Call of Duty: Black Ops II - What Do We Know?

By Rebecca Smith, 6 years ago
The rumours of the game's existence had floated around for months. Promotional posters had been leaked and supposed screenshots and details had made their way onto the internet. Eventually Activision and Treyarch confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in the games industry: was the name of the 2012 instalment in the Call of Duty franchise. The official reveal trailer was brought to you yesterday, but it didn't give too much away. What details have Treyarch and Activision actually revealed? Here is what we know (there may be potential spoilers included for those who are yet to play

Black Ops II is a direct sequel to Black Ops. As the trailer revealed, select characters from the first game will return in the second. Sgt. Frank Woods has miraculously survived his flight through a window while clinging onto a man wearing a grenade belt. He has aged significantly, but he looks to be playing a key role in Black Ops II. CIA handler Jason Hudson will also return, as will former protagonist Alex Mason. However, Mason will only play a key role in approximately one-third of the game. Why? Black Ops II will cover two time zones and will have different protagonists in each period in a story being crafted by David S. Goyer, who is best known for the creation of Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.

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The earlier of the two time periods will be the 1980s vintage Cold War. Here players assume the role of Alex Mason as a new criminal mastermind rises to the CIA's attention. Raul Menendez is a good soldier who reaches a critical breaking point in the 1980s. From then on his personality changes and he turns into a bitter terrorist whose antics we follow in the second time period. The only 1980s environment that was revealed is Afghanistan. The Black ops team enters a secret rendezvous with Chinese troops to supply the Mujahedeen with the weapons that they need to battle the Soviet forces. Things don't go smoothly and the trailer briefly hinted at the horseback gunplay that players will encounter here.

The trailer also revealed the second time period where players will spend the other two-thirds of the game: 2025. The United States and China are involved in a new Cold War caused by the actions of Menendez. A cyber attack brings the Chinese Stock Exchange to its knees and causes the country to horde Rare Earth materials, a precious group of minerals that are used in the manufacture of a lot of modern technology vital to a country's infrastructure; they are also used in the creation of many weapons. This cyber attack is traced back to the States, giving China an excuse to keep all of the mined minerals for themselves. Players assume the role of Alex Mason's son, David, as he attempts to bring down Menendez.

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The storylines in the Call of Duty franchise are known for being on-the-rails. There is a story to be told and the developer will tell it the way that they want. Things are changing in Black Ops II; this game will have branching storylines. There are multiple story arcs and there will be multiple endings. At key points in the game, players will be presented with options. The choice that is taken could impact the protagonist, his squad mates, Menendez or his henchmen. This won't be as simple as picking option A or B, though. Many of the choices will be based on the player's actions. If a player fails to protect a friendly NPC, their death or capture will not mean that the player has failed; instead, the storyline is likely to splinter off in a different direction than it would have done had the NPC been saved.

The major difference in this latest title is the addition of a non-linear sandbox type of gameplay. Strike Force missions are a sub-mode that is set up within the campaign mode. These missions are placed across the globe in hotspots or proxy wars. Players are tasked with performing various objectives within these small, open levels. The results of these missions (and it is possible to fail them) will change the main campaign battle between the United States and China. They could also affect the actions of Menendez or lead to the death of some of the main characters. Later challenges in future story missions could become easier or more difficult. At times, multiple Strike Force missions will be available for the player to choose, but only one can be selected at any one time. Once one is selected, the other missions will become unavailable, but they will be replaced with new missions later on.

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In the Strike Force missions, the objectives can be attempted in any order and the missions can be played in several different ways. Players could take on the usual Call of Duty role and hit the ground with their squad mates. Another option is to remotely take control of a drone and use that to support your team. Strategists may want to take a seat right away from the main action and issue orders and directions to their troops, deciding exactly who or what should attack from any direction. The missions will play out differently depending on the players' actions. As mentioned above, it is possible to fail these missions, usually when there are no more troops for the player to control.

Black Ops II is set in the near future where technology has progressed past that available for today's forces. Much of the technology featured in the game is based on existing concepts or technology. The trailer gave a quick fleeting glimpse of a new scope attached to a sniper rifle. This scope allows players to see through nearby walls and spot hidden enemies, weapons or traps in the surrounding buildings. The military uses similar technology now, only it is so big that it has to be bolted onto the back of a truck. The current scanner can reveal pretty much everything underground or in the structures of all buildings within a 360o radius.

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As well as the new scope, some weapons have also been modernised. Some rifles now use charged, multi-bullet shots that can tear through cover with the same effect as a rail-gun. Grenades can be thrown further courtesy of new hand cannons. Unfortunately, rocket launchers still only fire rockets. Players will also be equipped with new glasses. These aren't there to keep the sun out of your eyes, they display all of the information usually reserved for the players' HUD.

The trailer also showed that drones will be playing a large part in the upcoming title. Players will be able to command this equipment using the d-pad. However, not only will players be using these drones, they will also be fighting against them. Common foes are land assault drones equipped with rifles, chainguns and/or rocket launchers. Aerial drones, such as the automated sentry drones, are also common. Vehicles will be more high-tech too; a demonstration of a van ride through Los Angeles showed the speedometer and fuel gauge displayed in the corners of the windscreen rather than the dashboard.

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Although details are a bit thin on the ground, it would be remiss of me not to mention the multiplayer modes. Unlike the campaign storyline, the multiplayer will be set exclusively in 2025. The multiplayer will be getting its very own reveal in the future, but two maps were shown. Aftermath is a map set in a destroyed downtown Los Angeles. Yemen is a map set in a deserted island town. Treyarch has confirmed that the game will have a "real deep integration" with Call of Duty Elite though.

Treyarch's co-op mode, Zombies, will definitely be returning, although the developer would have been stupid not to include the mode after the commercial success of the "Rezurrection" DLC for Black Ops. Details are also scarce on this mode, but Zombies will now use the game's improved multiplayer engine. This will mean that the number of zombies will be doubled and it can also "handle a co-op tally double that of Black Ops 1's". This means a possibility of eight-player zombies games. There will also be some new zombies modes, but we'll have to wait and see what exactly those modes may be.

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The Infinity Ward game engine reappears for this game, but the development team have been busy. The graphics of Black Ops are inferior to the new level and texture details proffered by the updated engine. Techniques like bounce lighting and reveal mapping can lend some areas an almost photorealistic quality. Fans will be glad to know that the performance of the game is not affected with this increase in graphical quality. Treyarch's benchmark still remains at 60 frames per second and nothing will be allowed to cause the frame rate to dip below this level.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is due to be released on November 13th, 2012.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.