Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Preview (PS3)

June 7, 2012Written by Alex Osborn

Every year, the latest installment in Activision’s insanely popular first-person shooter franchise sells like crazy, so I was hardly surprised when I saw a massive screen bearing the Black Ops 2 logo above the publisher’s booth. Upon my arrival, I was immediately escorted to a closed-doors theatre where an extended section of the Los Angeles level was demoed.

As you might expect, massive explosions and intense firefights comprised the bulk of the play session, as the player fought tooth and nail escorting the president to a safe house. From operating anti-aircraft guns to piloting a jet in one heck of an intense aerial firefight, explosions were dealt out in a myriad of ways. In addition, we also got a look at some of the branching options within the campaign, as the player was forced to either grapple below or snipe from above. It looked like a blast, but in the end, it still appeared to play a whole heck of a lot like the last several Call of Duty games, even with that added wrinkle of choice thrown in.

However, that all changed when they rolled out the second demonstration, which showed off one of the game’s Strike Force missions. These unique gameplay sections are embedded within the campaign, but operate in a completely different manner depending on your style of play. Those that prefer to stick with the first-person shooting that dominates the bulk of the game have the option to do so, but those looking to mix it up can pull back from the battlefield at any time and issue commands like a real-time strategy title. In addition, you can operate any of the drones in first-person, which was particularly cool when the demonstrator inhabited a Quadrotor Drone.

Interestingly enough, failing these particular missions will not have you replaying it until you succeed. Instead, you’ll continue on and that failure will creep up to haunt you later in the game, as your performance on each Strike Force mission will directly affect the flow of the campaign. These added missions are undoubtedly a breath of fresh air and will interject some fresh new elements into an otherwise tried-and-true first-person shooter.

The visuals, while not a major leap forward, were definitely a noticeable improvement upon its predecessors. I also can’t say enough about the development team’s ability to present the near-future in such a compelling fashion. The devastated city of Los Angeles looked great, especially when a group of Quadrotor Drones were whizzing by in the background.

In the end, it’s very much a Call of Duty game, but the additions that Treyarch has managed to layer atop the hallmark run-and-gun experience definitely set Black Ops 2 apart from the pack. Not only die-hard fans of the franchise but also those who’ve gotten a bit tired of the formula should put this game on their radar, as Activision’s upcoming shooter looks like it may just be able to strike the right balance of maintaining that classic Call of Duty experience while adding in some exciting new twists for those who want something different.