This week, Activision announced the latest version of their popular Call of Duty entertainment property.
This spin, we’ve landed back on the sub-series of the year before last: Black Ops! The first game was set in the 60s in the thick of the Cold War. The plot dealt with Alex Mason, a CIA special ops soldier who was being forced to relieve past operations whilst being held prisoner. The time-hopping plot was fun but a bit nonsensical, just like the Call of Duty franchise itself.
The multiplayer proved as popular as ever, with the inclusion of an in-game currency that could be used to unlock weapons and attachments somewhat nonlinearly. The game also included a well-crafted Zombies mode, where up to four players tried to survive a zombie horde.
The most obvious difference in the sequel is that Black Ops 2 takes place in the near future, 2025 to be exact. That’s when the ‘new Civil War’ has kicked off, with terrorist groups taking advantage of the United States’ increasing reliance on drone-based fighters by subverting them. You play as David Mason, the son of the first game’s protagonist Alex. You’ll also be able to step into Alex’s shoes for a few flashback missions in the 1980s. Both are fighting against Raul Menendez, a mysterious antagonist tied to the Regan-era conflict in Nicaragua.
The game’s singleplayer campaign will be for the first time changed by well how you do. You’ll be able to play Strike Force missions in order to change the outcome of the game, similar to how Mass Effect’s 3 multiplayer affects that game’s finale.
These Strike Force missions are non-linear campaign missions performed by groups of operatives across the world; each time you get to a choke point in the storyline you’ll be able to choose a mission to perform. That group’s success will affect the game’s story. The missions themselves allow you to switch between different members of the team – both drones and humans – in order to accomplish your goals.
Multiplayer has also been overhauled. On consoles, it’ll be at 60 FPS, but as a PC player this isn’t exactly an exciting development. The graphics have also been upgraded to allow for much more realistic details – that’s more like it. In terms of gameplay, there’s not been much yet revealed.
Zombies will make a reappearance as the cooperative mode of choice – Spec Ops and Survival will not. There’ll be new modes and worlds here, but nothing concrete than the fact that the mode runs in the multiplayer engine rather than a jury-rigged singleplayer engine. Woo?
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The setting looks intensely interesting and the Strike Force missions sound great, but the traditional favourite multiplayer mode doesn’t really sound that different to its predecessors – something that’s sorely needed in what is now the 7th ‘modern’ (i.e. starting from Call of Duty 4) title. Modern Warfare 3 was the first game to sell less copies than its predecessors, and Activision can’t just keep riding the coattails of games past.
Robots definitely sounds like a good start – but will they be balanced in multiplayer? Will we be able to get a tablet in the game as a special weapon? Will we be able to get a cool iPad case as an upgrade for it? Only time will tell – it’s taken Activision seven titles to stop the grenade launcher from being overpowered, so I don’t fancy the balance team in trying to make giant robots fair and fun — or the art team for having to draw terrible iPad covers!