For the longest time, Treyarch had been living in the shadow of Infinity Ward, releasing Call of Duty titles on the same bi-annual release cycle, but to much less praise and acclaim. All of that changed with Call of Duty: Black Ops, when it outperformed Modern Warfare 2’s launch day numbers according to the NPD, selling over 5.6million (US/UK) copies in the first 24 hours. Black Ops 2 aims to differentiate itself from the Modern Warfare series even more, by taking things up a notch and into the future.
There’s something distinctly different about Black Ops 2, it feels like it is trying to be something more. Something more than just an average shooter that sells because it has the Call of Duty name strapped on it. It isn’t sticking to what works, there’s a decided shift toward being different. There’s certainly nothing extremely safe about the game. It’s set in the near-future, 2025 to be exact. There’s nothing safe about that or the 1970s flashback sequences. We didn’t see much, but we did see more than what that was shown at the Xbox press conference. That few extra minutes of gameplay has me more excited that anything else about Black Ops 2.
As per usual, the Call of Duty demo during the Xbox conference had a section cut out “in the interest of time”. This had the demo ending on the bridge and picking back up in a mall. In between, we were able to see more of the dynamic and contextual situations that players can find themselves in. It wasn’t just explosion, gunfire, more explosions, gunfire, plane crash — well, I guess it was, but it differentiated itself enough from the past iterations of this set to make it feel completely different. It’s set in the future and they give you the tools that represent this change. Guns have more improvements, they have better attachments, things that would be impossible to accomplish today.
There’s new snipers, ones with technology far beyond what we’re capable of now. The scope outlined enemies in red, friendlies in green; through walls and thick support beams. Holding the trigger charged a shot, visible by a small indicator increasing more each second the trigger was held. The longer the shot was held, the more power the bullet had behind it. If fired without any charge, it was just a regular bullet, but fully charged, it could fire straight through a freeway overpass support beam — that’s ridiculous. Now, I don’t know that much about future weapon technology, but the logistics of that weapon astound me.
Another really interesting tool at the player’s disposal is a militarized quadrocopter. If there isn’t a Parrot AR Drone tie-in around release, that’s a significantly missed opportunity. The player commands a fleet of armed flying copters that look very similar to a child’s toy, except they have guns. That’s a pretty important distinction. Designating a target will move the fleet to aim fire on that position, making it easy to take out groups of enemies when you’re outnumbered. It was also interesting to see something in this section that is new to the series, AI characters will now move objects throughout the level to create cover; tipping over planters and flipping tables to hide behind. It doesn’t seem like it would help much, but anything that helps stop bullets is a good things to try to hide behind. While nothing was said about multiplayer, it’s safe to assume that this quadrocopter fleet will make an appearance as a killstreak at some point.
Moving to the future gives us even more future vehicles to take command of as well. The FA-38 makes an appearance in the demo, navigating the tight corners between buildings in downtown LA. It wasn’t clear through the hands-off demo if this was something that players were going to be able to fully pilot or just operate the weapons and have limited control, similar to the chopper gunner in the Modern Warfare instalments. We saw it used for both overwatch/escort style missions and actual dogfighting, which leaves me with a faint glimmer of hope that we’ll see an online mode that utilizes them beyond the occasional killstreak, which isn’t likely.
With all of the hypes that falls on the Call of Duty series, Treyarch has a real challenge up ahead of them. The positive reaction coming out of the initial announcement means that it really is their game to lose, they have the upper hand right now. What we’ve been shown of the campaign looks extremely solid and every bit as action-packed as previous releases. We look forward to the pending reveal of the multiplayer and zombies portions of Black Ops 2, both of which have been confirmed. Stay tuned for more information as we approach the November 13th release date of Black Ops 2.
Black Ops 2 is released worldwide on November 13. You can pre-order for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 by clicking on the link of your choice.