Gamescom 2010: Call of Duty: Black Ops Preview - War Is (Not) Hell
Written Thursday, September 02, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
“There’s no time like the present” goes the famous saying and for Call of Duty’s number two developer, Treyarch, there really is no time like the present. With the catastrophic goings-on hogging the airwaves over at Infinity Ward, following "the biggest entertainment release of all time", it’s perfect timing for the developer to put its mark on the map. With tepid additions to the Call of Duty franchise for quite a few cycles now, with all of their 250 strong development team focused on Black Ops, the 3 game a year developer seems a far cry away. This is it this year for Treyarch and after checking out one of the single player missions at Gamescom, it seems like putting all their eggs in one basket could turn out to be quite a shrewd move.
'Victor Charlie' is the mission and stealth ops in South-East Asia is the name of the game. Picking up proceedings along the banks of the Huong River in Vietnam, the spec ops team are investigating the alleged involvement of a Soviet general in the region and judging by the opening minutes alone, Treyarch have taken a leaf out of the Infinity Ward playbook by going for big Hollywood moments and epic set-pieces.
“Mayday, may…!” screamed the chopper pilot, with his last scream for help cut short when the ambushed chopper came crashing into the Huong River with a mighty thud. As water seeped into the fast-sinking bird, the ambush continued to overwhelm the downed crew as the situation dawned on them. Behind enemy lines, Sgt. Mason and the crew desperately flailed as the urgency of the situation crept in and two quick headshots later with the handgun and the spec ops team were leaving the debris behind and swimming for safety. Even the swim away reeked of Call of Duty’s bombastic Hollywood representation of war as bullets fizzed past the crew who used the river to mask their getaway.
After the chaotic beginning, the special ops team reassembled and planned their next assault - a small village a few clicks away. Passing through the green shrubbery that covered the crew’s way in, it’s clear that Treyarch has really paid a lot more attention to detail this time around, as the picturesque waterfall and swinging canopy was almost enough to distract you from the job at hand. Just looking at the drab, overcast day, you knew that rain wasn’t far away and right on cue, the heavens open.
In true Call of Duty fashion, the team - which had since split up - surrounded a couple of Vietnamese soldiers that took up a patrol position on a small dock, just slightly down from the village. As if by magic, two of Mason’s fellow spec ops team emerged from the water to slit the throats of the two soldiers before them, meaning the coast was clear for the squad to regroup.
With a new plan of action, Mason headed underwater to place the Semtex H he had just received from one of the squad members on an underwater structure, ready to detonate to provide an explosive distraction for them once they had moved up into their next position.
Sneaking through the small settlement - slightly down from their previous position - carefully avoiding the cockerels on the way, Mason slipped through the window, to avoid detection. A quick couple of brutal takedowns with the knife later - dispatching the guard while he slept and another one who stood guard - the squad passed through the settlement and out to the long grass the other side.
“Mason, let’s see what the Semtex can do,” instructs your squadron leader, urging the soldier to create the distraction so they can infiltrate the village. Silent infiltration is no longer an option as the explosion goes off and Mason and co. flood into the village to take on the swarms of local troops. Flicking between the rocket launcher and the sniper rifle, the crew make short work of the troops on the ground in an intense firefight. With AA placements dotted around, it was up to Mason to take them down, allowing for the back up chopper to come in and lay some fire down.
The intense firefight continues, that is until the chopper comes in and offers some much needed cover fire. Moving through the village, the enemy’s numbers are thinning and the chaos starting to subside. Clearing a hole with a grenade, Mason, Reznov and Swift proceed into the tunnels.
As the pair progress through the dank tunnels, passing severed feet, the haunting echo of enemy soldier’s voices, cockroaches, rats and a plethora of dripping water along the way, the focus of the action switches back to the more stealth-orientated ops. Rather than spoil how the mission ends and what happens to who, it’s probably something best experienced yourself. Suffice it to say, the tunnels are rife with danger and the squad are up against it to come out of that situation alive. In other words, someone’s going to die!
Victor Charlie is essentially a mission that starts off chaotically, before settling as the crew silently infiltrates the village, before exploding with action once again. If there’s anything that Treyarch have nailed in Black Ops, that’s the pacing.
It’s not just the pacing though that Treyarch have got spot on, but everything outside of that reminded me of last year’s Infinity Ward smash hit, Modern Warfare 2. Whether you’re talking about the attention to detail as the crew dragged themselves through the underground tunnels or the over-the-top epic set-pieces, it seems as if leaving World War II behind has not only freed Treyarch’s arm to really embrace the creative direction, but also allowed them to possibly surpass anything they’ve ever done to date. To say first impressions are positive is probably selling the Gamescom demo short, but one thing’s for certain, if they can keep up that intensity for the whole campaign, then I suspect many of the masses will be saying “Infinity Ward who?” come this Christmas.
And this is coming from someone who’s been supremely underwhelmed by everything Treyarch has done since Spider-Man 3.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is scheduled for a November 9th, 2010 worldwide release.