Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Preview: Call of Duty Black Ops II (Multiplatform)

It seems like every year we always get a new version of Call of Duty (COD). Okay, so it doesn't seem like it -- that's what actually happens!

For the last several years I've grown less and less interested every time Activision announces the latest game in the franchise.

My relationship with COD reminds of this one episode of the TV show New Girl (which by the way is a fantastic show!). One of the main characters named Schmidt cannot stand a woman named Gretchen with whom he always ends up going home with for the night whenever they run into each other. The whole experience satisfies his urge at the moment, but leaves him feeling empty inside and regretting his decision the next morning.

I've played every COD title since the franchise was first launched on the PC in 2003. COD Modern Warfare 3 kept my interest for a few weeks but soon afterwards I found myself spending more time with Battlefield 3. I must be in the minority as everyone at my office seems to still be playing Modern Warfare 3 almost a year later.

At E3 last June, I had an appointment with Activision where they were showing off some of the single player portion of COD Black Ops II. I remember spending 30 minutes in line talking to other journalists who shared the same enthusiasm as I did for the preview. The preview was a hands off demo where the developers walked us through a level of the campaign set in a futuristic Los Angeles that is under attack.

You are driving through Los Angeles in the President's motorcade while being blasted by unmanned drones and ground forces. The game still featured the crazy intense action we've grown accustomed to: explosions rocking the environments, enemies shooting at you from every direction and friendlies screaming orders throughout the fire fight.

One of the new features in Black Ops II are the branching storylines. The decisions you make in the single player campaign can effect the overall storyline of the game. This has been done in many other games, but it'll be interesting to see how this is handled in Black Ops II. I think Activision has to walk a fine line of trying to introduce new elements to the core gameplay while not doing a complete overhaul of the game, which could alienate its fan base.

One of the most intriguing elements about the game is the fact that 1/3 of the game will take place during the cold war, most notably in Afghanistan during the Soviet Invasion. Out of all the military shooters that have come out, this has been a theatre and decade that has never been explored. The other two thirds of the game will be set in the year 2025.

Also shown at our private demo were the Strike Force Missions which allow you to take control of multiple characters and vehicles on the battlefield. You can easily swap between different members of your team to get a tactical advantage. This isn't an entirely new idea as it's been tried before in the Battlefield franchise, but it's a nice addition to the game. The Strike Force Missions are supposed to compliment the campaign story and dying in these missions won't stop the campaign, but instead the game records your death.

Since my trip to E3, Activision has released more details about the game, including the multiplayer modes. At E3 Activision was not talking about the online play, so it was difficult to formulate an opinion about the entire game. Since Treyarch is developing Black Ops II, it's no surprise that the Zombie Mode will be returning. This time around, Zombies will support 8 player co-op.

At this point in time I am a bit sceptical as to whether the game can deliver on all the promises. The demo shown at E3 did not leave me impressed. I wasn't the only one who shared this feeling as most other attendees I spoke to shared my opinion.

Black Ops II is set to launch this November on all major platforms including the Wii U.

- Siddharth Masand