It's very noticeable as the two sound nothing like each other. In Declassified Hudson is at least voiced by a voice actor trying to pull off a reasonable Ed Harris impersonation.
Percussive Maintenance: Harper does this to a CLAW at the beginning of "Fallen Angel". It works, oddly enough, despite being in a monsoon in Pakistan, one of the most humid countries on Earth.
Playing Both Sides: Manuel Noriega (just like real life) in "Time and Fate" and "Suffer With Me".
Please Wake Up: David Mason says this to his father, Alex, and shakes him in "Suffer With Me". If Alex was shot in the legs instead of the head, the ending reveals in flashback that Alex began to wake up as a result.
Plotline Death: Only five characters die no matter what: Farid, Jason Hudson, De Falco, Kravchenko, and Erik Breighner.
R-Rated Opening: The first mission of the game opens up with Alex Mason fruitlessly trying to save an Angolan rebel being burned alive, trapped inside of his overturned truck. The man's skin is completely singed off as he screams in agony before finally collapsing and dying. Horrific imagery right in the first minute of gameplay.
Refusal of the Call: Alex Mason is contacted by Hudson and Lt. Col Oliver North representing the CIA to get him back into the service. Mason by this point is in retirement in Alaska raising his son David and naturally has no interest in going back, feeling that he has done more than enough during his years of service, and casually remarks that the CIA should be more than capable of handling things without him. The only thing that gets him to accept is knowing his old war buddy Woods has been captured.
Renegade Chinese: It's explicitly stated China's Strategic Defense Coalition is run by a renegade who doesn't answer to the rest of China's politburo, and makes unauthorized attacks on neighboring countries to force them into China's alliance. If the SDC's attacks are repelled, China eventually has enough and personally asks the US to take out said renegade, Tien Zhao. Good thing, too: Zhao was in cahoots with Menendez.
Retired Badass: Frank Woods is still alive in the year 2025, and although his fighting days are over (due to the fact that he's over 90 years old and confined to a wheelchair), he's more than happy to explain to the player that the world will always need men like him.
Revenge: Sci-Fi plot elements aside, the main theme of the game's story seems to be revenge, and how it can continuously end up just making things worse.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Menendez (who is playable, no less) in "Time and Fate". His revenge plot is essentially one big one, in retaliation for Americans disfiguring and killing his sister.
Rule Of Cool: Probably the only reason you get to ride a horse and use a gun (and a rocket launcher!) at the same time. It's pretty awesome.
Save this Person, Save the World The only way to truly stop Menendez is for Chloe to survive through all the events of the game, as she is the only person capable of stopping his Celerium worm. Also, for Chloe to survive, both Farid and Admiral Briggs have to survive to play their role in the defense of the U.S.S. Obama, and the Strike Force missions have to be completed so China will show up to help.
And multiple times through "Time and Fate": "JOSEFINAAA!"
Mocked in the The Stinger, where Avenged Sevenfold's members continuously scream for Menendez.
"MENENDEZ, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!"
Scenery Gorn: "Fallen Angel," which is set in Pakistan has David and company fighting Menendez's goons...in the middle of a horrendous (and possibly climate change-fueled) storm, complete with cars floating down the streets and the water depth shorting out the combat drone brought along for the ride. Harper even pauses for a moment to pity the civilians left behind to fend for themselves. And that's not even getting to the drone attack on Los Angeles or just about a good deal of the other set pieces in the game.
Schizo Tech: Finish the campaign, and the game lets you pick weapons regardless of the mission, hence you can use weapons from 2025 in the 80's missions and no one will bat an eye.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: Taking on a life of its own, to the point where it is an army unto itself whose chairman is preparing for war with the United States and is trying to pressure other Asian countries into joining it. The Chinese government can no longer control it. However, they're just puppets of Menendez. China can become JSOC's allies if you complete all Strike Force missions and assassinate their leader.
In the best ending, a Colonel Kurtz talks to Chloe Lynch about the Celerium worm.
Also in the best ending, Woods leaves Alex and David to reconcile while he goes to yell at "Nurse Batshit" about giving his cigarettes back.
