Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Gameplay Preview -- A First Look at the Future and Strike ForceBy Eric Eckstein - Posted May 01, 2012
Strap yourselves in COD fans, this Black Ops 2 gameplay preview will give you your first look at the future in action including two new innovative reveals for Call of Duty. If you want more about the futuristic setting and story for BO2, check out our exploration of Black Ops 2's story and setting or dig into Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer and zombie details.
After painting a picture of a world ruled by robotics, machinery easily infiltrated by cyber warfare I might add, it was really important that I see some COD gameplay to get my mind off the terrifying nature of what our future may hold. Naturally, Treyarch’s first Black Ops 2 demo did not disappoint.
The mission, “Protect P.O.T.U.S.,” takes place deep in the single-player campaign, as our villain, Raul Menendez, has stolen the keys to the military infrastructure and turned our own U.S. drone fleet against us. The scene opens in a van speeding down the L.A. freeway, the sky filled with drones raining death about downtown Los Angeles circa 2025. We are David Mason, son to Call of Duty: Black Ops hero Alex Mason, and our job is to keep the president alive. The rest is chaos.
Within the first opening seconds of this mission, our vehicle is disabled, forcing us to proceed on foot. Aerial drones are doing flybys on cars, and we need to provide cover. We rush to a downed military vehicle, and hop on the SAM turret, targeting groups of drones and firing missiles to take them out. We’re then running to the edge of the highway which has broken before us, and we’re presented with a first for the Call of Duty series: Choice.
Two simple text options appear on the screen: “Snipe” and “Rappel.” Black Ops 2 is playing on as we figure out our next step, and we opt to Snipe as the president is slowly lowered to the ground by her protectors. There are deeper elements of choice that we’ll get into later, but for now, we grab our rifle and proceed to pick off ground forces.
As we’re in 2025, optics have come a long way, and now our sights allow us to see not only through walls, but into vehicles as well. We pick off some bad guys behind a pillar, on nearby buildings, and inside cars before rappelling down ourselves to join the squad. After some running and gunning, we’re back in a car, racing to get downtown.
This sequence is drivable, and we’re swerving into and out of the way of vehicle husks. The freeway crumbles beneath us in true spectacular Hollywood fashion, and we’re once again on our feet, taking out baddies. It’s here we bear witness to a slight tweak on grenades: Electronic charges. In the future, why would we rely on human strength to throw a projectile? Simply point and hit the grenade button, and the nade goes shooting out of your arm towards your target.
Along the way, we encounter our first non-traditional enemy in the CLAW (Cognitive Land Assault Weapon), a four-legged armored unit with guns mounted upon it. Instead of shooting it in the face until it is dead, we snipe at its legs, disabling its movement until we can destroy it. We take out a few of these alongside their human allies before working our way inside a building.
Now’s our turn to call in some drones of our own: a pair of machine-gun toting quadcopters that we can direct by marking territory. These self-sufficient machines auto-target enemies in their sights, allowing the squad to press on outside. We come upon a building that has begun to collapse, crashing down dramatically in front of us, blinding us with dust and debris.
It was an impressive first showing for Black Ops 2, but this mission wasn’t over yet. A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft (think Harrier jets) is waiting before us; the pilot needing medical attention on the ground. Naturally, we hop right in to help escort the president through the streets of Los Angeles. Hovering above her, we take out enemy targets that attempt fruitlessly to do our president harm, and then things get nuts (well...more nuts).
Beyond simply hovering, we transition into jet mode, flying above the city of Los Angeles, engaging aerial drones. This jet sequence seems fully playable and not on rails, as we shoot scores of drones while streaking past buildings. Eventually, in true Call of Duty fashion, we are put on a collision course with a drone and eject at the last second, parachuting to earth and ending the mission.
