Published on June 22nd, 2010 | by prime3
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Preview
“I want to create the best entertainment experience of the year,” starts Treyarch Studio Head Mark Lamia, demonstrating his team’s latest Call of Duty to us at a private London event last month. “I want to be able to give people this really intense cinematic campaign that they can be a part of, this really deep and robust multiplayer experience that they can play for a long time, and this really fun co-op experience that they can play with their friends. It’s really about capturing all of these different experiences that people want.”
This could be the most ambitious Call of Duty game ever made
Lamia, then, has his heights set high when it comes to this year’s Call of Duty. He’s no longer happy with his team lingering in the monolithic shadow of Infinity Ward as it always has done, instead encouraging the studio to form its own identity within the brand rather than have their time in the limelight callously referred to as a ‘non-Infinity Ward year’.
And from the two missions we’ve seen of Black Ops, the game certainly seems like it’ll leave a lasting impression. We’re whisked straight into a mission called ‘WMD’, stepping into the role of a pilot heading out on a reconnaissance mission high above Russia’s icy Ural Mountains. And by ‘high above’ we mean sub-orbital, strapping ourselves into the pilot seat of an SR-71 Blackbird and jetting down the runway on a path into space. Our task is to watch over friendlies on the ground, directing the squad to cover in an RTS-lite mini-game displayed via the Blackbird’s infra-red display. Visually it appears similar to Modern Warfare 2’s UAV, but this is a stealth mission, the tension amplifying as a convoy of troops pulls up outside the house our men have dug in. Retreating them out the back door, a white flash transfers directly into the perspective of our troops underground, seamlessly putting us into the boots of another character desperately attempting to hide themselves from patrols. The objective flashes on-screen, our mission to disable the power at a Spetznaz-controlled relay station now the prime goal, as we stealthily skulk past troops in the snow-laden mountain ranges, our scoped crossbow coming in handy to pick off hostiles one by one.
One spots us and raises the alarm, sending the mission into disarray as silencers come off and our troops charge down the mountainside. Modern Warfare 2’s breach mechanic has been revitalized. “We listen to comments about our game, about the Call of Duty franchise and about other games,” says Lamia, presumably referring to comments made about Modern Warfare 2’s breach system, which appears to have been implemented here as we rappel down the side of the power station and come crashing through the glass in slow motion, our assault rifle at the ready to take hostiles out during our swing. A brief firefight breaks out as we descend deeper into the station to switch the fuse box, completing our objective and prompting our escape – an avalanche interrupting our descent down the mountainside and forcing us, GoldenEye-style, to make a jump for it. Objective complete. Mission over.
To demonstrate Black Ops’ sheer variation we’re thrust straight into Hue City, Vietnam, for our second mission, the fire-red location a direct contrast to the cold blues of WMD. The mission too, though equally tense, couldn’t be further apart, putting us in the shoes of a US Task Force attempting to secure intelligence from a US headquarters in the throes of being taken over by the Vietcong. It’s a last-ditch gung-ho effort, and a level so typical of Call of Duty, the sensation of the war being fought in the background presented in the style only Call of Duty can ever seem to fathom. Its intense warfare as the squadron battles through office blocks and streets, civilians running for their lives as enemy militants invade the city. We’re told that the story begins here in 1968, but that this strictly isn’t a Vietnam game. Treyarch is placing emphasis on a deep story-driven narrative for Black Ops, with its fictional covert ops weaving in-between moments that are set throughout recent history. But the most impressive thing about it? That you’d easily be forgiven for mistaking Black Ops as an Infinity Ward title.
The single-player, then, seems to be in fairly safe hands, and with a dedicated team inside Treyarch working solely on Black Ops’ multiplayer, that too will likely prove to be this year’s best online shooter. The return of four-player co-op – a feature not seen in Call of Duty since World at War – should also prove to be a highlight, and though the return of the Zombies co-op is still to be confirmed, we’d bet our bottom dollar that it’ll be in there in some form – well, we hope so anyway.
So, for another year running, Call of Duty’s is very much looking like the one to beat. Any doubts about Treyarch’s ability to handle the franchise look likely to be cast away in an instant, and with a feature-packed line-up and wide-ranging scenarios and set-pieces, Black Ops appears to not only be the studio’s most ambitious game to date, but the most ambitious Call of Duty game ever made.
Black Ops’ story weaves between historical moments set throughout the course of recent history. The two missions we were shown were both set in 1968, though we’ve been promised plenty more from recent decades. Recent rumblings report that we may be seeing a level based around JFK’s assassination and the siege on the Iranian Embassy
Treyacrh is still refusing to reveal much about Black Ops’ co-op campaign, but we do know that it’ll be playable for up to four players online and two players via split-screen. We’ve also been told that it’ll be completely separate to Black Ops’ single player campaign, custom-created for co-op gameplay.
The WMD mission starts with players taking control of the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, titling back on the left stick to ascend the jest as it bolts up the runway. However, we’ve also seen footage that suggests players will get control over attack helicopters, blasting away at the Viet Cong hiding in Vietnam’s lush jungle.