Karma is a genius hacker, and her real name is Chloe. This is probably a shout-out to 24, which also has a computer genius girl named Chloe.
Chloe also styles her hair and wears piercings much like Lisbeth Salander, and sort of acts like her as well to boot.
The intro to the game where Hudson and Oliver North ask Mason to covertly enter Angola and rescue Woods is similar to the beginning of the third Rambo movie, in which a CIA operative notifies the eponymous hero that his friend Colonel Trautman was captured by the Soviets during a covert op in Afghanistan.
Mason's mission in Afghanistan also mirrors that Rambo movie, complete with supporting Mujahadeen on horseback.
On the multiplayer side of things, the Guardian apparently uses 1.21 Gigawatts of power.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Subverted in the ending if you arrest Menendez instead of kill him. He attempts to make a veiled threat and a soldier moves to gag him, but David stops him.
David Mason: He's just a sad old man talking to himself. Let him talk.
Sir Swears-a-Lot: Admiral Briggs is extremely profane, even by the game's rather high—or low—standards; his favorite word is "cocksucker", which he uses even in the presence of the Secretary of Defense.
Slashed Throat: Potentially happens to Karma and Woods, and definitely happens to Hudson.
Smug Snake: Manuel Noriega. At one point Woods even asks him "What the hell are you looking so smug about?"
Spanner in the Works: Menendez planned his assault on the U.S. almost to a T, and counted on getting captured (and interrogated) by David Mason. The only thing his plan didn't take into account is Chloe Lynch, a.k.a. "Karma", being reached by US forces, who (if she survives the assault on the Obama) is able to intercept the Celerium worm.
David ends up as this if you refuse to execute Menendez and Karma is saved. Karma intercepting the worm ensures Menendez never escapes jail to kill Woods.
Start of Darkness: The 1980s portions of the game will show why Menendez is attacking the US and China in the 2020's.
Story Branching: Used several times throughout the campaign, with results of the decisions sometimes not being felt until the very end of the game. Major choices that affect the ending are finding out about the CIA mole, saving / failing to save Karma, shooting Briggs in the knee or head, shooting Harper or sparing him, shooting Alex Mason in the head or the legs, completing all Strike Force missions and killing or sparing Menendez.
Less important decisions include Harper's face being scarred and DeFalco's fate.
Story Driven Invulnerability: Averted with The Dragon, DeFalco, in "Karma". If you catch up to him fast enough, you can shoot and kill him before he has a chance to escape. Doing so allows you to rescue Karma and skip the "Second Chance" mission.
Super Wrist Gadget: David Mason's OPSAT (which seems to be on others in his team as well), in addition to being able to call down airstrikes, has a multitude of functions.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: If Harper was executed in "Achilles' Veil", his role in the following mission ("Cordis Die") is filled by Agent Samuels, a Secret Service agent and fellow soldier who performs the same job of protecting the President.
Talking to the Dead: David discusses this with Woods in the ending where Alex and Menendez are both dead, and they're at the former's grave. In a rather touching display, Woods gestures to the military graves as a sign of the price that military servicemen pay for their work, but that it is ultimately worth it in the end. David muses on whether the honored dead appreciate Woods talking to them, and Woods response is that they talk to him.
Technology Marches On: Averted early in the campaign. We see Menendez posting a YouTube video in 2021 with the black-and-white video layout that YouTube wouldn't release until a few days after the game released.
Thanatos Gambit: Killing Menendez in the final mission triggers the release of a video, sparking the uprising of Cordis Die and causing riots throughout the First World.
Menendez: This video is triggered to play upon my assassination. Cordis Die, you know how to proceed. My death will shine light upon ubiquitous darkness...
Throwing Off The Disability: Played for laughs in the post-credits rock-out sequence. Woods leaps up out of his wheelchair, and at Menendez's confusion, he says "That? Nah, I was just lazy."
Throw the Dog a Bone: If you fail to rescue Karma in "Karma", you have an opportunity to try again in a Strike Force mission. This is Lampshaded since the mission's codename is "Second Chance".
