Call of Duty: Modern Future Warfare!
During NGB’s recent visit to E3 in Los Angeles, we had the opportunity to check out, arguably the biggest release of 2012, Call of Duty: Black Ops II. After Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 last year, this it’s back to the guys at Treyarch to keep the franchise rolling in the form of a futuristic take on the warfare set in 2025. The first level that we were shown from the game was set in Los Angeles and although it had fictional names for famous landmarks, it was quite an eerie site watching the demo and realising that the warfare in the game was pretty much taking place outside the LA Convention Center, the location of E3 2012. In this section of the Black Ops II single-player campaign, your objective is to escort a female US president to a meeting at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but unfortunately the ride to the location isn’t exactly smooth. While en-route to the meeting place, an ambush on the freeway causes chaos and destruction in all directions. Helicopters are exploding and crashing all around you, cars are being flipped in various directions and motorbikes are being catapulted to the street below. Welcome to Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Once you have been treated to the customary “in your face” action, you are then given your first task of taking down a hostile aircraft with a stinger and (again) it’s another bout of all-out action that makes Die Hard look like a Pixar movie. Treyarch really have gone to town with the action and it’s clear to see from the off. After taking down the hostile aircraft, it’s time to move onto the next section of the level which sees you given a choice of two options while standing on the edge of a demolished freeway. Do you drop down to the lower section to engage in typical Call of Duty style warfare or stay up on the freeway to give yourself the tactical edge from a higher point? The Call of Duty series has never really given you the freedom of choice, it’s normally very linear, but now you have the option to choose your route to a certain degree. It will be interesting to see if this is the case throughout the whole of the single player campaign or if it’s just certain sections of the game that give you the ability of choosing your path.
The representative from Activision decided to stay put on top of the demolished freeway and take out the enemy from there. The rest of the squad descended to the lower ground level (with the female president in tow) to get involved in the gunfight, but to also provide intel to guide you through. He then showed off a new futuristic weapon that is technically a sniper rifle, but with a bit of a ‘2025’ twist in that it features the ability to see through metal, concrete and other hardened materials. Once it’s time to move on (after the melee has ended), you then take to a vehicle for some on-rails shooting before being presented with another blockbuster-defying moment in which a skyscraper comes crashing down. For the duration of the level, a women called Anderson pilots a jet to provide air support for your squad, suddenly comes crashing to the ground and now it’s up to you to jump into the jet to take out the enemy planes. Once the flying section was complete, it was back down to ground level to see downtown LA awash with destruction and death. While this whole section of single player game was presented with Hollywood style action sequences, and looked very swish and smooth at times, there was a bit too much going on. It almost seemed like Treyarch were using the explosions to cover up shortcomings of an engine coming to the end of its life-cycle. Yes, it has the ‘tried and tested’ Call of Duty warfare element that everyone is familiar with, but it relied far too much on cutscene elements and on-rails sections rather than add anything new.
Next up, we were shown a new addition to the single player facet called ‘Strikeforce’. It’s refreshing new side to the Call of Duty single player, which has come a bit stale and predictable over the years. The Strikeforce missions, although classed a part of the single player experience, are not directly linked to the main story mode. However, the ending of the story mode will change depending on your success or failure in the Strikeforce missions, so they have some relevance to the story aspect of Black Ops II.
To put it simple, the Strikeforce missions are squad based and you have a choice in how you want to tackle each level. You now have something at your disposal called ‘Overwatch’, which gives you the ability of controlling what is going on from a birds-eye view. Be it setting waypoints, deploying battlefield drones or even taking control of any soldier by zooming right into the action. It’s all about keeping your squad alive and completing objectives, so you have to use a bit of strategy rather than just charge in when playing the Strikeforce missions. If you don’t fancy going hands-on, you have the option to stay back and just get your AI controlled squad to the end of each mission using your tactical knowledge. These missions give you so much choice and represent an “offline-online” mode in the way that they are very unpredictable and introuce an extra layer of longevity to the game. I was really impressed with the amount of depth and replay value feature in this new addition, and with so many choices and variations in the way you can approach each mission, the possibilities are almost endless.
Black Ops II looks and plays very much like you would expect. All out ‘in your face’ Hollywood style action set-pieces return and hit you in the face like a Mike Tyson right hook. The engine looks like its on its last legs, but the new Strikeforce missions bring with them an added layer of fun and depth. That said, despite the interesting future warfare angle, Black Ops II is shaping up to deliver an experience that is just as loud and fast paced as its predecessors.