E3 2012: Black Ops II preview

Entering into Activision's massive, yet packed E3 booth, all eyes were on Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The company's event lineup is an impressive one at that, featuring the likes of 007, Skylanders, Transformers, and more, but we'd be fools to think that Activision would focus on anything more than their coveted franchise shooter. Nevertheless, after seeing yesterday's showcase during the Microsoft E3 press briefing, we were unsure what we'd exactly see.

Our gameplay demo began with a short word from one of the Black Ops II team members. He then handed the reigns over to another representative who guided our demo on the Xbox 360. The sequence we viewed during our time was a clone to what the world viewed yesterday at the Microsoft event. The fifteen minute-or-so walkthrough showcased several aspects of the upcoming shooter, none more though than its push for innovation through a new setting. From high-powered sniper rifles to drone technology that can seemingly sense what the average soldier would, it was clear that we were in the year 2025. 


Gameplay will undoubtedly feel similar to past Call of Duty titles, but you don't have to fix what's not broke, right? Still, we sensed a real push for players to experiment with different play styles apart from your average run-and-gun method. Technology such as drones add flavor to your combat; when you're drones are fighting enemies it gives you time to flank enemies in a satisfying way. In addition, players will have the chance to choose what paths they want to take to accomplish their tasks at hand, such as how you could in ​Gears of War. ​Our demo showed two paths across a war-stricken stretch of pavement – one through sniping, the other through rappelling. Allowing players to play sequences the way that best suits them is most definitely a treat to those who dread certain tasks in past installments. 

Our single-player demo ended with the fast-flying, free flight jet battle, as seen yesterday during the MS briefing. We were then treated with a first-look at ​Black Ops II's Strike Force levels. According to Activision, these levels take place during the main campaign, though apart in its own interesting way. At any one time players will get intel to different tasks that they can tackle on their time. Unlike your main adventure, though, Strike Force Levels are a win-lose battle, and either outcome will affect your single-player story in one way or another, especially from a political standpoint. We were thrown into a Singapore level where we had to cap three points through data jammers. We acted as directors over our team of soldiers, drones, and mechs, signaling where each team should locate to. Interestingly, you can take over and play as any of your squad at any time during the battle, making for some brilliant strategy sequences. Our team eventually overcame the opposition, capping all three points, and finishing the enemy off by an air-strike bombing…yeah, very thrilling. 

Though Black Ops II 's main campaign is somewhat of a mystery in terms of what we've seen thus far, we were taken by surprise by the fun that Strike Force levels offer. The idea of sand-box gameplay in a Call of Duty title is interesting in and of itself, and it definitely shows that Activision is focusing on innovative features. Overall, Black Ops II ​is shaping up to take a different route than its predecessors, so if you're assuming you can predict what'll be in the final product, you may want to think again.