I swore to myself. I promised and repeated the same phrase over and over again like a mantra. “Never again”…”Never again.” Never again will I buy another Call of Duty title no matter who Activision assigned to make it. I didn’t care how modern the warfare was going to be nor did I care on just how black the op had become, I was finished.
I got my first taste of this brand of first-person shooter brilliance with Modern Warfare 2. I wanted more and I continued to line up to purchase the latest installment. I waited anxiously for Black Ops and, though doused with the delicious kool-aid this latest edition to the franchise had to offer, the taste was familiar. Almost as if it was the exact flavor as before.
Regardless, when the promise of a whole new experience was announced with Modern Warfare 3, my taste buds were tantalized once more. Surely some new dynamic will be introduced into gameplay, something refreshingly different. Unfortunately, the product delivered simply came as a different color, a different name even, but again, for the third time, the same exact flavor.
I am definitely not saying that I didn’t get exactly what I paid for out of each release. Each had a new riveting cinematic campaign robust with similar plot points and pocketed with high intensity action sequences, the same excellent multiplayer experience with a glorified DLC map pack, and the overall polished first person shooter that this franchise has produced time after time. But, nothing different. It is that benign feeling of déjà vu that eventually evolved into the growing disdain for the Modern Warfare franchise we have come to know and once again left us all thirsty for something more.
Then there was the reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Just like that, the addict who quit cold turkey is once again thrust face-to-face with the promise of a bigger and better experience than before. All rumors and gossip aside, what we can derive from Black Ops II is the Call of Duty franchise is making an honest attempt at giving the gaming faithful a brand new experience.
Branching out from the strictly regimented formula that has brought about so much prior success and subsequent criticism, Black Ops II begins the process of providing not only a more open ended approach to the storyline but also packs it full of futuristic technology, advanced weaponry, and a ton of explosions.
The most appealing feature of Black Ops II is the addition of Strike Forcelevels that occur during the campaign mode. Gamers will take control of David Mason, son of Black Op’s main protagonist Alex Mason, and fight through a futuristic Cold War between the United States and China for the rights to rare Earth elements. Instead of the usual progression through a linear storyline, players will be presented with Strike Force levels throughout the campaign that fork off into different scenarios and will ultimately dictate the future development of the story.
For the first time, a player’s performance on each level will influence how the events of the game unfold. Whether you succeed or fail each mission, the game will continue on. Each successful mission or demoralizing loss causes the geo-political aspect of the storyline to adjust accordingly, reflecting the player’s accomplishments or failures.
Strike Force missions allow for more of a sandbox approach to each level. Gamers are given a certain amount of resources (soldiers, robots, perks, etc.) to use to accomplish a mission. Players will be able to either control all of these assets from an over-watch perspective, more akin to real time strategy gameplay, or assume the roles of any of their combatants and take the fight to the enemy from that point of view.
This dynamic form of gameplay will allow for individuals to access a bird’s eye view of the battlefield and assess the geographical nature of each map, as well as the enemy’s deployment. Based on that information, gamers will be able to respond by directing friendly units from high up in the sky or by taking control of the action personally in hopes of swaying the course of the battle through their own combat skills. In short, not only are we given a choice of how we want the story to play out, but within those choices, we are allowed to participate in the action from a variety of different perspectives.
Black Ops II also looks to provide exactly what was missing from Modern Warfare 3, a vision of modern warfare. The title alone for that game allows a certain amount of leeway for creators to let their imaginations run wild and offer up interpretations of what the future of warfare might entail. Alas, the delivery of said futuristic battlefield looked to be about as modern as the date of its predecessor’s launch. Four installments later, we finally see developer Treyarch push the boundaries of what warfare in the 21st century might look like.
Loaded with new-aged mechanized assault vehicles, a slew of unmanned combat drones, and what looks to be a decently sized arsenal of modern weaponry, Black Ops II is poised to deliver everything we have come to expect from a COD title with a futuristic kick that will garner the interests of even the most jaded of fans.
Will Black Ops II finally be that satisfying new flavor the scores of placated palates have been yearning for? Only time will answer such questions.