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.