Someone once said that "war, war never changes", but given room to exercise a great deal of creativity, developers in the military FPS genre can bring plenty of fresh innovation to the table, and can break free from what has gone before. In Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Treyarch has done just that.
Through the original Black Ops, the Santa Monica-based studio proved that it had finally come of age, and while it wasn't a radical departure from ingrained Call of Duty staples, there were plenty of signs that Treyarch was desperate to break free from Infinity Ward's far reaching shadow.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will mark the moment that Treyarch surpassed the Modern Warfare series and became a true force to be reckoned with among the FPS elite. Why? Because Black Ops 2 breaks new ground in ways that haven't been felt since the first Modern Warfare hit the scene. Read on to find out more.
Black Ops 2 puts the president's life in your hands
Herded into an exhibition hall in sunny Santa Monica, the games press quickly found their seats and watched Treyarch play through of two Black Ops 2 missions. The first was called Protect P.O.T.U.S. and it introduced us to the volatile world of 2025, and Black Ops 2's protagonist David Mason, son of the first game's hero Alex.
In this volatile future, ruthless terrorist Raul Menendez has waged a bloody vendetta against America, by hijacking the nation's vast unmanned army. Menendez has sent the army to downtown Los Angeles, in a bid to wipe out the world leaders at a G20 summit taking place there. Mason and his comrade Harper - both members of the S.O.G. Unit - are tasked with evacuating the president.
The mission begins and Treyarch doesn't waste anytime in setting out its stall, with a brash tone, startling violence and the best visuals in a Call of Duty game yet, underlining that Black Ops 2 means business.
We see the sheet-white face of a presidential bodyguard as he wretches and spews blood all over the armoured getaway vehicle, dying violently from a gunshot wound. The new game engine boasts some of the best facial animation this side of LA Noire.
Mason surveys the scene and receives a plan of action from the president who, confirming recent rumours, is female. The plan is to escape the already evacuated downtown Los Angeles and regroup to form a counter attack againt Menendez and his drone army. The vehicle crashes as a speeding truck runs it off the road. As Mason emerges from the rear door, the severity of the situation becomes clear.
Black Ops 2's human enemies are everywhere
The LA skyline has been reduced to burning skyscrapers while an unfathomable amount of unmanned drones and stealth bombers tear the city apart. It is absolutely insane. Essentially, take the madness of Modern Warfare 3's New York opening and double it.
As Mason finds his feet, the gameplay begins as human troops - the nationality of which we weren't told, although sources suggest China - begin flooding the freeway and unloading on Mason and the president's van. Zig-zagging up the freeway while using smouldering cars and rubble for cover, Mason returns fire with his advanced Type 95 assault rifle.
The chaos makes for low visibility, so Mason uses the rifle's x-ray ACOG scope to help him pick out targets and blast them through walls. But still they come, flooding out of parked trucks, emerging from boutiques by the road side, as drones scream overhead, unloading gunfire that can kill you in seconds if you linger in the open for too long.
With the human enemies dispatched, Mason hops on the turret of a crashed military truck and launches a devastating barrage of Skyburst missiles to thin out the packs of strafing drones, giving the president a better chance of escape.
Black Ops 2 gives you moral and tactical choices that lead to multiple endingsTaking point and surveying the freeway ahead, Mason reaches a section of road that has crumbled, and is given a tactical choice - rappel down to the street below and help the president at close quarters, or use his Type 95 scope to pick off threats from a high vantage point.
Treyarch informs us that these decisions will come thick and fast throughout the campaign and, together with sandbox missions called Strike Force Operations, will change up the routes, plot and final ending with each playthrough. The days of static corridors, infinitely respawning enemies and intense hand-holding are dead. We'll return to Strike Force Operations shortly.
Gunning down hidden troops with his X-Ray scope and KSG shotgun, Mason rejoins the group at the mouth of a huge shopping mall. The street outside is collapsing around the group, forcing them indoors. However, the place is crawling with troops, so Mason uses his wrist computer to send a swarm of around ten quadrotor drones on first to thin out the ranks.
Black Ops 2's quadrotors, mechs and planes are hackable and not on rails
If you're a fan of Battlefield 3's vehicular combat, you'll love the drones in Black Ops 2. Securing the shopping mall, Mason can choose to send in quadrotors and fight alongside them on foot, or simply enter one of them from a FPS perspective and control it first-hand. How you approach and use drones is entirely up to you.
But the enemy troops manage to eventually thin out the quadrotor swarm, so Mason runs in ahead of the presidential team, battling alongside his remaining quadrotors.
The pace is, once again, intense. Reaching an open air cafe, Mason encounters a CLAW mech which, contrary to the impressions given in the debut Black Ops 2 trailer, are actually no taller than humans.
