2012-05-02

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – A Series Game Changer?

by Yo Snyder

It should come as no surprise that later this year we’ll see yet
another new Call of Duty game. The merits and disadvantages of releasing
this series on an annual cycle has been debated ad-nauseum, and now
most just accept that fact that like taxes and death, it’s inevitable.
Personally, I thought the series reached a low-point with the last
entry, Modern Warfare 3. Oh it was a fine game from a technical
stand point, it just felt so same-old, same-old to me. Sure there were
some tweaks and improvements, and even a few stand-out levels, and of
course the endlessly addicting multiplayer, but whenever I have to
remind myself of which game in the series I’m playing because they all
seem so similar, well it just seems to me that’s a series in need of
some shaking up. Apparently, Activision and Treyarch agreed.

On the surface, the announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
doesn’t seem like a series moving in a new direction. It’s yet another
sequel to yet another sub-set to the overall Call of Duty franchise. Black Ops was fine and all (a little dark and sadistic for my taste, but fun multiplayer), so with a title like Black Ops 2,
one would be forgiven for expecting yet more of the same-old, same-old
with a few tweaks and improvements and “new” features to justify this as
being a full-blown sequel. But wait, there may be more to it than that.

First, there’s the intriguing new setting. Black Ops 2 is set in 2025. That near future setting has been used at times in Tom Clancy games, like the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier,
but it’s something new for Call of Duty. Don’t worry though, “future”
doesn’t denote laser beams and lightsabers. Look for tech grounded in
reality, based on what’s possible now and could be right around the
corner. One example is how the trailer talks about drones becoming one
of the cornerstones of the military. Today’s military uses drones quite a
bit, and plan to do so more in the future. Well, what if in that
future, someone found a way to take control of all those drones and
turned them against us? Now there’s an intriguing idea for a game;
suddenly my waning interest in Call of Duty is piqued once again.

So we’ll probably get some nifty weapons and fun gadgets to play with in that near-future setting, but Black Ops 2
has some other adjustments to the familiar formula. The new “Strike
Force” missions may address the biggest issue some have with the series
when it comes to the single-player; being too linear. You’ll control a
black op group that can choose which missions to accept. That means some
you’ll miss all-together, and should your team perish, that will change
the flow of the game. In fact, Black Ops 2 promises branching
story threads; a first for the series. The choices you make will affect
the outcome of the game. Granted, we’ve all heard that before only to
find our “choices” weren’t all that significant, but should this promise
deliver, it could make for an entirely different and exciting Call of
Duty experience. The other nifty feature of “Strike Force” missions is
the fact that you’ll choose how and when to fulfill your objectives. No
more just going from point A to point B to point C with enemies popping
up like some sort of macabre shooting gallery. That would be a nice
change; again, we’ll see if it delivers.

What does all of this
mean for multiplayer? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. You’ll get to play
with all of that fun, near-future gear in the multiplayer (there are
flashback segments in the game that take you back to the 80s, but
multiplayer will all be set in 2025). There will also be new combat
training to help get new players up to speed and able to hold their own
online. There will surely be other tweaks and modifications announced as
the game’s release nears, and of course look for all kinds of Call of
Duty Elite integration. One intriguing notion mentioned by the
developers is they want multiplayer to be fun to play and fun to watch.
I’m curious to see where that goes.

I was pretty much Call of
Duty-ed out after the last release, but some of the things mentioned and
the things revealed in the trailer have grabbed my attention. It looks
as the Black Ops 2 just may be daring enough to do more than just “more of the same with some improvements”, it may actually change things; perhaps even significantly.
To do that in any sort of convincing matter, and to do it while keeping
the core mechanics and gameplay that fans love so dearly, is no easy
task (it’s something the Madden franchise also struggles with each
year), but Black Ops 2 looks as though it may at least attempt
shaking things up in a meaningful manner. That’s enough to make me think
perhaps there’s a little more Call of Duty left in me after all.