With huge international game show E3 drawing closer, we’re hoping for more info on 2010’s big titles, so watch this space.
Happily, the lovely Activision had a pre-E3 event recently and, over the next week or two, as the embargos lift, I’ll try and tell you what they told me about the likes of the new Spider-Man, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, True Crime and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. Undoubtedly there will be more info post-E3 – hey, you’ve got to keep some juicy stuff for the folk travelling to Vegas, right? – but the highlight of the day was, inevitably, the preview of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
All those theories about when it will be set? We’re probably all right. While all we currently know for sure is that it’s about Black Ops (and, admittedly, you might have guessed that bit), the game appears to follow the classic CoD approach of jumping between eras and campaigns.
The title appears to follow several different covert operations, in particular the CIA’s anti-Communist activities in places such as Vietnam (hurrah!), Cuba and Eastern Europe. Developers Treyarch are keeping the specifics, and the timeline, under their hats at the moment but did show the gathered journalistic throng two levels, both set in 1968.
Up first was WMD – ooh, how topical – which expanded on the bit from the recent trailer featuring the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. From this atmospherically high vantage point, you see the Black Ops team approach a secret, mountainous Russian military base... and then you’re in the thick of the action, as one of the attacking soldiers, rappelling into the base and getting down the mountain to take out a satellite station.
The best bit? The sniper crossbow. While admittedly we didn’t get our hands on the controller, Treyarch’s demonstrator was clearly having fun picking off enemies from distance and in silence. The detail looks good too: it’s possible to just injure someone with a bolt and finish them off later.
The scene finishes with the destruction of the satellite station and proves that explosion plus snow-bound mountain equals avalanche. The action switches to another standard CoD level: run like hell.
So far, so good. But it gets better with the preview of a level called – fanfare please – Slaughterhouse. The setting? Vietnam. As you abseil from a US chopper, it’s hit by enemy fire and goes into a spin, throwing you into an office block.
Your mission? Get out. Fortunately, you’re armed with a shotgun and some shells called “Dragon’s Breath”. As the name suggests, they’re somewhat incendiary. Cue much grisly flaming VietCong action, as you get out of the building. Somewhat inevitably, it’s a CoD “out of the frying pan” moment, as you’re then pitched into street fights with groups of enemy soldiers, finishing by fleeing the city with an armoured car escort. It's exhausting (and eyepopping) to watch.
And that’s all we’re shown. Still, it appears to be quality business as usual, with the promise of “an epic story” and hints of multiple eras, the usual twists and turns and, possibly, a storyline that changes depending on decisions you make. Multiplayer is clearly uppermost in Treyarch’s thoughts – see? they do listen – with at least four player co-op, and an announcement to follow at E3 (told you). More on those as we find out.
On this brief evidence though? CoD: Black Ops is a barrage of bullets and mayhem and slick FPS action. Bring it on.