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Call of Duty: Black Ops Preview

The Call of Duty series is arguably the most widely recognised and popular gaming series of the current generation. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 selling like hot cakes and proving popular with fans and critics alike, it was simply a matter of time before the next title was unveiled. At a recent press event, GameOn were given the opportunity to see two levels from the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops.

 Black Ops

With the recent controversy regarding Infinity Ward and Activision, it is perhaps best that the latest title is being developed by Treyarch. The studio is clearly dedicated to the series and has been working on the game for over a year already, with development beginning as World at War was completed. Black Ops created something of a stir in the gaming community when the early teaser trailers were revealed, showcasing a radically different setting from the World War II orientated titles Treyarch have become known for. Moving the series to more recent conflicts, á la Modern Warfare 2 seems like a wise decision and the emphasis on covert operations allows a whole new set of situations to be explored.

 Black Ops

Black Ops takes place during the Cold War and the two levels we saw showcased radically different locations and events. The first mission began with the take-off of an SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane, which moves into position high up over the Russian mountains, during the height of the political tension in 1968. A Black-Ops team is required to investigate a weapon-making facility in the Soviet Union and, to begin with, you act as one of the SR-71 pilots conducting a recon of the area. In an unusual move for the series there appears to be some brief RTS moments as you are required to direct a squad from an on-board monitor, manoeuvring them to avoid enemy patrols. However, before you get too worried, the action zooms in and places you in the traditional first-person shoes of your protagonist. While this is admittedly brief, it acts as a nice introduction to the level, setting the scene in an interesting new way.

 Black Ops

First impressions are that the graphics remain similar to the preceding Modern Warfare 2, which in itself is no bad thing as they are crisp and atmospheric. As the mission really begins both you and your team lie underneath banks of snow while nearby enemy troops edge terrifyingly close. Once they pass, you emerge into the frosty daylight, which brings to mind the Cliff-hanger mission from Modern Warfare 2. Evading a small patrol, consisting of a few troops and guard dogs (they're back) you reach the edge of a cliff. Here you rappel down, holding the left trigger and releasing it to "charge" your abseil pushes. Soon enough though, the action really kicks off, with an impressive slow motion rappel-entry into a control room, that's briefly glimpsed in the early trailers. As you break through the windows, time-slows down in a way similar to the entry points from MW2's Special Ops missions. The enemies are swiftly dispatched with some frantic headshots and the level opens up to a more open exterior section.

 Black Ops

Here the gameplay can change depending upon your playing style, with the option given to either go in all guns blazing or to try a more Black Ops stealthy approach. We saw both of these in action, with the first few guards taken out silently with a rather vicious looking scoped crossbow. Choosing each shot carefully is vital to avoid alerting any of the guards, but soon the temptation of some explosive kills proved too much. Switching the crossbow's ammunition to explosive-tipped darts, soon enemies were flying in all directions with the help of a petrol tanker placed nearby. The series' gameplay looks as solid and fast paced as ever with the gunplay fast and frantic, especially during an intense indoor firefight that had enemies assaulting from all angles. The mission itself was brought to a close with the kind of cinematic set-piece that Call of Duty has really become known for, although we won't spoil the details for you.

Call of Duty - Black Ops - Artwork
Call of Duty: Black Ops - Artwork

The second mission proved very different from the previous Black Ops insertion and instead brought to mind the intense, vicious fighting seen in some of the series' most memorable battles. Aptly titled "Slaughterhouse", this level takes place during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War at Hue City as it is attacked by the Vietcong. The mission starts with a dramatic helicopter crash and doesn't let up as you find yourself in some truly brutal close-quarters combat. Wielding an SPAS-12 shotgun, the combat is short, intense and bloody with the dismemberment from World at War returning to gut-churning effect. "Slaughterhouse" shows off what else Call of Duty excels at, the no-holds-barred forceful depiction of combat which is challenging to play. As the level progressed we saw the return of designating targets, used occasionally in World at War, which was used to take out areas of heavy resistance in order to continue with the assistance of a helicopter gunship.

Call of Duty - Black Ops - Artwork
Call of Duty: Black Ops - Artwork

Both levels were impressive to witness and there has clearly been a very close attention to detail. The settings and environments have all been carefully worked on, with the aid of genuine Black Ops consultants to try and create something which is faithful to its source material while still being cinematic. Treyarch commented that they have gone over levels multiple times during development to ensure that they meet the expectations of fans, to the point where they have even redesigned sections to ensure that the pacing is as strong as possible. This certainly seemed to be the case with both of the above levels, which demonstrated the classic gameplay of the series in some new and fresh locations.

While Treyarch are understandably keeping the multiplayer heavily under wraps at the moment, it is understood that there will be 4 player online co-op and a 2 player split-screen offline mode for the single player campaign. When put under a barrage of questions about the possibility of the zombie mode returning, they were rather coy but emphasised that they were definitely looking into including a number of fun game modes.

When asked about the pressure of dealing with one of the largest franchises in gaming the development team commentated that they wouldn't let this affect them. Instead they were focusing all their efforts on crafting the best Call of Duty game possible and with over a years work behind them already, it looks to be shaping up well. However, with some fans slightly sceptical of Treyarch's previous instalments of the series it remains to be seen whether they can be won over.

Call of Duty - Black Ops Developer - Mark Lamia    Call of Duty - Black Ops Developer - Josh Olin
Call of Duty: Black Ops Developers - Mark Lamia & Josh Olin

There are noticeable similarities in the gameplay to previous titles, in particular Modern Warfare and its sequel. Perhaps the biggest challenge that Treyarch face will be to move beyond the long shadows cast by these games and to place their own distinctive mark on Black Ops. On the basis of these levels it certainly seems possible, especially if the story will be as involving as promised, with the player-character receiving a voice for the first time. If the single player campaign can deliver on these new and exciting set-pieces then undoubtedly Black Ops will not only help to move the Call of Duty series forwards with a new setting but also silence a few of the sceptics. With more details still to emerge about the game's expansive multiplayer, this is currently one of the hottest releases on the horizon: November 9th can't come soon enough.

evilgiraffeman | 28th May, 2010
Rasher's picture
loving the look of this so far
i have never raved about a CoD to date, but REALLY looking forward to this

and please, Zombies as an 4 player COOP, i know some people don't like it, but i do hope they add it in to this version.

Plus how cool is the 4 player COOP going to be in general
Ex0dUs's picture
I had really gone off the CoD series, especially after all the cash grabbing rubbish thats gone on with it, but this is really sparking my interests.

Sounds like they may be headed in the right direction with it, reading the preview here has certainly got me in the frame of mind to read more on the game as it develops, which i wouldn't have bothered to otherwise to be honest.

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