We’re sure most of you are planning on picking up Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Tuesday. If you’re still on the fence though, we think you should take a look at our new Sunday Seven feature that gives you our Top Seven reasons to buy the game. Even if you already have your pre-order down, take a look and join in the excitement for the year’s biggest shooter. Don’t forget to sound off in the comments section with your own reasons for or against the game too.
1: New Setting
Last generation it was all about World War II, nowadays everything’s set in sandy Middle Eastern hellholes. Finally, after years of rumours we’re getting that futuristic Call of Duty game. Forget space and lasers though, instead the year is 2025. There’s a blend of familiar and futuristic styles everywhere, from buildings, vehicles and of course the weaponry. The story will have some links to the last game, you play as the son of Alex Mason for a start, but it seems to work as a standalone narrative too. Essentially, while America and China are squabbling over natural resources, some lunatic sneaks in and steals the keys to the America’s Skynet-esque automated army system, turning it against those it was built to protect.
2: New Tech
The 2025 setting has allowed Treyarch to bring in some new toys to the action. They're claiming that everything we see here is very feasible for the near future, so it’s relatively grounded, no Star Trek lasery nonsense for example. Remote controlled sentry drones will play a large part in the ground and in the skies. The new CLAW (Cognitive Land Assault Weapon) is a new four-legged vehicle that looks very Star Wars, but with digital camo-paint all over it. All of these inventions pale in comparison to the sound of a wrist-mounted grenade launcher though, which might just have me weeping with joy.
3: Strike Force Mode
In addition to the campaign, there's the new Strike Force mode. This sounds like the biggest innovation we've seen in the Call of Duty series yet. Here you control multiple troops with a tactical angle to reach the mission's objective. Interestingly, three different play styles are supported, with you being able to swap between them at will. You can jump into the boots of any of your squad members, meaning you can get around the map with great speed. This sounds very similar to the excellent 'hot-swapping' mechanic that featured in Battlefield: Modern Combat 2 on the PS2.
Don't fancy using people? Well, you'll be able to control any of the drones if you fancy a little remote controlled death from above or with the adorable death trolley. Or you could hop into Overwatch mode to take on a commander role to set up waypoints and direct troops to specific areas of the battlefield.
Being able to swap between individual soldiers, drones and an armchair general sounds like the best addition to the series since zombies and will hopefully feature plenty of maps to avoid being a brief minigame. It certainly sounds better than a third-person mode. Remember that, rubbish wasn't it?
4: Graphical Oomph
Treyarch are no slouches when it comes to graphical detail as shown in particular with Reznov's twisted features in the flickering light of the Vietnamese tunnel in the first game. Things are looking even better now though with the new lighting tech highlighting the extra detail packed into textures and Treyarch are promising the game will run at 60fps. The freeway assault footage we saw at E3 shows how they haven’t lost their touch at giving us a movie-esque Blockbuster experience. What does that mean? Fucking massive explosions, jets, rocket launchers and guns so loud they smash through walls.
Linearity has always been the contentious spine of Call of Duty’s single-player. Run from A-B and shoot everything. We complain about it, but at the same time, you won't find a more bombastic corridor of death as we saw with MW3 last year. Treyarch have been listening though and have tried to open the game up with player choices. We've already seen an example of this when at one point you need to take out some soldiers far below. You could opt for a sniper rifle from where you are or rappel down towards and take a different path through the rest of the area. Needless to say, if there are plenty of these splitting paths, the game will gain some much-needed replayability instead of the usual one timer.
6: Player-Influenced Narrative
Another big factor in bringing us back are narrative choices with gameplay and story consequences. Main characters can live or die, sending the story off in different directions, even resulting in multiple endings -another first for the series. We’re not expecting Heavy Rain levels of detail, but we believe we’ll be able to finish the game with some pretty grim results. This might be because of the way we choose to send the story or just by incompetence at letting the wrong person get shot. Either way it’s going to be great finding out.
A number of large changes to the multiplayer options show how the series is looking to bring back fans who may have wondered off to Battlefield 3 for their online action. Loadout editing has seen a complete overhaul that removes many of the back-and-forth menus, giving you simpler access to your weapon collection. There’s a refreshing focus on only taking what you want into battle. You have ten slots to fill as you please. For example, if you never really use your secondary weapon, you can replace it with grenades, a weapon attachment or even an additional perk.
Killstreaks have been replaced with score streaks, which better reward players for helping with objectives rather than focusing on kills, which will be great for matches like Capture the Flag. Unlocks are now earned when you level up instead of the old COD currency points.
The Elite membership will be free for Black Ops II, which provides some neat stat tracking and community options. The most impressive addition to the service though is being able to record matches and even upload live matches to YouTube. Activision are pushing for a proper eSports feel to the game, letting you see the best players in action. If nothing else though, it’ll make it easier to catch-out the cheaters.
So that’s our Sunday Seven, are you convinced about Black Ops 2 or are you hedging your bets until the reviews land? Or are you content with the other big hitters this year like Halo 4 and Borderlands 2?