E3 2012: Eyes-on - Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
- — 07 June, 2012 22:00
Call of Duty is Call of Duty. It's all about spectacle, and spectacle can be very attractive.
But there was a point, during Xbox's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 press conference at E3, that the sensory overload became too much and it all blurred together into one big mess of explosions and other noisy things. It was like all the noise - loud as it was - had managed to become white noise, and the repetitive tat-tat-tat of the gunfire sounded simply ordinary.
The following day, we sat down in a makeshift theatre in the back of Activision's booth to take a look at a longer gameplay trailer as part of a closed-door session.
A gravelly voice told us about a future in which US military systems have become completely connected. The problem? A hacker has gained the 'keys' to this network, and begun using it against the United States of America.
A team of soldiers has to guide a female President through a war-torn Los Angeles. You play as David Mason, the son of Call of Duty: Black Ops' hero Alex Mason, and this time you can take a different path - it's not entirely linear as it has been in the past.
Big moments are showcased, but then every moment seems to be a big one - a helicopter exploding, a sniper rifle with a scope that can see through concrete pillars, a flight in a plane.
Is this not all getting a little stale by now?
Fortunately, Activision also showed off a section of the game that wasn't on display at the press conference, and it looks entirely different from anything the company has done before. It's called Strike Force, and is a strange mashup of territories, tower defense and regular old FPS. We're approaching it with cautious optimism - remember the tower defense segments of Assassin's Creed: Revelations?
In Strike Force, you control a group of soldiers and have to strategically place them around a map. You have a top-down view for this, which shows both your location and the enemy team's location. There are also points that you have to capture, and capturing those points takes time, so it's ideal to place units nearby so you can safely capture those points while they take care of the bad guys. You can also create mobile turrets and other gadgets to assist you.
Once you've placed your units, you go back into FPS mode. You fight with your soldiers, capture points, and move on to the next one.
When a Strike Force mission is complete, you return to the regular campaign. But what happens in Strike Force does not stay in Strike Force - whether you succeed or fail will have an influence on the rest of the game.
Activision said that Strike Force mode would also be available multiplayer, but it's hard to see how it would be possible to have a Strike Force game that was bigger than one vs. one. It's very much about figuring out the enemy's plays and countering them, while working on your own.
Activision's general policy seems to be "Go big or go home", and while it's admirable to always put on a show, a good game needs both light and dark, and shades in between. Black Ops 2, like its predecessors, looks like edge-of-your-seat action, with no time to take a breath in between epic moments.
Strike Force had better be good, because we're bored.