Mason can choose to fight the CLAW or hijack it by using his wrist-mounted hacking dart that fires like the Ballistic Knife from the original Black Ops. Again, the choice is entirely yours. Mason uses cover to get close and sticks the CLAW with a dart, which then gives him full FPS control over it.
The CLAW stomps around - again, entirely off rails - unloading on human troops with its deafening minigun. It's an empowering feeling, as it's a strategy that can turn the tide of battle in moments. However, a menacing roaring sound can be heard over the chaos, causing the team to panic in fear. Something very bad is about to happen.
Black Ops 2's jet combat is sandbox and is both incredible and off rails
Now back on the street, Mason and his team continue fighting but once again hear a deafening roar in the distance. Suddenly, without warning the earth shakes and a skyscraper in the distance begins to topple towards Mason. The destruction on hand looks incredible, once again underlining Treyarch's enhanced engine.
The building hits the ground violently and kicks up a dust storm that throws Mason back. The fighting goes silent, giving the player a moment to breathe and get his bearings. Harper contacts Mason to tell him that the president has been shot and is making a break for it in a convoy of armoured vehicles.
Ordered to provide air support, Mason hops in a harrier jet and takes to the skies. On the HUD, the president's convoy can be seen under attack. This is entirely sandbox and free form, similar to Tom Clancy's HAWX series, putting the dull, on rails jet section from Battlefield 3 to shame.
Gunning down attackers on the street, Mason protects the presidential convoy before a pounding synth soundtrack kicks in and a pack of around 15 unmanned stealth bombers bear down on his position. The chase is on.
Mason swoops and corkscrews around skyscrapers, peppering drones and stealth bombers with the harrier's chain gun, heat seeking Skyburst missiles, and giving them the slip using the breakneck boost function. This is the moment that many onlookers realised that Black Ops 2 isn't the same old Call of Duty, and that war definitely can change.
Black Ops 2's Strike Force Operations are the biggest thing to happen to Call of Duty in years
The only on rails section of Mason's jet fight is when he kamikazes a drone and uses the ejector seat to fly to safety. This is when the mission ends and the action moves to Singapore, and the first live presentation of Black Ops 2's Strike Force Operation missions.
Described by Treyarch head Mark Lamia as "proxy wars", these campaign missions are small sandbox wars where you are in full control. You choose which wars to wage, how to approach each objective and in doing so, will steer the plot in different ways to one of many multiple endings.
Singapore puts you in charge of a strike force as it rappels down to a dockyard swarming with enemies. The target is a freighter containing mission-sensitive cargo that cannot be allowed to leave the dock. The team has 20 minutes to disengaged two missile shields so that they can blow up the freighter. Fail, and the narrative shifts and continues regardless.
Black Ops 2's Strike Force Operations allow you total battlefield control
In this mode, you can jump between any member of your team in an instant to give you the best tactical perspective possible. You can go up a layer and pilot a quadrotor to provide air support while the AI controls your troops on the ground. Finally, you can go into Overwatch and view the map from above from an RTS perspective.
In Overwatch, you can use x-ray vision to identify hostiles, place waypoints and direct every member of your squad - both living and robotic - to help you reach your goal faster. Back on the ground, the squad are fighting through a maze of freight containers while repelling and hijacking enemy quadrotors, CLAW mechs and smaller robot sentries on tracks.
The process of hacking and turning these drones over to your side helps turn the tide of battle and the team eventually break through and secure the first shield generator. But more troops flood in and rush the unguarded area, prompting the player to switch to Overwatch view and send a swarm of quadrotors over to where they are firing from.
All three perspectives work beautifully together, giving you total battlefield control. Fans of Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and other objective based tactical shooters will adore how fluidly it all comes together.
With the shield generators destroyed, the team launches a missile at the freighter, destroying it and ending Treyarch's presentation.
Black Ops 2's campaign, zombies and multiplayer make it the biggest Call of Duty disc package yet
Mark Lamia goes on to explain that this is only a glimpse of what is the most ambitious and generous Call of Duty package yet. The campaign has huge replay value, thanks to multiple choices, routes and endings. Zombies is now integral to multiplayer, with a four vs four mode in which two packs of survivors fight the undead and each other for points.
Multiplayer, Lamia promises, has largely been built from scratch, and will cater to all skill levels - from beginners in Training Camp mode, to new modes geared towards e-sports players who play like pros. Treyarch mean business and this lengthy and exhilarating showcases gives us no reason to doubt them.
All eyes will be on Black Ops 2 in coming months to see just what other tricks the studio has up its sleeve, and as always, NowGamer will be on hand to give you the inside scoop as it happens. Stay tuned.
For the fags. Some of it (free roam warfare etc, story being affected by your successes/failures) sounds really interesting
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