Now that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has been formally announced with an amazing trailer, a couple official screenshots and additional details following an interview with Treyarch’s Mark Lamia, we can dig into the nitty gritty of this upcoming first-person shooter and discover a few important facts about the story, technology, multiplayer, gameplay, characters and zombie mode included in the game.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is set during the year 2025 and the majority of the game’s events will take place in this near-future timeline as you take on the role of one David Mason. Why does that name sound familiar? It’s because he’s the son of Alex Mason, the central protagonist in the original Black Ops.
Alex Mason will be making a return in Black Ops 2, however, because certain missions and story sections will take place back in the 1980s during the end of the Cold War, and as the game swaps between these two timelines (2025 and the 80s), Sergeant Frank Woods (also from the original Black Ops) will narrate the sequence of events.
The plot of Black Ops 2 revolves around a struggle for world resources and the governments of the United States of America and China are locked in a new Cold War. According to the game’s fiction, China controls roughly 95% of all of the world’s ‘Rare Earth Elements’ used in the construction of weaponry and technology. In order to gain control over these resources, peripheral skirmishes in areas of the world such as central and southern America break out over the course of the game.
Every Call of Duty game needs a central villain, and this time that role is filled by one Raul Menendez who is playing the governments of China and the US against one another while controlling unmanned and armed UAVs and robotic drones to attack US cities such as Los Angeles. Missions in Black Ops set during the 80s will explore how Menendez became the man (and terrorist) he is in 2025.
Technology-wise, Black Ops 2 will sport brand new graphics features while still running at 60 frames per second on all platforms. The PC version of the game will take advantage of DirectX 11 features, while new visual effects such as HDR lighting, bounce lighting and self-shadowing are included – techniques that have been seen in other games before, but it’s nice that Call of Duty is finally catching up.
In terms of actual gameplay, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will remain an action-packed blockbuster first-person shooter in the vein of previous games in the series, players will this time be able to control gadgets such as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle), on-the-fly, using a device on their wrist and arm to set targets and navigation points for their drones.
You will of course also be tasked with taking control of vehicles in Black Ops 2 (it wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game with it), including at least one section in which you fly a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) fighter plane in an on-rails and free-flying mission while shooting down enemy drones. Another ‘vehicle’ you’ll control in the game is a horse during a mission set in the 1980s (seen briefly in the trailer).
A first for the Call of Duty series will be branching paths, an example of which was shown in a recent press demo: either cover your squad by shooting enemies with a sniper rifle, or join your squad on the ground by rappelling down and fighting with them. The newly introduced ‘Strike Force’ mode in Black Ops 2 will, however, provide most of the non-linearity in the game, story-wise, as opposed to the pure string of singleplayer missions.
Strike Force mode in Black Ops 2 has been designed to exist in the game’s singleplayer campaign and will appear as separately available, discrete story missions scattered around the globe. As the game moves on, you may choose one of three available missions, for example, but once chosen, the other two missions fall away and the story continues. Only with subsequent play-throughs of the game will you see the other missions.
It seems as though Strike Force missions are somehow in addition to the central story string and are peripheral, but if you fail one of these missions, it’s game over just as if you had been playing a core story mission. This being said, these missions are written into the narrative of Black Ops 2 and will add to your understanding of the game’s plot.
In Strike Force, you’ll command a squad of soldiers by issuing commands either on the ground or by using a zoomed-out UAV view in sandbox-like, tactical levels, while control of a variety of drones will also be available in this mode.
Which leads us to the multiplayer and zombie mode of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2…
At the moment, Treyarch is keeping very quiet on the multiplayer portion of the game but did offer a few slices of information, including the fact that the team has been re-examining every previous feature of Call of Duty competitive play to see what needs improving, what needs to stay and what can get cut. Nothing is safe, according to Treyarch’s multiplayer director David Vonderhaar.
In addition, all multiplayer modes will take place in the 2025 timeline (nothing in the 1980s), while E-Sports is a major focus for the multiplayer team which means, amongst other things, a desire to make watching games more enjoyable to increase spectator viewership.
And finally, we get to zombies – a mainstay in Treyarch’s series of Call of Duty games. As opposed to the original Black Ops reveal process where the studio took its sweet time to formally announce the inclusion of a zombie mode in the game, we’re thankfully able to get a confirmation right off the bat – a co-operative zombie mode will indeed make an appearance in Black Ops 2.
Apparently, there will be more zombies and more modes than ever before, with more ambitious use of these shambling dead, too…
That’s all for now – we’re promised more information on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 at E3 2012 in June, but for now be sure to watch that debut trailer for the game (again) and the video interview with Treyarch’s Mark Lamia to tide you over.