Back in Black! It’s Call of Duty time…
So… anyone here heard of Call of Duty? Of course you have! Even non-gamers are aware of this monolithic military mega-franchise. Publisher Activision has two developers working on the series that take it in turns to release a game annually, maximising both production and profit. Last year Infinity Ward unleashed the hugely successful Modern Warfare 3, so this time it’s Treyarch’s turn with Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
A direct sequel to 2010′s Black Ops, this new instalment focuses primarily on the world of future warfare technology. The single player campaign features two interconnected narratives, one set predominantly in the 80s and the other in 2025.
The protagonist of the previous Black Ops, Alex Mason returns in the sections set in the past, where he will be taking part in proxy wars on behalf of the United States, based in Central America, Afghanistan and the Republic of Angola. This section of the game will also see the rise to infamy of primary antagonist, Raul Menendez, a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist and the head of ‘Cordis-Die’, a populist movement celebrated as the champions of victims of economic inequality. The sections set in the future will feature Mason’s son, David as the main character and take place in locations such as Los Angeles, Singapore and Socotra, Yemen.
After a cyberattack debilitates the Chinese stock exchange, the Asian superpower halts the export of rare earth elements, leading to a new Cold War between China and America. Combat has changed and in this new futuristic setting robotics, cyberwarfare and unmanned vehicles are commonplace on the battlefield. Exploiting the situation Menendez attempts to incite all-out war between the two nations by escalating the conflict.
Black Ops 2 will be the first Call of Duty title to introduce branching storylines, in which the player’s decisions affect not only the current mission but the overall narrative of the campaign. These “Strike Force” levels will feature in the futuristic portions of the game and will include permadeath, so if the player is killed there are no retries. In these missions players will take command of various war assets such as unmanned ariel vehicles, jet fighters and robots to complete their objectives. If the operation is unsuccessful the plot continues regardless, making note of the loss. Depending on how well players fare with these levels they may be able to alter the outcome of the Cold War.
The fan-favourite Zombies mode will be making a return in Black Ops 2, this time with its own campaign. For the first time this mode will support 8 player co-op, whereas previous instalments only supported 4. Three game types have been confirmed including Tranzit, a mode that includes multiple maps in one session that can be travelled between via a reinforced bus. Survival, which is the hoard mode from previous games and Grief mode, which comprises of two teams of 4 players fighting off their own undead armies, where the last squad alive are victorious.
As always competitive multiplayer will feature heavily in the game, which according to the developer will be more accessible than ever before. First and foremost Treyarch are introducing Combat Training, where players can take part in matchups against a variety of human and AI opponents from levels 1-10, easing players into the multiplayer experience and offering easy XP. Once sufficiently levelled however, players may only take part in the equivalent Bot Stomp mode, in which they will only gain half the XP.
The loadout settings has been redesigned to create the “Pick 10” system. Now every gun, perk or attachment has the value of one, so the player can mix and match any combination of these to perfectly compliment their play style. The Kill Streak function has also been revised and relabelled as Score Streaks. So instead of only getting in-game rewards for eliminating other players, they can also be attained by completing mission objectives such as successfully capturing territories. Wager matches have been removed but the new Hardpoint mode has been added, which tasks your team with holding capture points that periodically flit around the map.
Multi-team battles are the thing that really break the mould in Black Ops 2. The ability to play games with three teams as oppose to the traditional two instills the frantic energy of a free-for-all matchup into a team deathmatch dynamic. Finally the prestige system has been revamped, whereby instead of losing your challenge and weapon progression you gain tokens, which can be spent on rewards such as extra Custom Class Slots.
A lot of people seem to hate on Call of Duty, the same way they would when a band gets popular and suddenly aren’t considered cool anymore. Personally I really enjoy COD games. The single player campaigns are crazy, adrenaline fuelled roller coaster rides and the multiplayer is an annual event amongst my friends. Rarely in gaming does everyone buy a title at the same time and get online together in huge parties to play. It’s a good time!
For financial reasons it’s rare that I actually pre-order games, but for Call of Duty I always make an exception. Not because it’s one of my more anticipated titles of the year but because it’s a yearly gaming phenomenon that shouldn’t be missed; when everyone bands together to celebrate communal gaming… and shoot each other in the face.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II comes out on 13th November 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC and 30th November for Wii U.
Rob Gisbey is a games journalist and music production graduate from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. To listen to his acoustic demo, read his articles and listen to the VxM Videogames Podcast head to his blog.