As expected, all of this ran exceptionally smooth at 60 frames-per-second, though graphically, the engine is showing some wear despite the Treyarch production team employing best efforts to keep the aging IW engine up to snuff. In other ways though, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will be employing a lot more technique in concert with its tech to improve the game. New mo-cap tech allows their in-game models to more accurately nail actor facial features, adding a deeper level of emotion to digital characters.
We also saw a glimpse of a mission set in Afghanistan during the 80s, where Frank Woods and Alex Mason meet up with the local rebels, the mujahedin. As seen in the trailer, at least some portion of these missions will involve explosive horseback-based action, another first for COD. Take that Assassin’s Creed 3!
As we learned via a tour of multiplayer maps set on Socotra island, part of the Republic of Yemen, and downtown Los Angeles, new lighting tech will allow richer bounced lighting and tweaks to high dynamic range; for example, when the iris expands when moving from an interior to an exterior lighted area.
Additionally, a new process of ‘reveal mapping’ lets the Treyarch team create better texture blends; for example, a layer of cobblestones and a layer of sand are joined together to create a cobblestone road that appears to have sand in the cracks and crevices. We'll have more on the visual and engine tweaks later.
Choice will be a larger part of Call of Duty than ever before, with Black Ops 2 offering branching storylines and a deeper level of replayability. As mentioned earlier, there were will be times in-mission where you’ll be presented with options, but it was important to Treyarch to never have the game stop. Black Ops 2 will go on without you; the game will never pause when it presents you with multiple paths, a la Gears of War...
Your choices will have an effect on how the story is told, and it will be your skill that affects the outcome. Key characters may live or die, the people in your squad, villains…and in some cases, the story will go on even if you fail a mission. And yes, there will be different ways the story will resolve, along with information on where you succeeded or failed, though before you get ahead of yourself, this is still Call of Duty. Don’t start drafting your Mass Effect 3-inspired petition yet.
Another brand new gameplay mode to Call of Duty will be the concept of Strike Force levels, non-linear sandbox gameplay that affects the branching storyline. These missions are integrated into the single-player campaign; think of them as hot spots around the world, which you’ll be briefed on and assigned a team to tackle. If there are three missions to choose from, choosing one will be a branch in the story.
Success or failure of the Strike Force mission will have story ramifications as territories rise and fall or US-China relations improve or deteriorate, and they will not stop the single-player story from moving forward, even if you die. These can be replayed, if so desired, so if you’re a perfectionist, you can relax. However, playing Strike Force levels is completely different than any Call of Duty or Black Ops experience before it.
Strike Force levels are presented similar to the N7 missions of Mass Effect 3; objectives are laid out on a contained map which needs to be accomplished alongside your squad with all the arsenal available to it. In the example we were shown, the team needed to take out a cargo container ship at a dock in Singapore by disabling different points on the map.
At its most basic, Strike Force missions have you engaging in horde mode-style gameplay, leading Black Ops forces against enemies but not only as soldiers. You can deploy drones like the CLAW mini-tank, quad copter, or assault sentry, and you can jump into them and pilot them directly. More so, you can do this at will, jumping from soldier to soldier, drone to drone to accomplish the goal.
And if that’s not enough, you can go into Overwatch mode, which pulls out like a third-person RTS, allowing you to direct your squad and drones from a higher level, before jumping in and taking active control of a soldier or drone. In our demo, we hopped from soldier to quad-copter drone, scouting out the enemies as they rappelled in from helicopters before taking control of a CLAW to go in and suppress them while we took over an objective. It’s like a whole other game living inside Black Ops 2.
Between the manic action of the single-player campaign as outlined in our downtown Los Angeles demo or the tactical flow of Strike Force missions, it’s clear that Black Ops 2 plans on packing a lot of solo play for gamers when it’s released. If all these elements come together, Black Ops 2 could offer the biggest shooter experience ever, and we haven’t even seen multiplayer or zombies mode yet.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Story Preview -- Back to the Future Warfare
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Preview -- Classic Fragging, New Zombies, and eSports Details