The Five Biggest Surprises About Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Is there still room for creativity in Call of Duty? Treyarch hopes so.

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After all the rumors and leaks, it's finally official: Treyarch is at work on a sequel to Black Ops, due for arrival later this year. This sort of news isn't exactly shocking, of course, considering that Call of Duty has long been one of those annualized series where gossiping about the next game is a bit like spreading rumors about tomorrow's sunrise. But just because the existence of Black Ops II is a foregone conclusion doesn't mean that the content of the game is on that same level of predictability. In fact, the team at Treyarch has got quite a number of tricks up its sleeve for this upcoming first-person shooter. The core action is very much Call of Duty, but the overall package might just surprise you.

It's set in the future and the past

The Call of Duty franchise has always been fond of the idea of dual protagonists, whether it was alternating between two separate theaters of war in the World War II days or two different elite tactical units in the Modern Warfare franchise. Black Ops II is out to do the same thing, but with one very different twist: instead of being separated by geography, the playable characters are separated by decades of time.

One half of the game picks up immediately after Black Ops, with you following the journey of Frank Woods, who, as luck would have it, didn't quite die at the end of the last game. Whether he's riding on horseback alongside mujahideen during the Afghan Civil War or off pursuing Russian secrets in some other corner of the world, Woods' adventures will take him through some of the later stages of the Cold War.

The other half of the campaign, though, kicks off in the year 2025, when advanced weapon technologies rule the day. This half of the campaign is filled with drone warfare (you can hack and deploy drones in the heat of combat), robotic quadrupeds roaming the battlefield, and fancy weapon systems that let you do some pretty crazy stuff with your basic firearms (like hold the trigger longer for a charged fire). Even subtle things like the general aesthetic of the heads-up display or the style of the music have a more futuristic feel to them.

If done right, this type of setup could make for a very interesting experience. There's going to be a lot of contrast between the tone and technologies of these two halves of the campaign, and bouncing between the two could be a lot of fun. Treyarch is keen to stress that it has done this to examine some distinct historical parallels (the old Cold War with Russia and the new one with China), which could be interesting if the thoughtfulness that goes into that premise isn't overshadowed by sheer chaos and spectacle--something that's always a risk when it comes to storytelling in Call of Duty.

Welcome to Los Angeles circa 2025.

It has branching storylines

Call of Duty games have long been this industry's go-to example for linear storytelling. Once you have finished the mile-a-minute campaigns, there has never been a tremendous reason to go back and play through the story again. With Black Ops II, however, Treyarch wants to give you some control over how the story progresses and thus add a reason to go back and experience different events. It's doing this through a combination of old-fashioned decision-making and allowing mission failures to alter the story rather than simply lead to a game-over screen. Did you manage to kill that one antagonist before he got away? Did you successfully protect that VIP? Instances such as these (if not these examples specifically) can occasionally lead to different outcomes depending on how well you do.

Ideally, this method of storytelling will be more nuanced than just "kill all the men, get the good ending" versus "kill most of the men, get the slightly worse ending." We're hoping to see more moral gray area, where you are given the chance to make difficult decisions that alter the game on top of how you perform in battle. This sort of narrative system has the potential to seriously alter how you experience a Call of Duty campaign, and we're hoping that Treyarch can pull it off in a meaningful way.

Unmanned robotic vehicles play a large role in the 2025 portion of the campaign.

It's occasionally a real-time strategy game

Treyarch is working on a new game mode for Black Ops II called Strikeforce, which is the studio's attempt to add a more hands-off, sandbox experience for players who want to run-and-gun on their own terms. What Strikeforce does is drop you into a large environment with a number of AI squadmates (sadly, this mode isn't co-op) and then give you a series of objectives spread throughout the map. It's basically the game giving you a bunch of space, a bunch of toys, and a bunch of enemies to take care of how you see fit.

The novel bit is that you don't have to play as the foot soldiers on the ground. You can bounce out to a sort of all-seeing-eye camera that lets you quickly scan across the map and issue orders to the troops on the ground. And since this is the year 2025 (the supplementary game modes like Strikeforce and competitive multiplayer all stick to the future), you can also issue orders to drones, and even play as them from a first-person perspective (including air and ground units). The whole thing is basically Call of Duty's version of a toy chest come to life. You can either pretend to be each little unit on the ground, or simply play out the entire match as the disembodied overlord looming over the battle, telling everyone what to do and where to go.

One thing that hasn't changed about this Call of Duty: gruff men who enjoy shouting and tattoos.

It has a villain Treyarch wants you to care about

Think of all the things the Call of Duty franchise has done well over the years: the sensation of being in the middle of a chaotic warzone, the terrific feel of the weapons, the exciting (and occasionally eccentric) set pieces. With this next game, Treyarch is hoping to add "interesting and multifaceted villain" to that list.

While the studio isn't going into too much detail about this antagonist's identity, they did mention that they'll be using the full span of the campaign--both the past and future--to establish the villain as a young man, show his descent into evil, and reveal the full extent of that trajectory come 2025. To help build this villain, Treyarch has been working with screenwriter David Goyer, whose credits include Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Remember Heath Ledger as the Joker? That's the sort of lightning Treyarch is hoping to bottle up with the help of Goyer.

