Call Of Duty: Black Ops II Preview

“The worst-kept secret in gaming.”

That’s what Treyarch’s Mark Lamia said about Black Ops II, and it’s easy to see why. The fact that the annual franchise appears around about this time every year (and then goes onto a November release) is hardly breaking news anymore, and every single gamer on the planet expected a new Call of Duty, even if it wasn’t a sequel to Black Ops.

But despite the leaks and the rumours, there was still plenty to see that nobody could have seen coming. Mechanised tanks, drones, horses – and the promise of a story that spans two very distinct time zones has masses of appeal that should hopefully go some way to silencing the doubters. Of which, as with any game series of this scale, there are plenty.

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The main villain this time around, Raul Menendez, appears in both the late 1980’s (as the Cold War ends) and in the near future – 2025 to be precise, and just as another Cold War is kicking off. And as you’d expect, Mason is back from the first game – and Black Ops II will detail what happened to the player character: what was real, and whether or not he really killed you know who.

But in 2025, as China continues its hold on the Earth’s resources (the game has a focus on Rare Earth Elements, a currency that China already holds 95% of) it’s Mason’s son – callsign Section – you’ll be controlling, as he comes to term with events in the past and how they’ve spiralled into what’s happening in the future.

The level shown (and featured in the trailer) is called Aftermath, and centres around an enemy takeover of the US’s drones. The story is written by David Goyer, who hand a hand in two recent Batman films, and so if nothing else we can expect a meaty bad guy in Menendez (remember Joker?) and hopefully – this time – someone more than a figment of the player’s imagination.

The near-future tech is particularly interesting, one upping Ghost Recon and offering the likes of unmanned quadrotors and those Big Dog-esque tanks (called Cognitive Land Assault Weapons) that you’ll have seen in the trailer – and controlled by the enemy they’re twice as scary. But it’s the way that Treyarch are pushing the game tech that should really set Black Ops II apart from the earlier Call of Duty games – and it’s fair to say they’re trying.

Firstly, the single player story is branching, and somewhat non-linear, with your actions having long-term repercussions throughout the rest of the plot. It’s not possible to see exactly what that might entail from a single level preview, but we’re hopeful that – coupled with the fact that you can (for the first time) fail a level and still progress the exposition – this could be very exciting.

Then there are the Strike Force Operations, a much more open-ended, strategy based series of missions that let the player decide how they want the level to run. You can control individual players, the drones, or even play top-down and oversee everything. At any time, impressively, you can zoom down to soldier level and take direct control.

Visually there are updates, too, although it’s clear the engine is starting to need a little smoke and mirror to get the most out of it. Treyarch promise HDR and bounce lighting and self-shadowing on the main characters, and on the 360 at least, the frame rate still holds at 60fps with masses of detail and a new technique called ‘reveal mapping’.

And whilst Treyarch aren’t talking a great deal about multiplayer yet – apart from confirming that all modes will be set in 2025, there’s going to be lots and lots of content and that they’re going to really push the e-sports angle, age-old favourite Zombies will have its own distinct section, be based on the multiplayer engine and be big this time around.

Really big.

Sources: various.

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28 Comments

  1. Good preview. Like the idea of being able to fail a mission and if it affects the story because of it then that could be great. Not sure I’ll buy it, but looking forward to some gameplay footage at E3.

  2. Why am i even interested in this? Just to clarify, i am not a CoD hater, but i do have CoD Classic, Black Ops & MW3 at home unfinished. The only one i ever finished was MW2 & i had to push myself through that.

    If i’m sensible then, i’ll give this one a miss… But who ever said i was sensible? :)

    • What? You missed Modern Warfare – the really good one? Seriously, play MW, it’s superb.

      • 100% +1. COD4: MW is awesome. Some of the set pieces are superb

      • Indeed. The “Ghillie in the Mist” level is a standout level for me on this generation of console (might seem dated now), that and climbing the train in Uncharted 2.

      • Yeah, MW came out before I was actually into FPS, so it never interested me – I used to hate FPS as a rule due to not being able to see behind me & much much preferred TPS, but I have kind of gotten over that now (what choice did i have this gen? It was either that, or play nothing!).

        I am often told how good the first MW was/is by others, but I am afraid that my track record with CoD is likely to see that unfinished too. Especially with no trophies to drive me through it.

        Besides which, I have waay too many FPS games to need another – They are seriously outweighing any other game type at the mo.

      • Agreed, the original MW was the last decent COD for me. Coherent (importantly), potboiler plot (Clancyesque), great pacing and some fantastic set pieces. Certainly worth a look for the 5 quid or so you can probably get it for now.

  3. Worst. Trailer. Ever.

  4. Good Read. As i’ve said all along, I’ll end up getting it. I’ve enjoyed every COD campaign I’ve played but i’m all about the MP.

    I like Black Ops for a while, but as with [email protected], I always returned to the previous MW. Depending on what Treyarch do with it, it could well change. Roll on November 13 (as i’m getting quite frustrated with MW3)

  5. Ok, so the player choices and Strike Force Operation actually sound really really exciting, and since SP was Treyarch’s strongest area, that could be really good! Also great about Zombies!!

    Annoying to hear though that the isn’t too much of an improvement visually – God forbid the quality of the game wasn’t dictated by the annual release date! Also I don’t see why PS3 might not get 60fps, this is a huge issue.

  6. Well.. It looks like I’ll be getting this then. It looks great. More important, it looks different to previous CoD titles. Change at last.

  7. Aside from CoD4, Treyarch are the better devs here. This one looks intriguing and way more interesting than MW3.

  8. Surprised at that trailer- normally the graphics are better when a COD trailer is released, but I suppose this is early code.

    I’m not really interested unless I get it on offer- I don’t buy much FPSs.
    Hopefully it finds it’s way onto Vita- that is the only way I’ll buy it full-price.

  9. Great article, I’ve been reading various sites which all seem to reveal just a bit more information, and this seems to round up most of it all nicely.
    Overall, the game is sounding really good to me. I week ago I would have said I was thinking about missing this as I didn’t like Blops’s MP, but the new direction in this sounds brilliant. Strike Force Operations sounds really good, and if they make a coherent story, without the stupid flashback/interview set up and combine it with good characters, it will certainly boost up my impression of Treyarch which was tarnished by Blops (I thought WaW was great).

  10. excellent article here. After reading it I thought, wow they seem to be pushing COD at last. Some new things coming in the MP too hopefully. Sounds fairly decent so far…but I’m not getting sucked in just yet.

    • With you on this one (although I ignore multiplayer). Fascinating to see a juggernaut-sized franchise being pushed in a new direction (somewhat). It’s a brave move and the trailer fascinates me. Consider me interested in the single-player – definitely!

      • Agreed on the single player. My last few CoD experiences (apart from MW2) have consisted of borrowing the game from a friend, spending an evening (and a couple of hours the next morning) blasting through the SP campaign and then handing it back. A branching storyline and the Strike Force Ops idea sounds like there may actually be a reason to take notice this time.

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