E3 2010: Call of Duty: Black Ops First LookBy Andrew Pfister - Posted May 28, 2010
Call of Duty: Black Ops is going to be in an incredibly intense spotlight, probably like no other COD game before it. With all the industry drama surrounding the blockbuster franchise, most notably the personnel shakeup at Infinity Ward, many people who fancy themselves analysts will pore over the next Call of Duty game for any sign of franchise instability. Black Ops developer Treyarch, who has unjustifiably been saddled with the reputation of being the series' "B-team" and therefore gets extra scrutiny, has a lot on their plate, but based on the playable demonstration of the game I recently saw at a pre-E3 event, they are lacking in neither intensity nor focus.
We saw two levels, both of which were played on stage by a Treyarch representative (we know this because he inadvertently died during the demo). The first took place in a snowy, high altitude mountain range. But before we got there, we actually started off on the tarmac of an undisclosed airbase, sitting in the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. Given clearance for takeoff, we cut to the plane already in flight, miles above our ground team and just below the atmospheric limit. Similar to COD4's famous "Death From Above" mission set in the airborne gunship, the pilots of the SR-71 use thermal imaging to track the ground team's movements and mark enemy locations. We're then transported to the ground team itself, and onto the core of the mission. They first made their way through a woodsy area, making sure to be quiet in the crunching snow as a patrol -- complete with canine unit -- strolled by on medium alert. After successfully infiltrating the perimeter defenses, the team rappels down an icy cliff and carefully manuevers through the mountain-side base, completes their objective, and starts blowing everything to hell. An intense escape sequence ensues through the snowy haze, which culminates in a desperate cliff dive and free fall into the frozen valley below.
The second level switched gears to Vietnam, and was reminiscent of the more intense, destroyed city/corridor-focused battles the Modern Warfare series has been known for. This Black Ops team fought through multiple locations, including frantic gun battles against the fortified Vietcong troops in blown apart office buildings. AK-47s were lying everywhere and grenades were flying a plenty (though not as much spam as I recall in MW2, at least based on my memory).
If there was any concern about where Treyarch's collective head was at, I took this first look at Black Ops as evidence that all the business nonsense surrounding the brand was extremely low on the priority list. It looked like they're definitely on the right track to recreating the COD feel in a brand new setting. We'll have loads more of Black Ops coverage as we get closer to E3.