By Dave Gilmore
1:10 PM EDT, May 3, 2012
The worst-kept secret in the gaming industry, that this year’s “Call of Duty” would be a sequel to “Black Ops,” is now “declassified.” Itchy trigger fingers will have to wait until November 13 to get their hands on “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2,” but with the official announcement Tuesday and a great info dump on The Verge, we can begin to surmise quite a bit about the first-person shooter.
With a new “Call of Duty” title comes pressure on developers Treyarch of carving out new creative territory in an annually-released shooter series that will sell like hotcakes no matter the content. “Black Ops” was a welcome change for the franchise, which made its name on World War II shooters and quickly developed massive appeal with the popularity of the “Modern Warfare” line.
In “Black Ops,” the often predictable and cliche single player campaigns of “Modern Warfare” were ditched in favor of a historically-rooted but exciting tale that wasn’t just retreading territory that Tom Clancy has been covering for decades. While the weapons and technology of the 60s don’t pack the punch of “Modern Warfare”’s arsenal, the atmosphere made the game more than just a delivery device for an addictive online multiplayer game.
While Popular Science thinks that drones won't be taking over the battlefield any time soon, “Black Ops 2” certainly envisions a future where unmanned aircraft and vehicles are not only prevalent but pivotal. The first trailer lays on pretty thick the idea that unmanned drones are lethal and dangerous when they fall into the wrong hands.
With the original “Black Ops” being set in the Cold War, the sequel is leaning predominantly toward the year 2025, in a conflict that stems back to the outcomes of the protagonist’s father’s actions in the first game. Thus, as told to The Verge, about “a third” of the game will be set in flashback to the late 1980s, shaping the events that lead to Los Angeles becoming a full-on war zone in just over a decade from now.
There is still far too much unknown about “Black Ops 2” to begin to start estimating how strong a title it will be. However, The Verge’s feature does hint at several new gameplay elements such as the “Strikeforce” missions that allows the player to toggle between multiple soldiers and drones for the first time in the same mission. While “Modern Warfare 3” seems to have been a bigger hit with the multiplayer crowd than “Black Ops,” the article does mention the possibility of overhauls there.
Perhaps the biggest revelation though, is that according to game director Dave Anthony’s quote in the Verge piece, “For the first time player decisions will impact the story.” That sound you just heard was the legion of “Mass Effect” fans saying “we’ve heard that line before.” How much “impact” the player will truly have on the narrative could really send “Black Ops” into its own creative niche, apart from the digital energy drink that is “Modern Warfare.” Because the franchise is so notoriously linear, perhaps any deviation from this pattern in the campaign mode will feel monumental by comparison, but if taken at their word, Treyarch could be changing the perception of the game considerably.
It’s also interesting that Treyarch chose to go in the future warfare direction, with “Tom Clancy’s Future Soldier” due out this month and last year’s “Homefront” set in 2022. Perhaps fans of shooters are burnt out on re-living real and alternate histories on their screens. Whether the predictions of the global conflicts and technology that define our lives are chillingly accurate or goofily off (like “Back to the Future II”) remains to be seen. 2025 seems like a million years off, but it’s only a mere 13 “Call of Duty” games away.
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