People love to criticise the Call of Duty franchise these days, and many would say that this is with good reason. The mechanics have been pretty constant for the last 5 years, the minor multiplayer tweaks and rebalancing polarising within the community, whilst those on the outside say it’s still all too similar. Then there came the Zombies.
One of the biggest draws to Treyarch’s previous two outings was that they added something new, fun, and somewhat unexpected to their half of the franchise, and with Black Ops II they’re trying to do it again, but on multiple fronts. There are rumoured shake ups to the multiplayer component, and Zombies will be making a return with another dedicated campaign, but the meat of what Treyarch are currently showing off surrounds the single player campaign.
As was revealed at the game’s announcement back in May: we’ve zipped 13 years into the future to 2025, and amidst a Cold War 2 between the USA and China, technology used on the battlefield has advanced a huge amount. It might all seem outlandish today, but Treyarch have actually been very logical about things.
In fact, they’ve been consulting with experts in think tanks that specialise in predicting future warfare, and the feedback was along the lines that they may not even have gone far enough!
I liked these little guys better when they played piano and decorated Christmas trees...
The moving pictures speak better than I can, so I encourage you to take a look for yourself.
However, there are a few things that this demonstration video doesn’t quite make clear, and that is how Treyarch are opening up the game a whole lot more.
For example, early on in the demo, when you get to the end of the bridge, you have a choice between covering your allies as a sniper up high, or rappelling down with them and taking out enemies close up. That combines with a section at the end of the demo, where you hop into a VTOL fighter jet, whilst quipping about how you’ve never flown one before, and you are actually given full control of the jet, moving it around as you see fit.
You do have to cover vehicles on the ground before chasing after more flocks of drones through the LA skyline, so you will want to be following roughly the same path, but having full control of the motion is a lot of freedom to be afforded to you, when you would previously have been locked on the rails.
The opening up of the game doesn’t end there, as at several points during the single player campaign you will be presented with a few Strike Force missions to choose from. Whichever one you choose, you have near total control of how it pans out in a sandbox arena you are presented with several objectives in order to complete the overall mission.
The example I saw was a raid on a dock yard in Singapore, with a large missile truck in the centre that you need to capture and hold it, in order to commandeer the missile, and blow up a cargo ship in the dockyard. As soon as you dropped out of the helicopter, enemies start to converge, and you have to act quickly to complete a side objective and be able to call in reinforcements of all shapes and sizes. Drones, humans, quadrocopters, the lot.
At any point, you’re able to switch to an overlooking viewpoint, see how the battle is unfolding, set waypoints for your troops, and then hop back into any body or machine that you choose. In this way it’s kind of reminiscent of the older Ghost Recon titles, but much faster paced, as troops quickly file in on both sides and losses are acceptable.
You can fail, too. If you don’t succeed in your mission, the single player campaign just carries on. You don’t respawn at a checkpoint, you don’t get a second chance, and the game remembers how and what you did. You can’t even pick to play the alternate missions offered without restarting the campaign. Come the end of the single player campaign, the world can be in a variety of situations depending on these Strike Force missions, with different world powers holding different cards in the delicate balance of power, whilst the main thrust of the plot remaining intact.
What I feel it really adds up to is some progress for the franchise and a look to the future, not just in terms of setting, but also for what they’ll be trying to achieve come the next generation of hardware.
Treyarch lived in Infinity Ward’s shadow for the better part of a decade, but with the way they seem to be pushing Black Ops II in so many different directions, they could quite possibly eclipse the rest of the franchise in many people’s minds.
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