Are Treyarch finding new ways to revitalise Call Of Duty, or is it in decline? Find out in our Black Ops 2 preview.
Published on May 4, 2012
Natural resources dwindling to a point where their prices soar like a poorly programmed UAV. The US president criticising China for its tendency to stockpile metals.
Not the opening headlines of tonight’s Ten O’Clock news you understand, but merely the first baby steps on an inexorable slide towards war.
At least, that’s How Black Ops 2 sees things. Oscillating between the Eighties and 2025, it tells a tale of two separate cold wars. One, the product of a boring old nuclear arms race, the other born of a future world’s desire to become more energy-efficient – prompting a scramble for materials that make this possible.
Unfortunately though, at the exact point future Uncle Sam is coming to terms with having to fashion iPhones from mud and a few pointy sticks, some oaf hands the activation codes for the United States’ existing unmanned drones to some crazy, crazy terrorists.
In so doing, creating a situation so perilous that only the buffest, apple pie-eatingest patriot could possible solve it. And even then, only if the stars and stripes are dramatically waving behind them.
So Treyarch’s narrative choices aren’t particularly surprising, as impressively grounded in real-life events as they are. Raising a significantly larger number of eyebrows, however, is the gameplay structure through which the studio has decided to force them.
Confirmed locations include 2025 Los Angeles, Singapore and Yemen.
This will be the first Call Of Duty title to feature branching storylines, for instance. The first COD to offer players a choice of route through its missions.
The first, indeed, to make failure carry a greater consequence than respawning a few hundred yards down the road. Allowing a particular contact to die, or defence installation to remain intact will cause missions to stumble towards more pathetic endings, with that shameful result creating resonances that echo throughout the rest of the game.
While this isn’t Mass Effect and you won’t be copping off with your superior officer, it’s interesting to see the series tackling replay value head-on after a succession of disappointingly brief single-player campaigns.
It doesn’t end there, though. In addition to the above gameplay extension methods, Strike Force operations will also debut.
This new gameplay type will likely govern a handful of Black Ops 2’s campaign missions, sitting alongside those with more traditional structures, and ones boasting major decisions.
They’ll differ from the norm in that players will choose from a handful of Operatives to control, including unmanned ciphers that will allow a top-down view and the ability to control soldiers indirectly, like an RTS.
Should players remain on the ground, they’ll be grateful for the chance to swap between members of their squad at will, with a negative result again entirely possible should all men be killed, and the mission failed.
Mo-capped horses will feature in the game. Exciting.
For variety’s sake, Strike Force will allow gamers to complete objectives in any order, operating across larger, less tunnelled environments and altering enemies’ spawn points in a fashion similar to Left 4 Dead. Appropriate, seeing as Zombies Mode is back in.
So far as characters are concerned, we’re reintroduced to Alex Mason – hero of Black Ops and in 2025 a quite considerably old man. We should expect to have some of his Vietnam war memory loss filled in before the credits roll, most likely embellished by his buddy Frank Woods, who spends a great deal of his time telling us how far in advance he’d seen this all coming.
The vast majority of play time will be spent in the year 2025 though, controlling Mason’s son, David as he uses his bendy futuristic wrist screen to sift through mission details.
Ones that detail the whereabouts of Raul Menendez – our villain – described rather optimistically as a facsimile of Heath Ledger’s Joker whose deals with far eastern powers see players briefly chasing his henchmen on horseback through a dusty and unwelcoming Yemen.
So though their terrain remains pretty familiar, Treyarch’s certainly packing enough variety in to justify its inevitable spot on top of the shooter pile.