E3: Go “Undercover” Again in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2


Treyarch’s studio head, Mark Lamia, recently gave me a sneak peak at the upcoming E3 demo. We’d already learned from the recent Frank Woods trailer that the new game takes place in a future where someone has stolen the keys to the US military’s most powerful and destructive hardware. Lamia gave us even more details on the story in the game and even showed a lengthy demo of one of the game’s more outrageous levels.

The story in the game is actually split in two. One half takes place in the 1980s and features Alex Mason in a number of Cold War operations around the world. Players will also be able to see how the game’s main villain, Raul Menendez, rises to power. The future campaign takes place in 2025, where Alex’s son Dave must confront Menendez, who has taken command of some of the most dangerous elements of the US military.

The demo level featured Dave Mason as part of a detail protecting the Presidential convoy moving through the streets of Los Angeles. Without giving away too much of the story, things quickly go to hell for Dave and the President as Menendez’s UAVs and UGVs begin demolishing the city around them. Drones crash into skyscrapers, while marching robots stomp through the crowded city streets.

There’s no doubt that the team at Treyarch is top notch when it comes to highly choreographed set pieces. From the ubiquitous helicopter crashes to the jaw-dropping skyscraper collapse, every moment of this game screams “Look at me!” as loudly as possible. In true Call of Duty fashion, the player’s control of the camera is hijacked to better highlight these scripted moments. The biggest concern, especially when combined with the frequent in-game instructions and tag-along sequences, is how often the player will be following the beats in the designers’ story rather than finding his or her own path through the game.

Fortunately, Menendez has managed to take control of some very powerful military hardware, so the player is spared the suspense killing overmatch that comes when leading a team of technologically advanced super soldiers against squads of morons armed with AK-47s and RPGs. Sure, the player will still find time to jump in to FA-38s and literally play chicken with UAVs, but the abundance of powerful robots and other military hardware among the opposition seems to give Black Ops 2 more intensity than more recent Call of Duty games.

I’m also intrigued by the new non-linear sandbox missions interspersed in the single player campaign. These Strike Force levels offer branching storylines and should help bring a greater sense of choice and consequence to the single player portion of the game. In choosing one Strike Force level, you’re essentially locking out other choices later in the game, which could actually make replaying the single player portion of the game something gamers are actually interested in. What’s even more intriguing is that the player isn’t required to beat these levels. Get wiped out and the story continues on. I’m still not entirely convinced how much this affects the scripted story of Alex and Dave Mason, but it’s definitely got me more interested than I have been in Call of Duty‘s single player offerings.

Multiplayer is, of course, the series’ main appeal to most gamers but the team at Treyarch isn’t ready to start sharing too many details. What we do know is that zombies are definitely making a return in much larger environments and that 4v4 co-op is a thing.

We’ll have more details on Black Ops 2 at E3 next month.

See all our coverage directly from the E3 2012 show floor.

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