Game director Dave Anthony explains it like this: "If you look at a show like The Sopranos, the main character is essentially a villain. Not only a villain, but a cold-blooded murderer. But you're presented with somebody that you actually understand as a human being and empathize with. And then suddenly you'll see them do something that's so horrific that it puts you in a real conflict. That's the approach we're taking with the villain of Black Ops II."

It's more influenced by e-sports than you think

With last year's Modern Warfare 3, Infinity Ward made the call to forgo LAN support. It was a decision that led competitive gaming leagues like MLG to drop MW3 from the pro circuits. Treyarch's approach to e-sports couldn't be more different. Black Ops II multiplayer design lead David Vonderhaar says that tailoring their game to resonate with the e-sports community is a huge goal for Treyarch. "E-sports has a really big influence. It helps us envision ways we can make the game for a competitive mindset, so there's elements of e-sports directly influencing the game design in multiplayer," says Vonderhaar. "But what's also really fascinating is e-sports as a spectator experience."

"The theater was fantastic, millions of people making millions of videos. But what's also fantastic is all these people who watch games get played. I just read this stat a couple days ago: 3 billion minutes per month of people watching people play video games. Three billion minutes! I'm thinking, man, Call of Duty could be 3 billion minutes if it was fun to watch. So this is impacting the game design. Making the game fun to watch is a big part of our agenda."

You can expect to see Black Ops II hit stores on November 13. Stay tuned for more coverage once next month's E3 rolls around.

Discussion

386 comments
jocker_mido
jocker_mido

fuckers shut up i cant play an multiplayer match on black ops 2 and i dont know why  :(

 

squidbilly22
squidbilly22

Regional servers or im boycotting,there making sh!t loads of cash rehashing the same game with lousy servers....NEWS Flash ! nobody cares about the campaign ! ,you could leave it out -multi-player /zombies is what sells..duhh...who hires these retards?

charlyk88
charlyk88

if I were them there'll be also UFOs, aliens, spaceships, everything you want, even rabbits.

nodzilla1
nodzilla1

Is it true that Black Ops2 will be using dedicated servers or is this just bullshit on the run up to the games release,i won't buy another Call of Duty until they use dedicated servers,i'm sick of being killed by people i know i'm a lot better than.

bmart970
bmart970

Kinda seems like Treyarch couldn't figure out what kind of game to make, so they ripped off Halo and all of the other futuristic games and stuck a COD label on it.

nodzilla1
nodzilla1

Does anyone know when Rainbow 6 Vegas 3 will be released or even made,i thought this game was awsome?

Velvet-Valentin
Velvet-Valentin

 CoDs are the benchmark of action games. When they get redundant , what can You ask from the others??

Practically Treyarch is not making A CoD anymore . It's copying part by part From Ghsot Recon . Gears Of War and other shooters. Not fun anymore.....

Anyway Infinity Ward is way a better producer of the series.

DaRk_StEr
DaRk_StEr

got a horse there?? waddup howdy?

 

chadbtownvt
chadbtownvt

And as far as people being over concerned about the 2025 part of the campaign being to robotic, well if you dont know treyarch by now then your doomed, if you havent noticed they weave in story lines nicely and they wouldnt add something in without really really having alot of input, there going for top top notch this year, its not going to be over baring, i think it will be a nice touch.

chadbtownvt
chadbtownvt

Some good info in these videos for the black ops fans. I'm overly excited for black ops 2, unfortunately we got what 6 months until release. I have a feeling treyarch is on to something w/ black ops 2, i believe it when mark says its like 3 games in one, black ops 1 was very successful and they almost got it all right, i think all the modes in black ops 1 was shy of greatness, it seemed like they ran out of time basically. i think they know what they want to do w/ black ops 2. i got my money on black ops 2, literally lol

Elorant
Elorant

The guy in the video must have said "you know" a hundred times. Please, can't they put someone a bit more educated to do the presentation. It's like talking to a retarded audience.

EzcapeTheFate
EzcapeTheFate

Id rather just play halo than  a sci-fi COD game.

BigZman95
BigZman95

This game looks amazing BUT this isn't Call of Duty. Sure you can slap the name on the box, but that doesn't make it so. See this is the problem with Treyarch. They have lots of great ideas, but they're putting it in the wrong series. This would be a phenominal game if they just made it a new series. But because it says "Call of Duty", we're not attracting fans of other genres to come take a look. They're stereotyping their own game before it hits the shelves. Black Ops was a good game. It just wasn't a good Call of Duty game. I think that Treyarch should take it's good ideas and just create a whole new series. Other than that I'm looking forward to playing it.

