Trying to Get Excited About Black Ops 2

The Call of Duty franchise is arguably the most popular franchise of this decade, with a rabid fan base of both the single player and multiplayer modes. The unique setup by publisher Activision of having two studios alternate producing games for the franchise allows a new title to be released each year. The odd years fall under the Infinity Ward umbrella, which has brought us the last three Modern Warfare titles, while the even years have belonged to Treyarch, who have provided World at War and Black Ops. A couple of weeks ago, the next Call of Duty title was announced. Black Ops 2 from Treyarch is a non-traditional sequel in the sense that it takes characters and story lines from it’s Cold War predecessor and moves them forward to the year 2025.

Joystiq not only has the trailer, but has spent ample time breaking it down to try and deduce some of the story and features of the game. One of the features that has already been confirmed is “Strike Force Missions“. This unique take allows players to experience missions from different perspectives, that not only present different challenges, but can cause different outcomes, which then effect the game’s later missions. Call of Duty has gained a reputation as being nothing more than a big-budget action movie, with little strategy, and bigger and bigger set pieces and explosions. An attempt to add the strategic element will no doubt ignite new interest for players who have grown tired of the same tried and true formula.

Depending on who you believe, there have also been a number of multiplayer features leaked. One of the most interesting aspects of the alternating studio model, is that the multiplayer experience from one game to the next (and therefore one publisher to the next) can sometimes be significant. The original Black Ops had a very different multiplayer experience compared to it’s predecessor Modern Warfare 2 and it’s successor Modern Warfare 3, both of which shared a much more “run and gun” style of fast-paced gameplay. Despite the studios making their own games, they do tend to put in certain aspects that the other has found successful.

For example, if that article is to be believed, Black Ops 2 will include the Kill Confirmed game mode as well as point streaks, both of which were introduced in Modern Warfare 3. It will also include the Specialist point streak option, although slightly modified to not grant all perks upon hitting the final Specialist level. There will be 15 Prestige levels from the beginning (same as original Black Ops, different from Modern Warfare 3 which added everything after 10 after the game’s release), and there will be 50 ranks (again same as original Black Ops), as opposed to the 80 required in Modern Warfare 3.

One of the catches here is that every two prestiges, 5 extra levels are needed, so the final prestige will have 90 levels. This is a nice little twist to make things increasingly more difficult to prestige. The number of levels could be significant if the amount of XP to get to 50 is about the same amount of XP needed to get to 50 in Modern Warfare 3, but if XP is harder to come by, or you need just as much as you needed to get to 80 before, the fewer ranks won’t have much of an impact on prestige rate.

Frustrating things like the MOAB/nuke supposedly will not be back. Chaining kill/point streaks in Modern Warfare 2 made getting the nuke a little too easy, but the number of MOABs I saw in Modern Warfare 3 was pretty low. This was the result of pointstreak kills not counting towards the MOAB. Supposedly Last Stand and death streaks have also been removed. Last Stand has long been an annoyance for most people and it makes sense to do away with it. Death streaks weren’t incredibly helpful for the most part, and I never minded them, but I doubt they will be missed.

One interesting note in that G4 article, was regarding map design, which states “Map design and size will be following Black Ops not Modern Warfare 3”. This could be significant since most of Modern Warfare 3 maps were small, close quarters style maps until the first map packs were released. I have always felt that this map design is what significantly contributed to the fast paced gameplay that wasn’t seen in previous titles.

Sniper rifles will also revert back to Black Ops style (if you believe what you read). This will hopefully eliminate the quickscoping that was revived in Modern Warfare 3. This annoyance is literally the bane of my video game existence, and completely takes away the enjoyment of the game at times. Supposedly, the removal of “aim assist” means that the gun is not accurate until it is fully zoomed in.

The perk system is getting a 2.0 update as well. There will be two pro options available for each perk, and the pro options will be achieved differently. Once a player commits to one of the pro perks for it’s respective “base” perk, the other can’t be selected until the player prestiges and re-unlocks the pro perk. This will likely make pro perks less powerful, as most of the pro perks benefits will probably be split into two separate options instead of just being one. This will certainly help balance the game a bit. There is still a lot of multiplayer information that remains unknown, but much of it will be announced over the next couple of months.

The first console version I played of Call of Duty was #5, World at War. It was the last version set in World War II and I really enjoyed both the single player campaign and multiplayer. I thought Modern Warfare 2 had a much improved multiplayer mode and spent a great deal of time playing it. I did finish the single player campaign as well. Although I spent less time playing Black Ops multiplayer than either of the two most recent Modern Warfare incarnations, it was probably my favorite. I can’t really explain what I liked about it so much, but the era, weapons and speed of the game just felt more fun to me.

I have spent a significant amount of time playing Modern Warfare 3, despite the fact that I think the game has many flaws. It was still a much better multiplayer experience compared to Modern Warfare 2, and because it took 80 ranks to prestige (compared to Black Ops’ 50) I am sure I spent more time because I wanted to rank up as high as possible1.

One thing all of these existing games have in common however, is that they take place either in present day, or the past, none of the take place in the future. I have never been a fan of futuristic games. The original Command and Conquer: Red Alert was my favorite game growing up, and when the Command and Conquer series moved towards the future, with all kinds of mechs and robots, I lost interest. I prefer games like Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire to games like Grand Theft Auto, and as I stated earlier, my favorite single player campaign of the Call of Duty series was, by far, the one in World at War. The fact that Black Ops 2 is set just 13 years out in 2025 indicates that it’s not likely to be too over the top as far as “futuristic” goes, but it’s definitely not what I was hoping for.

Chris2 is quite confident that I will still purchase this game. And let’s face it, he was right about me purchasing Modern Warfare 3, which I was majorly on the fence about until we decided to do our 2nd Game-A-Thon. He was also right about NCAA Football 13, which I pre-ordered last week after vowing to take a year off after last year’s abomination3. Our friend Dave (a.k.a. “Magic Bus”) bought Modern Warfare 3, mostly so he could participate in Game-A-Thon 2011, and hasn’t played the game since 2012 started. He agrees with my theory that if I buy the game, I will spend the same ridiculous4 amount of time playing it, instead of doing something that is actually productive.

I know that at some point I have to break the habit, and the only way I can do that is by not buying the next game. I didn’t think that would be possible, because I have immense amounts of confidence in Treyarch, and I was expecting something awesome. The futuristic angle might be the open door I need to duck out, but I am still unsure.

  1. At the time of this writing, I believe I am level 68 of prestige 8, although I haven’t played in several weeks []
  2. My co-host on the Hippo Podamus []
  3. I should note that I caved early on this because Amazon had it on sale for $45, and a 15% discount I thought it was worth the risk. Shameful I know []
  4. So ridiculous mind you, that I refuse to specifically provide the number []