I was thinking earlier (I'm always thinking, you know -- it's amazing), and debating with myself over a very important question: "Which CoD had the best antagonist?" After some deliberation, I decided there was really no question: Raul Menendez of Black Ops II is the best CoD villain by a long shot.
The so-called "Messiah of the 99%", Senor Menendez is the leader of Cordis Die, a revolutionary movement that has over a billion followers in 2025. However, far from being the saint his followers idolise him as, Menendez is actually a ruthless narco-terrorist, and the most serious threat to US security since Osama bin Laden. His ultimate master plan is to use a Celerium virus to cripple capitalist governments across the globe. And this, as we all know, is a Very Bad Thing.
What makes Menendez interesting, though, is the reason behind why he's doing all this. While most other CoD villains like Vladimir Makarov and Imran Zakhaev have been portrayed as complete villains with no redeeming characteristics, Raul is presented as a more tragic figure. When he was a kid growing up in Nicaragua, he had to live through the Contras rebels tearing his homeland apart. In '72, his family lost everything they owned in a terrible earthquake. And, as if that wasn't enough, his sister Josefina -- the only person he ever truly loved -- was maimed for life in a fire, started by an American to get the insurance money on the warehouse Raul and co. were living in at the time. Sure, Raul is meant to be the bad guy, but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for him. It's impossible to look on him as completely evil after seeing what he's had to endure in life.
That's what makes Menendez so interesting, and even likeable to an extent. Whereas Makarov and Zakhaev had no real motive behind their actions other than "Russia rules, America drools", Menendez has real, personal reasons for doing what he does. He wants to avenge himself, and his sister, for everything he feels the capitalist world (more specifically, the United States) has thrown at him in life. We can empathise with him throughout the story.
I took Menendez alive in Judgement Day, not simply because I wanted the best ending, but because I just couldn't bring myself to kill him. This guy wasn't just some sadistic monster that needed to be killed as gruesomely as possible -- he was another man, who had had so much shit thrown at him in life that I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. So, I took him alive, because I honestly felt that he didn't deserve to die.
So, that's why Raul Menendez is the top CoD bad guy, in my opinion. He's not just some lowlife scumbag -- he's an actual character, with a tragic past that justifies his actions so much more than just "I'm evil and I know it". He is a human being, just like us.