Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Preview
Treyarch calls them Strike Force missions and they're potentially the most interesting thing that's happened to Call of Duty in years, taking place within the larger single-player campaign. In other words there'll be a point when you're slapping a sci-fi equivalent of C4 (Sci-4?) on a glowing marker and someone will yell a question about what the Strike Force is doing. This will lead immediately in to a Strike Force mission.
What's notable about these missions is that they are entirely open to the possibility of failure. If you don't complete the objective in time or if all squad members die, well...tough. You get one shot and whether you win or lose you'll be immediately booted back to your previous position in the campaign. The story will continue, but it'll become canon that the Strike Force let everyone down. The number of missions you win or lose as the Strike Force will affect the tone, if not the content of the game ending.
Non-linearity isn't good in and of itself, of course. It's a tool just like any other, but that Treyarch would introduce this tool at this point...well, that's surprising.
The future also has flying robots that shoot at buildings
Don't get the impression that the Strike Force missions are handled with infinite subtlety or grace, however. This is still Call of Duty, full of grizzled men and big gun porn. The mission I got to see involved a dockland raid in Singapore and was of the sort of furious, senseless intensity that you'd expect of a Call Of Duty level. Wave after wave of faceless enemies crashed against the beachhead of the Strike Forces squad and their robots. This is a game set in the future, you see, so of course
there are robots.
Between the constant violence there is still room for player agency though. In a move reminiscent of the original Rainbow Six you can play as any character you want, or even as their robots - because this is the future, remember? If someone dies while you're inhabiting them then you'll just jump to the nearest counterpart, robot or human.
It's all very Rainbow Six, back before Rainbow Six became rubbish.
In fact, as long as there are forces left on the battlefield, you don't even need to do the fighting yourself. You can pull back to a top-down view and control the battle through what Treyarch calls the General Mode, giving orders and setting waypoints. It's all very simplified and it remains to be seen if it can offer the depth PC players expect of a strategic interface, but it's there. That's something.
AND! Sometimes humans and robots shoot at buildings together!
Which, personally, I find a bit annoying if I'm being honest. I've grown utterly sick of Call Of Duty. I think Battlefield is more technically competent; Bulletstorm more stylish and fun, Human Revolution more intellectually stimulating. Call Of Duty long ago fell into a boring, predictable middleground which I actually personally consider to be damaging to the industry as a whole.
That it would now, at this
point finally do something new? That's just inconsiderate.
How good Strike Force turns out to be and whether it'll be a saving grace or brave new direction for Call of Duty remains to be seen. The potential is there for this to be something exciting for those who still have the energy to follow the series...but I won't be joining them. This is the last preview or review I will write about COD because, as far as I'm concerned, whatever the series does next will be too little
, too late
...and I've just got better things to do with my time.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is being developed by Treyarch and will be published by Activision. It's due out later this year on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.