It’s time for part eleven – the one with the robots, the zombies and the slightly suspicious looking Avatar helicopters. Part eleven, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2!
Release date: November 13
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Microsoft Windows PC
THE GOOD STUFF
Ever since its debut back in 2003, the Call of Duty franchise, despite having battled its way to over 100 million copies over ten games, has been the subject of a fair bit of criticism – for being too linear, for its campaigns being too short (I agree with that one, I burned through Modern Warfare 3 in six hours, despite my utter incompetence), for basing its main gameplay on shooting endlessly respawning bad guys at close range… you get the idea. But Treyarch have never been ones to stick by the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra that’s characterized Infinity Ward’s games – and this time, they’re pushing the boundaries further than ever before. The campaign will feature choices that change the gameplay/storyline (a demo at E3 showed a ‘rappel down to shoot bad guys at close quarters’ option and a ‘snipe them from above’ option) – so no more linear storylines – it’s all down to you.
Expanding on the choices are Strike Force missions, which are scattered throughout the campaign. Treyarch has described them as sandbox levels (Sandbox! Woo hoo!) that let you play as any member of a squad – be it the guy who controls the turrets, the air support, the snipers or the staple blokes who venture into close quarters battle for some traditional gunplay. But if all your squad members die, there’s no retry option – the campaign continues, taking the brutal massacre of your team into account. I’m not sure how much it’ll change the plot, but I’d imagine there’s an ending out there somewhere that portrays the victory of the villain and the end of the world. I’m not looking forward to that one.
Zombies, a staple of Treyarch’s Call of Duty games ever since World at War back in 2008, is getting upgraded from its usual level-based survival fare to a full-length campaign (knowing Call of Duty, full-length means no longer than seven hours, though), which is rumored to be featuring super-weapons being peddled to the US military by dodgy sources, and then… you know what happens next. Zombies has always been a popular mode, so it’ll be exciting to see it upgraded to a full campaign (alongside the regular campaign, of course). But that’s not all – traditional Zombies is back, too, with a new 8 player mode, and interestingly, it’ll be running on the multiplayer engine, so say goodbye to getting rudely kicked out when the host leaves, and say hello to momentum-killing host migration. It still beats the other option by miles, though.
The online multiplayer, pretty much the best part of any Call of Duty game, is getting rebuilt from the ground up, with the traditional create-a-class system (start with a selection of second-rate guns, perks and care packages, and unlock better items as you progress) being swapped for a system based on points – you’re given a select amount of points, and you’re free to spend them on whatever you like – so you can have a perk-heavy class and just one gun, or even a knife only class. Wager Matches will return from Black Ops, and they’ll play a much bigger part in multiplayer (they’re getting introduced into Zombies, too). And excitingly, Black Ops favourite Nuketown will be remade in a new map called Nuketown 2025. It’s only a pre-order bonus, but it’s available from every games retailer on Earth, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
THE BAD STUFF
Whack-a-mole gunfights are getting marginalized, but they’re still present and correct, and still a pretty big part of the Black Ops 2 campaign, which is, to be honest, a bit annoying. Of course, there’s the options not to head into close quarters gunplay, but there’s most likely going to be several occasions where you have to put aside what you actually want to be doing and jump head-first into dull, repetitive gunfights. Don’t get me wrong, I like Call of Duty a lot, but for pretty much everything apart from the gunfights. I’m not saying that they should be dumped completely (the game wouldn’t be boring because of it – it’d just be a bit weird. Imagine an all-stealth Call of Duty…), but just made when the plot makes it essential for the gunfights to happen.
Ah… well, that’s about it, really. That’s a bit embarassing. Moving swiftly on…
Will it be good?
All the signs are pointing to Black Ops 2 being the best Call of Duty game yet, and it’s looking increasingly likely that Treyarch will deliver, changing the Call of Duty franchise forever (or however long it lasts for…) in the process.#
Will it succeed?
It’s got its first true rival (for quite a while, anyway) in Halo 4, but Black Ops 2 has the advantage of releasing on four consoles, as opposed to just the Xbox 360, so it’ll probably hit the number one top selling game of the year spot regardless, with the usual eight-figure sales.
In the final part of Twelve for 2012: Video Games, I take a look at what this year has to offer in downloadable games, and take a look into my virtual crystal ball to preview Q1 2013′s major video games.