Tragic Bromance: Happens to Alex and Woods and potentially David and Harper. In "Suffer With Me", Woods discovers that he killed Alex, who was being used as a hooded hostage (although the other choice reveals that he was Not Quite Dead). In "Achilles' Veil", maintaining Farid's cover leads to Harper getting killed, with David discovering the body after ground troops land to find and apprehend Menendez.
Trailers Always Spoil: The war ravaged Los Angeles portrayed in the game trailers is the second to last mission, with Menendez coming close to achieving his goal.
Video Game Cruelty Punishment: The series' traditional "Friendly fire will not be tolerated" is present as ever. However, this is averted in the chapter where you play as Raul Menendez. Because Menendez does whatever he wants, he's Raul frickin' Menendez!
Also averted in "Odysseus" - you can execute the captured POW's on the Obama, just like Harper executes Salazar, without anyone batting an eye.
Played straight in "Karma", you automatically fail the mission if you kill a civilian (which, considering the plot of the mission, is a very probable risk).
Villain with Good Publicity: Menendez is billed as "the hero of the 99 percent", and has a Youtube channel (under the username "Cordis Die" in-game - and as part of the Viral Marketing campaign) whose videos garner hundreds of millions of hits. His actual number of followers is estimated to be one to two billion people.
Villain Shoes: In the level "Time and Fate" you start off playing as Raul Menendez while he tries to rescue his sister. She's one of the few people in the game you cannot save
Visible Invisibility: The Mooks in "Celerium" carry an Invisibility Cloak, but still have an distortion field that can be seen by both David's team and the player. You can get it too. Most notable fact however is that it is unable to cloak some of the user's items, most notably the weapon.
Walking Tank: The CLAW drones, which are seen and used throughout the campaign and Strike Force missions.
Western Terrorists: The antagonist is, for once, not a Nazi, a Russian or a Saddam Hussein expy, but instead a Latin American hacker (Raul Menendez) with a grudge. The only other game in the Call of Duty series with this distinction is Modern Warfare 2, with General Shepherd's mercenary forces.
Wham Episode: "Suffer with Me": Operation False Profit turns out to be a prisoner exchange. Woods ends up mistakenly sniping a hooded Mason during the exchange. Hudson, Woods and David (Mason's son) are all taken prisoner (with Woods being crippled as a result), and Hudson is brutally tortured and has his throat sliced to save the lives of the latter two.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Weaver, one of the major characters of the last game, isn't even talked about let alone shown once in the sequel. As a man who was practically Hudson's right hand man and a competent ally it makes one wonder why he isn't around in this story.
Crosby disappeared after being shot in the arm (and is clearly shown to be alive.) He is very similar to Brooks from the last game, as he appears as a mauveshirt for a few missions, then disappeared towards the end.
Whole Episode Flashback: The 1980s portion of the game is told via flashbacks by Frank Woods to David Mason as he searches for intel on Menendez.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Menendez comes off as this sometimes. The horrific disfigurement of his sister by a greedy American businessman, the crippling poverty he and his family endured, and the death of his father and Josefina at the hands of the CIA are all factors. However, he displays sheer sadism in torturing and crippling people (shotgun to the knees, anyone?), and is utterly ruthless towards his enemies, civilians and his own men. It's easy to see him as a vengeance-fueled psychopath who, for all his rhetoric and erudition, is plunging the world into chaos and causing millions of deaths solely to avenge two people, one of whom was a notorious drug lord in his own right.
In 2025, Menendez makes it clear that he has no desire to actually kill David Mason, and even lets him live even after he had already fulfilled his unwitting part in Menendez's plot (This is partially Cruel Mercy and partially due to the unique connection between them; Menendez wants David as a living witness experiencing similar suffering to what he himself had to endure).
This is also his reasoning for sparing Woods in the '80s and Briggs in 2025 if the player decides to. And if you may, you can spare Menendez. Doing so nets a better ending if you saved Karma, as Cordis Die will go ahead with their revolution if Menendez is killed in cold blood.