Published: 15-Jun-2012 11:41
By Daniel Rutledge
Getting a better look at Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was one of the things that had me most excited for this year’s E3 and it did not disappoint.
The demonstration shown at my E3 behind-closed-doors session was a full level of the single-player campaign, which was a great indication of the storyline, and a strike force mission, which showed how this all-new game mode will work.
The single-player level was set in Downtown LA in the year 2025. We were whisked in a large vehicle along a freeway trying to protect the president as the city is assaulted by an enemy army. In COD’s typical Michael Bay-esque fashion, crashing helicopters and freeway destruction puts an end to the ride and the player is thrust into combat.
They then take control of a Stinger missile AA gun which targets eight or so enemies, firing all its rockets off at once and blows the drones out of the sky. It’s very smooth and intuitive and looks great.
The fire-team has to rappel over the busted freeway into the streets below and players can choose to do this and get amongst the action, or provide sniper support from above.
The sniper rifle has a scope with a highly advanced thermal scanner and super bullets which can smash through solid concrete. They also make cars explode with a single shot and the person playing at the E3 demo loved blowing up cars.
After rappelling onto the street, the player switched to an assault rifle and shot down many foes in an area that looked a lot like that which E3 was taking place in.
One thing which stood out as extremely well accomplished in this segment was the feeling of a very intense battle going on. It’s not only fellow soldiers fighting alongside the player, but the LAPD are out in force too.
The action wasn’t confined to the area immediately around the player, but there was a real sense it spread out into the greater city too with buildings falling over in the background and all sorts of combat taking place at various distances away, including the air above.
The drama and horror of this situation is driven home by the powerful score underlining it. It’s easy to see why the developers wanted to show this level off, it’s a very impressive and powerful piece of first-person action.
There are robotic walkers moving about that act as mini-bosses and take several well-placed shots and/or explosives to be put down. Based on the drones used by the US Military right now, they don’t seem too unfeasible for 2025 technology. I do wonder how many rounds of ammunition they could carry, however, a question with even more relevance to the smaller flying quadrotors.
The combat on the street comes to a close when a building falls very nearby the dustcloud of which turns everything to black. When vision returns, the air is filled with burning little floating embers, smoke and dust.
One of a group of jets scrambled earlier in the mission lies unmanned nearby and the player gets into it and takes to the skies. Zooming around the buildings we were walking below earlier is a real thrill and the firepower of the jet makes short work of enemy drones.
While players have enjoyed manning the guns on AC-130s and other aircraft in earlier COD titles, I believe this is the first time we’ll get to fly and shoot enemies with jets. Perhaps this is one innovation inspired by Battlefield?
The jet segment concluded what we saw of the single-player level.
The strike force mission was very interesting. Basically, the player controls a much larger portion of the battle, only jumping into first-person shooter mode when they want to. Zooming in to the battle and out of it to squad command mode is super smooth and seamless.
In addition to controlling the troops and jumping into the body of one of them, the player also has access to a heavy armoured drone walker, a light armoured drone on tracks and a quadrotor. It wasn’t clear how these weapons were limited or not, but using them was similar to the assault drone from MW3.
The end of this level concluded with flying a rocket that looked like a Predator from previous titles into a ship and destroying it. The Treyarch staff member present told us that if we failed that mission, it would have consequences on the storyline of the game and what we were able to do in it later on.
Other journalists I spoke to who had an E3 demo said they thought the new COD was just the same old action of all the others. I disagree. The futuristic setting, which ironically has worried some COD fans as a potential move further away from realism, is a big change for the franchise that brings with it exciting potential.
The strike force missions and the way players can change the storyline through choices and actions are also new innovations. Sure, the core shooting enemies down aspect of the game is the tried and true COD formula, but no fan would want that messed with.
I loved Modern Warfare 3 when it came out, but over time some serious problems have seriously tarnished the multiplayer such as quick-scoping, C4 throwing, drop-shotting and spin-shooters.
Black Ops was the first great Treyarch COD title and in hindsight is superior to MW3. Now that the Modern Warfare series has finished, Black Ops 2 has a really good shot at being the best COD yet. From what I’ve seen, it looks like it really could achieve that... but I won’t know until I get my own hands on it.
I can’t wait for that to happen.