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

let it die, gracefully ...oh wait that was 2 itterations ago... just let it die... 

justocrusto
justocrusto

oh and nodzilla1 there is know easy we to say this but I gues your just not as good as you thought :/ just kidding man lol but I couldn't resist it! 

justocrusto
justocrusto

Man who knew the world was filled with so many pessimists I feel its always better to encourage a video game company to do good. I mean we all know we are all going to buy this game so have a little faith in the company to do something great! let me ask you this if somebody always say your going to fail in the end wont you? food for thought :)

nodzilla1
nodzilla1

My biggest surprise would be if a Call of Dollars(i mean Duty),actually worked lag free and was a totally level playing field.

My experience of CoD's are that in each game there's 2 or 3 invincibles and then maybe 2 or 3 with slight lag but can still compete and then there's what's left,the people who are just target practice through no fault of their own.

I'm an experienced gamer who started with a commodore64 many moons ago and then i moved up through all consoles,my favourite genre is FPS's and have played them from the beginning,Wolfenstein,DOOM,Golden eye,Perfect Dark 64(awsome) etc etc,yet when ever i play Call of Dollars(why do i keep thinking it's dollars?),i am instantly killed by everyone.

It's became obvious that by watching the killcam replays i never had a hope in hell of getting a shot in first,infact a lot of the time i do get shots in which never appear on the replay,it's just letting me still play while i catch up on realtime despite already being dead,disgraceful!

xRownan
xRownan

This sounds interesting.

Yoeriman1
Yoeriman1

So now we get each year a modern warfare cod game except 1 is called black ops??

Paolo1
Paolo1

Sorry!

What is said ...

Paolo1
Paolo1

What is sad in

"It's occasionally a real-time strategy game"

has been alreay done, several years ago, in Ghost Recon!!!

Tacojoint
Tacojoint

anyway, i think bops 2 has potential, and i think i heard about a zzombie campaign too not sure might be imagining things

sbdb
sbdb

Wahab_MinSeo said: "Black Ops II Doesn't Really Look Like in 2025 Year it Look 2016-2020 something like that."

 

I rolled over the floor laughing about that comment....  must be some amazing glass ball you got there!! ha!ha!

Wahab_MinSeo
Wahab_MinSeo

Black Ops II Doesn't Really Look Like in 2025 Year it Look 2016-2020 something like that.

cynjen
cynjen

"the epic storyline" b@tch please, everyone that plays COD is for the multiplayer

eliebaz
eliebaz

the branching story line i think doesn't coincide to a COD game and the one part of it that i love they're changing seriously the story mode was the one thing that was going for it, and as we've seen previously with games like ME3 when you have story branches they always mess them up

Smiling-sam
Smiling-sam

COD is pathetic, never liked it and now it's just full of 12 year olds. And that trailer isnt good, graphics look so old fashioned, like a cartoon and just because you have a load of 2 second long clips playing really fast does not make an exciting trailer

dendedosa
dendedosa

I'm so sick of Call of Duty. It needs to stop.

TheJessMan
TheJessMan

How the hell did Woods survive!???  He hugged a bomb and jumped out of a window!

 

S0ulReav3r
S0ulReav3r

expect alot of near-future FPS games after this one.......  I have the feeling its actually going to be something new for this  almost dead franchise 

bimastrike871
bimastrike871

personally, this is probably the most exciting call of duty to date. given how much i enjoy treyarchs games, and how strong the first black ops was, this is mounting up to be stellar, I'm stoked to say the least

Coleone12
Coleone12

I dont see the COD series creating another new and innovative engine until the next Gen of consoles are announced . Which to me kinda makes sense instead of making one for the current gen then having to start agian from scratch.

 

Takeno456
Takeno456

I really don't know what to think... CoD has been the same thing all the time but it almost seems like they are trying to make it different. Or its a trap? I need alot more information about this before I even think about getting it.

snipeshot11
snipeshot11

 @MasonChaos are you serious! MW3 engine was one of the most unbalanced engines I've ever experienced. If this game is anything like MW3 I won't be giving it the time of day.

luniac
luniac

COME ON WTF NEW ENGINE ALREADY DAMN>>>>

MasonChaos
MasonChaos

The only thing I ask is that they use Mw3 engine and not Black Ops'... because black ops hit markers were GARBAGE.

squidbilly22
squidbilly22

 @bmart970  always a Halo fan boy bitching about COD ...lol..enjoy your ring of death quietly please.

bmart970
bmart970

Not that I don't like the idea of this game, but it's just like Halo 4's (This coming from a huge Halo fan) custom classes, a copy of other games' ideas in hope that it will attract people who previously disliked the series.

nodzilla1
nodzilla1

 @EzcapeTheFate At least Halo won't lag when playing,unlike CoD!

Halo would be a lot better though if their weapons had some feel,they don't recoil or anything which feels somehow strange.

bimastrike871
bimastrike871

 @luniac its not going to happen with this hardware, no offense but when will people get this through their heads!?

bimastrike871
bimastrike871

 @MasonChaos wow, you people should do some research and self educate a little. THE ENGINE HAS BEEN THE SAME SINCE CALL OF DUTY 4 MODERN WARFARE. there are different studios designing the installments, thats where gameplay fluctuation comes from.

k2theswiss
k2theswiss

 @MasonChaos 

. you do know they run the same engine right? all 3 devs share engine coding