Earlier this week Activision finally lifted the veil on one of the worst kept secrets in the video game industry confirming that the next game in its Call of Duty series would be a sequel to the 2010 hit Black Ops.
The really jarring discovery is how different the tone is with the sequel compared to the original. We found this out through brief – but efficient – gameplay footage that was shown with the first teaser trailer of the game, both on the Internet and during the NBA playoffs on TNT. You can watch the trailer here.
Here are our thoughts on the trailer, coupled with what we know of the story so far...
Rather than taking place in the past (the Vietnam era) like the original, Black Ops II will instead have a primary focus on the future with some events being flashbacks that led up to what’s happening in the here-and-now. In the trailer, we catch up with Frank Woods, one of the main heroes from the original game. He’s become old but hardly weak and he still remembers quite a bit from his older days of combat.
The trailer places events in the year 2026 when a heavier reliance on machinery is called for. These include high tech weapons such as unmanned flying drones and “walking tanks,” huge mechanized units that carry a great deal of firepower.
Woods, in the trailer, explains how far technology has come when it comes to fighting the enemy, and while it is vast, it’s hardly flawless. With one simple asking of “What happens when the enemy steals the keys?,” all hell breaks loose. A police helicopter is blown out of the sky; stealth bombers begin flying in zigzag patterns; fire fights break out in the streets of Los Angeles, turning the city into a bonafide war zone.
All is not lost. The second half of the trailer shows the resistance that rises up to fight back against the enemy that has overtaken America’s defenses, vowing to shut down the madman in charge as well as whatever army seems to be backing him up.
While the trailer didn’t quite reveal who this person is, they’re very much in line with cyber terrorists including a possible hint at Anonymous, complete with Guy Fawkes mask. (This is unconfirmed, but it was hinted at in teaser trailers for the ad which also featured military discussion with former military man Oliver North and other consultants.)
From there, various segments of gameplay were revealed including slick aerial battles where you target drones in the sky, awesome firefights on the street, and plenty of explosive skirmishes between the buildings in L.A., giving you room to run and do some damage. Like any good Call of Duty game, there’s no shortage of action.
Now the question is this – is a shift to a future-based Call of Duty a sharp move, or should Activision and the development team at Treyarch stuck with something that relates to the past, kind of how Black Ops did? Well, there are a couple of things to consider.
Number one, we’ve already covered the past. Multiple times. Whether you were playing games in the Medal of Honor series, or even previous Call of Duty games (parts two and three definitely come to mind, as does World At War), we’ve already seen our fair share of games that recreate tense moments in wars long ago. So to revisit again – even in the barely touched era of Vietnam – might have some folks feeling like it’s a tired move.
Number two, just because the game doesn’t ENTIRELY take place in the past doesn’t mean events won’t be revisited. As I stated earlier, Woods’ shady dealings from years ago could resurface in Black Ops II as playable stages, giving you an idea what led to him being so bitter – and maybe even shedding some light on what these cyber terrorists are really like in the game. Maybe we’ll learn something from characters that appeared in the original game...
Lastly but most importantly, number three, future combat is hardly a bad thing! It’s a new item for Call of Duty and an area that most fans have been waiting for the series to finally visit. Look at the popularity of last year’s PS3 release of Killzone 3, a game that takes place in the near future with an oppressive Helghast taking over and requiring you to use whatever tools necessary, including weapons and vehicles, to win back the war. For that matter, the Crysis games, while painting a bleak picture, have gotten the point across just as well, with the ability to power up your suit with shielding and super-sized abilities.
Just because this may be a jarring change for some doesn’t mean that Black Ops II is going to be lacking. In fact, far from it. Treyarch has proved to be just as capable a developer as Infinity Ward with the franchise, and, in some cases, just a little bit better - especially with aerial combat. The sequel will bring plenty of this, between flying around in drones and even manning a flying suit near the ground where you can quickly (and conveniently) get the jump on enemies. Can you imagine the potential this will have in multiplayer? We sure can! We just need to make sure we get access to the flying vehicles first.
There’s a lot to be revealed with Black Ops II over the next few months but Activision has provided a lot of reasons to be excited for it, even with the change of tone. We’ll provide full coverage, including a preview, over the next few months to keep you psyched about one of this year's biggest releases.