June 18, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
Activision has gotten plenty of grief over the past few years for its annual iterations of Call of Duty, which seldom offer breakthrough innovation from its predecessors. Personally, I don’t care too much about that as long as I get my cinematic campaign thrill ride, which the massively popular and records-setting FPS franchise has never failed to deliver. From the looks of the new campaign footage unveiled at Microsoft’s media briefing, the recently announced Black Ops II will carry on that explosive tradition. And after bumping into James C. Burns, the actor who voices Sergeant Frank Woods in both Black Ops games, I couldn’t be more excited.
After I told him that Black Ops had my favorite campaign story and that I was glad to find out in the announcement trailer that Woods apparently hadn’t died (and is back as the narrator for the sequel), Burns enthusiastically put his arm around my neck and said, “Man, if you liked that one, wait till you (effing) see what we’ve got in store for this one.” Commenting on David S. Goyer’s (The Dark Knight) story for Black Ops II, he added, “It makes the first Black Ops look like Ms. Pac-Man compared to the epic sh!t planned for this Call of Duty.”
Addressing the common criticism of the franchise’s linear progression in the campaigns, developer Treyarch is integrating special missions into Black Ops II‘s campaign that directly affect the overall narrative arc depending on whether the player succeeds or fails. At E3 this year, we got an exclusive look at these Strike Force levels with Activision senior producer Ben Brinkman behind closed doors, along with an extended session of the campaign gameplay previously shown at Microsoft’s media briefing that continued in a much longer jet sequence where the Microsoft demo below cut off.
In the Strike Force special missions, players command a sizable group of units that include both conventional soldiers and remote-controlled drones, a key part of Black Ops II‘s story and gameplay. Like an RTS in which you can jump into the first-person view of any unit at any time to control it, Strike Force allows the player to take a step back and survey the battlefield in an overwatch view to assess different strategies to accomplish the mission. Killed units are replaced with reinforcements, but if the player runs out of them or fails the mission objective, then that certain Strike Force level ends, and the story returns to the campaign… bearing the repercussions of the Strike Force failure. This could mean certain characters become missing, certain events don’t happen, and certain future missions become more difficult.
Finally employing alternate storylines and again promising another awesome campaign experience, Call of Duty: Black Ops II will most likely be one of the most memorable games of the megahit franchise when it’s released on November 13, 2012, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. And we’ve haven’t even talked about zombies yet!