Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 preview
Pocket-lint was recently asked how best to describe Black Ops 2. This got us thinking about what really defines it in the gargantuan franchise, other than that it is set in the future.
To the already experienced Call of Duty player, it is a game with enough surprises to keep you wanting more. Think of it like your favourite meal, only cooked in the future. To those who haven't played Call of Duty before, which we admit isn't many, this is going to feel like a very different shooter.
From what have seen and played, technology has a much heavier part to play in this game. Both in single-player but even more so in multiplayer, you are given access to a much wider variety of kit, on top of the standard guns, than ever before.
The game is a direct sequel to the original Black Ops, despite being set more than 45 years later. It follows the story of Raoul Menendez, a man attempting to get rid of capitalism and imperialism. We don't want to give away too much more of the story line, as naturally every level in Call of Duty tends to be a bit of a surprise.
Expect branching storylines and drones, lots of drones. Drones have been turned against the army in Black Ops 2 and become a powerful adversary to deal with. This isn't Terminator, however, and the robots you are up against seem to have come from a realistic and not too distance future.
The same applies to the kit you are issued with, which is fun but realistic. Cloaking tech for example, along with things such as a mass-mounted sight that allows you to see through walls, is all part of the game. It also affects CoD's play style slightly, making it just as much about getting the best tech to back up your fight as about having the biggest gun.
From the single-player we were shown one particularly impressive new level. Set in the rainforest, it saw two of the game's lead characters mounting an attack on a base. Starting out on the top of a cliff, you leap down swinging on a rope attached to your team-mate below. You grab on to the cliff face using a pair of futuristic gloves and then swing your partner along with you. It's hard to describe really, but anyone who ever played Super Smash Bros and used the Ice Climbers characters will have a good idea. We think it is called belaying.
As if all that belaying wasn't enough, you then don a squirrel suit and fly yourself along to the distant jungle base. In typical Call of Duty style, you are thrust into an over-the-top firefight almost immediately. What we noticed straight away was that Treyarch has had a lot of fun with the gun sounds for this new game. Sounding just that little bit different from typical present-day weapons, it really added to the futuristic feel.
The weapons themselves were slightly different. One in particular, a sort of silenced explosive flechette gun, was awesome. It fired bursts of rounds into enemies, who would then explode.
Eventually you come across a grounded helicopter, hack its weapon systems and engage in some good old-fashioned Call of Duty-style turret action. Then you head into the base and come across a cloaking suit that some of the other guys you have taken down have been wearing. You put it on and the level continues: our demo, however, didn't.
READ: Far Cry 3 Preview
Still buzzing with excitement over how crazy the Black Ops 2 demo was, we were immediately shown just how much content there's going to be on the disc. As always, there is a lot of game to be had, with a huge single-player and multiplayer set-up as well as the Return of the Zombies mode, details of which Treyarch kept fairly quiet.
Multiplayer is what the real Call of Duty fans want to know about. There's a lot here to talk about, so bear with us while we try to dissect everything new that Treyarch has done.
For the most part, things remain unchanged in terms of the core modes available. There is a new option called combat training that lets you work through the first five levels of your multiplayer XP against bots, or with friends against bots.
Then you get all the standard game modes and new additions called hardpoint. Gun game is back, as are things such as kill confirmed. Some are also multi-team, letting you fight in small groups of three vs three, and making for much more tactical play.
Next is the way you upgrade and customise your character. There are 55 levels, with 10 levels prestige. Get to the very end and you have everything unlocked, otherwise you will only be able to unlock certain amounts of kit under each prestige. Every time you level up you get an unlock token to spend on kit, but there isn't enough to gain access to everything in 55 levels, so if you are a completionist, you are going to have to play a lot of Call of Duty multiplayer.
A new way of choosing kit has also been introduced. Called Pick 10, it lets you select only a total of 10 pieces of equipment, including guns, mods and perks. You can do this however you want, so could have a player with no guns at all but just perks and a knife. Wild cards, which also count as one of your Pick 10, are ways of breaking conventional CoD rules and allow for things like three attachments to a gun, or two perks in one single slot.
However you want to look at it, the new Call of Duty multiplayer suite is going to make for a very complex and customisable game. It also plays slightly differently, as we discovered, thanks to all the new tech. Those who rely on radar, for example, might find it jammed by an EMP grenade. You can even get sights which let you look slightly through walls, or portable drones that you throw and will track down on to enemies on the other sides of walls.
Kill streaks are now gone, replaced with score streaks, that encourage you to do things that help your team or the game, rather than just going on the attack. You can, for example, gain points towards a streak by defending or capturing flags.
Finally zombies, which follows on from the story told in the Resurrection DLC map pack. This is the mode we know the least about, as Treyarch is keeping fairly quiet. You basically get 1-4 player co-op and the standard zombie experience, albeit with what we imagine is some new twists. There is then another mode called grief mode, which is human vs human vs zombie and ends with the last human player standing.
And that's it. There is going to be a lot of game to get into when Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 releases on 13 November. For those worried that the shift to the future might damage the core COD experience, don't be - it is very cool and never used in a way that cheapens gameplay. For those excited, it won't disappoint and feels as fresh to us as the first time we played Modern Warfare.