EXCLUSIVE: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Preview
An in-depth and exclusive look at the next Call of Duty game.
I settle into my leather La-Z Boy with a drink in hand, feet propped up, and staring at a 103-inch plasma screen. No, I’m not at a private cinema screening although it feels very much like that. I’ve been gracefully invited for a press event at Treyarch Studios in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and we’re all eager to see what this award-winning studio has in store this afternoon.
After a brief introduction from the lovely PR folks (i.e ‘film anything and you’re flying home’), Mark Lamia, Studio Head at Treyarch, strides into the room. “Welcome”, he begins “to the Internet’s worst-kept secret.”
Lamia is of course referring to the recent Internet leaks that have pointed to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and today we get to be the first ones in the world to officially see what the studio has been up to. Treyarch has enjoyed plenty of success with the Call of Duty franchise – the studio reception area holds a large screen that displays in real time the hundreds of thousands of gamers logging in to score some headshots. Lamia credits the studio with pushing the boundaries of the franchise, and promises that they will always deliver a ‘complete package’ to fans. Without getting into too much detail, he said that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will receive a massive technological push to take advantage of DirectX 11 and deliver a COD experience like never before. The original Call of Duty: Black Ops opened to phenomenal success, selling an estimated 4.2 million copies in the U.S alone within 24 hours of going on sale.
A COD story like never before
The story for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 initially sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but Lamia assures us that as with previous titles, the game is based on hard facts. While the present day sees the battle for oil being a key political driver, in a number of years attention will be shifted to something called “rare earth elements”- seventeen chemical elements that fuel most of today’s consumer devices. From screens to smartphones, every modern device has some degree of rare earth elements in it. And it turns out that China currently has the largest deposits of rare earth elements in the world, making it a hot topic of discussion.
Lamia’s short geography lesson is intertwined with press clippings and even a statement from President Obama in March 2012 stating that the United States is planning to look into China’s iron grasp on its export of rare earth elements. It’s also revealed that rare earth elements play a big factor in military technologies, especially heavy weapons and unmanned military drones. Which leads us to the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment about the storyline in Black Ops 2.
The game starts off in the ‘80s, where you play as David Mason, son of Alex Mason, the main protagonist in the original Call of Duty: Black Ops. Rather than just introduce a roster of familiar characters in Black Ops 2, Lamia explained that the team had to sit down and think about ‘why does so-and-so character need to come back to COD?’ I’m not saying that every single character you meet will be someone from the original game, but (HUGE SPOILER ALERT AHEAD) as a tip, fans will be happy to know that Woods does return to the franchise and that most of the game is told through him. Having said that, each and every character you meet will be vital to your character and story progression.
For the first time in the series’ history, Black Ops 2 will shift the time-frame halfway through the game, fast-forwarding the action to the year 2025. Now of course Treyarch could have gone all Terminator and flooded the world with killer robots and deadly lasers, but they’re far too sensible to do that. They instead employed the thinking of a man called Peter W Singer, author of the book “Wired For War”, which essentially details how warfare is going to completely change in coming years. Singer’s job is essentially to advise world leaders on any growing concerns in the coming decades. His first divination is what Lamia talked about at the start of the presentation – who is going to control the rare earth elements in the years to come? The second statement was more of a play on what is already happening on the battlefield today; the use of robotics in warfare. Drones, automated turrets, and bomb-diffusing robots are just some of the things that troops use every day in battle.
So naturally Treyarch thought they would play on this ‘automation invasion’ and see if they could work this into the game. And they did it beautifully – in 2025 huge waves of American drones and equipment have gone on the fritz and are now bombing and attacking various cities. It turns out the machines aren’t out of control at all, but are being manipulated by the game’s villain, who Lamia describes as “the most comprehensive three-dimensional character we’ve ever created”. That’s saying quite a lot, but the beauty of that statement is that you get to see for yourself if it’s true – when the game is set in the 80s you get to learn of this villain’s character, and you gradually see events unfold that created the monster you confront in 2025. To him everyone else are merely pawns in his twisted game; whether he wants to achieve world domination or unadulterated chaos is for you to discover. The story unfolds in spectacular fashion, thanks to the writing skills of David Goyer, who consulted on the storyline for the original Black Ops. Here’s a short video from Dave Anthony, Game Director, on how the story is setup in Black Ops 2: