And so, with much fanfare and millions of Tweets, the new Call of Duty was announced a few days ago... And we still don’t know a lot about it.
The title – as you probably all know by now – is Call of Duty: Black Ops. But Black Ops when? We really don’t know.
Since Modern Warfare 2 arrived at the end of last year, speculation has been rife as to the nature of the next one. Will it follow on with some of the same characters and expand on the (highly convoluted) double crossing plot? Will it be a sideways spin-off, sending a minor MW2 character into a whole new world of hurt? Will it be a stand-alone retro move, in the spirit of Call of Duty: World At War? Will it be a Vietnam tale?
Frankly? We have no idea. But we can certainly speculate because hey, that’s what we do online, particularly when it comes to a game that’s part of a series that’s been both stunningly brilliant and utterly “meh”. Besides, perhaps the recent internal wrangling between Activision and Infinity Ward throws up more clues than we first suspected.
We won’t go into those issues here because: a) they’ve been extremely well documented elsewhere; b) the full story still hasn’t really come out; and c) it’s all a bit boring, to be honest. Most of us have our own domestic / office politics to negotiate, we don’t need to hear about who said this or who did what. Just to give it a recap though, Infinity Ward are the developer who created Call of Duty and Modern Warfare titles on behalf of the publisher, Activision. After several years and after rumours / allegations of internal disputes, IW’s top two men, Jason West and Vince Zampella, were sacked – before royalties on MW2 were paid. They then sued, assorted IW staff walked out, another 38 sued for unpaid royalties and that’s pretty much where we are now. It ain’t pretty.
And, in the meantime, Activision have appointed Treyarch to develop Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s not exactly a surprise move: Treyarch worked with Activision on Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, and Call of Duty: World at War. Which is either a VERY GOOD or a VERY BAD thing depending on how you look at it.
Anyway, the official line from Activision about Call of Duty: Black Ops is that, thanks to Treyarch, players will be taken “behind enemy lines in an entirely new chapter in the groundbreaking and record-setting, No. 1 first-person action series of all-time.”
As for Treyarch, Studio Head Mark Lamia announced last week that they’ve “focused our entire studio on this game, with dedicated multiplayer, single-player and co-op teams creating the most intense, gripping and riveting experience possible for our fans on all fronts.”
So can we deduce anything? The edgily edited trailer, doesn’t give anything away which is, of course, the exact purpose of a teaser trailer. Even watching it with heavy use of the pause button – seriously, the things we do for you – doesn’t help much. There are flashes of action and the firefights, exploding trees, what appear to be fleeing villagers and the abundance of facial hair and sweatbands mean could well suggest we’re going late 60s and into Vietnam, but we can’t say for certain. Besides, the sinister “this should help you remember everything” voice over could be a hint that what follows is all flashback.
Perhaps the biggest clue was Treyarch’s casting call in LA earlier this year when, according to Official XBOX Magazine their spec was for an actor to play Frank Barnes, described as a WW2 veteran and member of the Studies and Observations Group. And who were the Studies & Observations Group? Why, who would have thought it? They were a highly classified, US special operations division – read “black ops” - during the Vietnam war.
At the risk of getting to the release date – 9th November 2010 – with considerable quantities of egg on face, let’s be bold here and state that yes, at least part of the game will have a Vietnam theme. They haven’t touched on that era yet, the scope for undercover acts of extreme violence are plentiful and Treyarch like a bit of historical battling.
And before you do the shudder / overreaction thing and point accusingly at Treyarch's previous efforts, just remember the end of Call of Duty: World at War and think of these two words: Nazi Zombies...