First Look: Call of Duty: Black Ops II gameplay footage

For all the naysayers who think that Treyarch and Activision are merely “riding the cash pony” for its latest Call of Duty: Black Ops II…um, have you even seen it in action?  No, you haven’t.  Luckily, we have, and we’ve got a full recap of the gameplay footage we saw, as well as the new Overwatch mode that’s being introduced, right here for you.

Activision, who recently showed the footage as part of its pre-E3 push, is putting a lot of confidence into Black Ops II, and for good reason.  Treyarch has really gone the extra mile to make the game feel different from the original, while at the same time featuring some tie-ins through flashback storyline sequences (involving Alex Mason from the original game, along with his buddies).  There's even a scene that introduces the villain of the story, who the team feels actually has a method to his madness.  But we didn’t see any of this just yet, only an amazing sequence that takes place in Los Angeles, along with bits and pieces from the Overwatch mode.

Let’s talk L.A. first.  The stage opened with Dave Mason, son of Alex, riding with the female president in a barrage of Hummers headed into a war-torn Los Angeles, with literally dozens of automated drones flying overhead.  Before you can say “Metta World Peace," a downed helicopter ends the ride early, forcing Dave and his team to go on foot and scrambling to get the president to safety.  It’s here that we’re introduced to the familiar third-person shooting action that the series is known for — but with some futuristic twists.

The first involves the weaponry in the game, including some effective (if limited) missile launchers and an awesome high-tech rifle with a scope that lights up targets quite easily, making for some good terrain for head shots.  You’ll also take on automated threats like flying drones and walkers, but the walkers actually have a weak point — their legs.  During the demo, we saw Dave take out one of the walker’s legs, circling around it and finishing it off while we were just outside of its range.

But these machines are just part of the threat, as the terrorist, a lunatic named Raul Menendez, has a number of soldiers fighting for his cause, as well.  Throughout the demo, we saw sections where they popped up at every turn, preventing an escape through a collapsed freeway (complete with crumbling overpass, very awesome) with an ambush, and creating havoc in the streets while you try to work your way to the president’s safety point.

The game featured shooting segments both high and low with you protecting your squad by shooting enemies from afar, then getting back into the firefight as you battle through the city streets — which look an awful lot like the ones we roam around during E3.  Interesting.  There’s also a fun sequence where you temporarily control a rocket-shooting turret, downing drones after locking onto them.  You need to escape quick, though, as an explosion rocks the truck over the side of the overpass, forcing you to escape before it collapses.

After a few more firefights, all featuring fast-moving visuals and impeccable detail (this is one of the better looking Call of Duty games to date), Dave is able to hop into a jet, where he takes to the air and brings the battle directly to the drones.  It’s here that the gameplay kicked up a notch, with solid flight controls and boosting, along with locking onto targets and shooting them out of the sky.  (Oh, and don’t hit the buildings — that would probably be bad.)  The sequence concluded with Dave bailing out of the jet, just as it directly collided into a drone.  Awesome way to end the demo, if we do say so ourselves.

From there, Treyarch launched into another gameplay segment, one taking place on a frigate in Singapore.  Here, you’ll actually guide a team into battle against enemies, while marking objectives and setting up for an air strike.  These new Overwatch missions actually rely heavily on success or failure.  No matter which way they go, your story will continue, but their outcome can actually effect how your story ends, which is rather cool.  So try to win, okay?

What’s cool about Overwatch is how you can zoom out at any time and basically look at a cyber map to see what’s happening, and then zoom in to any active member of your party, taking control of them.  These include soldiers, point men, walkers and drones, making the fight rather unpredictable.  We can see these parts of the game getting quite competitive amongst players.  They look like fun.

Finally, Treyarch is building the multiplayer from the ground up, though it will contain full Call of Duty Elite integration, along with… yep, the return of zombies.  This time around, though, there’s a four versus four multiplayer aspect, possibly similar to the Left 4 Dead games… but with that Treyarch touch.  We’re eager to see how this turns out.

In all, Call of Duty: Black Ops II definitely looks like it’s living up to the hype.  While the demo wasn’t hands on, it was action packed throughout, with explosive visuals and awesome segments that will make for a good time on a Saturday night… or any night for that matter.  We’ll have more impressions on the game in the months ahead, leading to its November 13 release date.

And you Call of Duty skeptics?  Shut it.  This is no rehash.

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Robert Workman
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