Overstimulation is a common forecast for the future. With entertainment getting more explosive and technology more intrusive, it's easy to see ourselves just bombarded by colorful flashes and cacophonous beeps in 50 years. Maybe even 10.
Treyarch is way ahead of you.
With "Black Ops II," the Activision studio has taken "Call of Duty" into the future for the first time. The result is the series' most helter-skelter blitz of blood and fire yet, and shooter maximalism at its finest. Every few seconds there's some life-or-death pileup of guttural screams, collapsing buildings and projectile vomit. If you're the sort who likes having your ears and eyeballs shredded by the stimuli of simulated war at 60 frames per second, there's no greater ecstasy.
Some of "II" picks up about a decade after the "Manchurian Candidate" story of the first "Black Ops." CIA guys Alex Mason and Frank Woods are now hunting a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist named Raul Menendez across Angola, Afghanistan and Panama. Treyarch cuts those scenes with Mason's son, David, still looking in 2025 for Menendez, who by then leads a global Occupy-meets-Anonymous cyberterrorist movement that's trying to flash-fry a cold war between the United States and China.
Bouncing between the Masons, the "Black Ops II" campaign is the series' most cranked-up romp in years. Where Infinity Ward's "Modern Warfare" games or Treyarch's previous outings would relax you with stealth or sniping between bursts of run-and-gun, "II" keeps accelerating. Close-quarters shoot-outs dominate the action as Treyarch pulls you ever forward, knifing and shooting like you can't kill fast enough. Whether it's a futuristic lab wallpapered with touchscreens or a floating art project resort for 1-percenters in the Cayman Islands, you'll leave it shattered and smeared in blood.
"II" does make a pretty big departure with its campaign by branching the story depending on your choices, your successes, and your participation in another new feature, the optional Strike Force missions. I can't say the choices are of such a magnitude that I'm compelled to play the eight-hour campaign again and see how different they make life for the dreadfully boring cast — aside from old man Woods, who's a crotchety trip. But they are an appreciated move away from the dulling linearity that's come to define "Call of Duty."
As for the Strike Force missions — at least they're short. Set mostly on "Black Ops II's" multiplayer maps, these five asides task you with ordering soldiers and terrestrial drones toward objectives — protect this spot, capture that guy — within a 10-minute time limit. But the companion AI is clumsy and usually clueless about those objectives, leaving you to carry out the missions single-handedly.
Still, it's fun to play in "Black Ops II's" future. Aside from a tantalizing arsenal of drones and automatic weapons that fire with smooth, bassy thumps, Treyarch makes the 2025 setting seem a bit plausible by piecing live-action YouTube clips and tweets into the cut scenes. Alex Mason's home base is the USS Barack Obama, his president basically a brunette Hilary Clinton, and his secretary of defense is — oh, David Petraeus.
OK, so they won't get everything right.