Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a game that hardly needs an introduction. As the latest entry in the ridiculously successful Call of Duty franchise, and a direct sequel to 2010′s Black Ops, expectations for Treyarch’s latest blockbuster are understandably high. It features a story split between the 1980s and the year 2025, and the demo I sat in on seemed to hit all the right notes, and even contained a surprise or two.
The first part of the demo took place in Los Angeles in the year 2025. You take on the role of faceless soldier #317 in an attempt to escort the president to a bunker beneath the historic Bonaventure hotel. This sequence is exactly the same one that was shown at Microsoft’s press conference earlier in the week, so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s easier to simply watch that presentation than to read my description of it, which would likely come off as redundant.
Basically, this sequence is, well, what people have come to expect from Call of Duty, for better or worse. There’s a lot of slow-motion, big explosions, fighting waves of enemies, etc. There is, however, a section at the end that has the player piloting an FA-38 in a full on dogfight over the skies of Los Angeles.
The next portion of the demo featured something entirely new called Strike Force, and it is a pretty substantial departure from the franchise’s usual pacing and design philosophies. These missions are sandbox-style affairs, and they are peppered throughout the main single player campaign. The one we were shown took place in Singapore, with an overall goal of disabling a large freighter resting in the harbor.
There were also a number of side objectives scattered throughout the level, such as disabling missiles, stealing encrypted data, etc., and completing them will not only aid you in achieving the main goal, but will impact the rest of the campaign in meaningful ways. You can also fail Strike Force missions outright, which will also have an impact on the campaign. Failing the mission may lead to better armed enemy combatants down the line, a lack of reinforcements when you need them most, and will even affect the outcome of the story.
With troops spread out all across the map, Strike Force would be a mess without some way to keep track of them. Fortunately, the Overwatch view gives you an RTS-like, bird’s eye view of the battlefield, highlighting your troops in green and enemy troops in red. You can select groups of them and set waypoints for them to follow, designate specific targets for them to focus on, etc. If you notice that things aren’t going particularly well for your forces, you can also take direct control of any friendly troops on the field, be they standard infantry, flying attack drones, huge 4-legged walker drones, or little rovers with big guns attached.
Within the context of the Call of Duty franchise, Strike Force is a pretty novel concept. For a series that is so slow to change or break from its usual formula, it’s nice to see Treyarch doing something a little different to add variety to the proceedings. It’s kind of a shame that Strike Force mode won’t be making its way to multiplayer, but hey, one step at a time, right?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will launch on November 13th, 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.