While it’s all too easy to aim cheap shots at a gaming giant like Call of Duty, the series must be respected for what it has managed in a relatively short time frame since the first title was launched back in 2003. In less than ten years it has gone on to shatter just about every record in the book, and earn Activision billions and billions of dollars into the bargain. Whatever side of the fence you sit on when it comes to Call of Duty, there’s no denying that it’s a game that will forever be synonymous with this period in gaming; bringing tens of millions of players online to battle it out against each other.
As the series grew and progressed away from its World War II roots, the setting of the game world began to evolve, first to the current day through the Modern Warfare series, and then back a few decades to the Cold War for the original Black Ops in 2010. This latest instalment offers something completely different, however, and will put players in the future for the first time in franchise history While segments of the campaign have been confirmed to take place in the 1970s and 1980s, the bulk of the action is set in the year 2025, meaning that we can look forward to plenty of futuristic technology and hardware, plus a storyline that intertwines with that of the first Black Ops.
Call of Duty : Black Ops II Enlarge
It’s very much a case of keeping it in the family for Black Ops II, as we will take control of Alex Mason in the retrospective sections (you’ll remember him as the protagonist last time around), and his son David in the sections set in 2025. At this stage not much is known about the plot specifics, but we do know that the game will take place across locations as far afield as Central America, Afghanistan, Los Angeles, Singapore and Yemen. Speculation suggests that much of the game’s plot will hinge around the relationship between Alex Mason and Viktor Reznov, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Those of you who have been concerned with the ever diminishing length of the single player campaigns within Call of Duty games for the last few years will be pleased to note that Black Ops II looks set to offer the most comprehensive single player experience we have seen to date in the series. Not only are we anticipating a solid 8-10 hour long campaign, but it has been confirmed that a number of special Strike Force missions will allow players to drastically alter the in-game story arc, opening up all new missions and character development to players. While this is certainly nothing new in the gaming world, it’s a massive deviation for the Call of Duty franchise, and one that we welcome with open arms.
In addition to the increased scope of these missions, what really excites us is the fact that players will only be able to tackle each one a single time during each save file, so there’ll be no back tracking if things turn out a little differently to how you anticipated. When you make your choice as to which path to take within these missions, you’ll be completely locked out of the other fork until you start a new game, and to add even more variety into the mix, Strike Force missions will feature a number of special vehicles, while death will result in your failure. There will be no retries, and no loading from the last checkpoint. You get one shot at them so you better make it count.
While the Strike Force missions aren’t compulsory, they’re the only way for you to actually make any real changes to the game’s inevitable outcome, so players will be missing out if they opt for the vanilla experience.
So, with all this in mind, it’s not surprising that Activision chose to show off some of these new features at E3 last month. While there was nothing on display to the general masses aside from regular teaser trailers shown on the obscenely big screen that dominated the Activision booth, things were a little more interesting behind the scenes. With plenty to show off for the forthcoming title, Activision weren’t shy about showing select members of the media just why this was a game-changer for the series.
The demo level fittingly took place in Los Angeles, the city which played host to E3, and stuck quite rigidly to the tried and tested Call of Duty formula, with players acting as defensive support for the President of the United States, guiding her (yes HER) convoy through the streets. As you would expect, things don’t go quite according to plan, and an ambush soon provides the opportunity to showcase that shiny new futuristic technology that will underpin much of the game’s action.
It’s not exactly Halo 4 or Crysis type technology, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff here to keep you interested, particularly a swanky new sniper rifle that allows you to view enemies through solid surfaces with the aid of X-Ray technology similar to that now in use at airports across the world. Even though the game is set in the future, you’re not going to see any truly outrageous or outlandish stuff here; it’s all very much grounded in reality for the most part, adding a touch of authenticity to proceedings.
Things are very much business as usual the game serves up the first real choice of any note found within the series – do you continue along the freeway in your group, or do you instead take to higher ground and provide support as a sniper. It’s far from being the biggest choice you’ll see in the game, but it does go quite a way to show that Treyarch are willing to push the boundaries, at least within the Call of Duty universe if not in the genre itself.
In the coming months there are going to be countless more announcements to keep gamers salivating, particularly when it comes to the online multiplayer side of gameplay, but for the time being E3 has given us plenty of food for thought. It’s refreshing to see that both fan and media feedback seems to have been taken on board, and Black Ops II genuinely appears to be an attempt from Treyarch to push the series onwards.
The game is set for a worldwide release on November 13th on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, with very strong rumours suggesting that the Wii U will also be getting the game. If this proves to be true, this means that we can expect to see Nintendo’s new console hitting stores in early November at the latest; just in time for the Holiday rush.