Why Black Ops 2 will be better than Modern Warfare 3
24th Apr 2012 | 15:54
As previously reported on CVG, the next instalment in the Call of Duty series will be formally unveiled on American TV this coming Tuesday, May 1st.
As it's (checks calendar) an even-numbered year, we know it's Treyarch's turn at the wheel. That means the mystery title is more than likely going to be
For many potential recruits, that will be reason enough to disengage. Treyarch has long had a reputation amongst gamers as Activision's CoD 'B' team - a studio that exists only to plug the scheduling gaps between the 'proper' Infinity Ward releases.
That however is an outdated view. Their last release, 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops, was something of a 'coming of age' story for the Californian studio.
It marked the first time Treyarch were given the same luxuries as their internal rivals - luxuries such as a two-year developmental cycle and a mega-budget to rival NASA. Even a man with a face full of flashbang could see the massive improvements the extra love yielded over their previous efforts. Still, however, the expectations were that Infinity Ward would blow it out the water the following year with Modern Warfare 3.
But you know what? Now that the smoke has cleared, the hype dissipated and the last few remnants of the Eiffel Tower tidied up, we reckon that - whisper it - Black Ops holds up as being just as good as Modern Warfare 3.
We're not necessarily talking about the single player campaign - for our money, Treyarch's set-pieces and pacing still somewhat miss their mark. But as an overall package, Black Ops easily rivals the last two Modern Warfare games for breadth and variety of content.
And if they continue improving at their current pace, it's not inconceivable that Treyarch could soon overtake their beleaguered sister studio, who are still rebuilding after a mass staff exodus.
Over the next few pages, we look at some of the things Treyarch got right in Black Ops 1, and why they point towards Black Ops 2 being the best Call of Duty game ever....
The Wager Matches were one of Black Ops' most fascinating multiplayer innovations.
Here, players could bet 'COD Points' (a form of currency which could be exchanged for weapons and emblems) against other human players in one of four different game types.
These included the 'Gun Game' (an idea pinched from Counter Strike - each kill upgraded your weapon) and 'Sharpshooter'(where everyone has the same weapon, which swaps around randomly in 45-second cycles).
Although the currency system underpinning it was flawed, these game types were a creative and entertaining way to hoist players out of their comfort zone and get them using weapons they would never otherwise dream of equipping.
All it needs now is a proper sense of danger. It'll be interesting to see whether Treyarch can use the CoD Elite infrastructure to create an environment where the Wager Matches can offer real, meaningful risks - and real rewards, too.
MAPS WITH COLOUR
Bar a few choice exceptions (such as the stunning Sanctuary, set inside a Greek monastery), Modern Warfare 3's maps are a dull, industrial bunch. Authentic they may be, but there's little that catches the eye.
This is obviously a matter of personal preference, but we felt more at home waging war on some of Black Ops' more outlandish battlescapes. We're talking abandoned zoos, indoor ice rinks and derelict movie drive-in theatres.
War's a serious enough business already, so is a bit of levity to lighten the mood too much to ask? Not when you're planting claymores on a golf course, it isn't.
Infinity Ward has dabbled with the absurd as well (most memorably with Modern Warfare 2's Carnival), but there's a more playful vibe surrounding Treyarch's map settings and we're looking forward to seeing what ridiculous war theatres they're going to brew up this time around.
At first, we weren't sure whether we liked these combustible remote-controlled buggies or not. But the more hours we sunk into Black Ops' multiplayer, the more we realised how much fun an addition they are - regardless of whether you're the exploder or the explodee.
A warfield with an active RC-XD is a warfield fraught with panic, confusion and mayhem. As soon as the ominous beep-beep sound comes into earshot, everyone on the field scrambles stops what they're doing and instantly begins scrambling for higher ground, like a bunch of fifties housewives who have spotted a mouse.
Their panic is not misplaced. A direct collision with an RC-XD almost always results an instant kill. Throw in the existance of numerous hidden catacombs through which devious players could steer their bombs-on-wheels, and you have yourself a thrilling dynamic which was sorely missed in Modern Warfare 3.
Anyone who's ever played Domination on Black Ops will know that the best part of that game is the pre-match dive.
What's that, you ask? Why, it's the frantic ritual that precedes each round. From a standing start, the entire team sprints towards the nearest domination point and, in sync, belly flop onto the ground like an Olympic team of performing walruses.
It's a code. A rite of passage. A way of telling your teammates that things are going to be okay - we're all in this together. It has to be that, because in the heat of combat, the dive manoeuvre is about as useful as an ice-cream grenade.
Infinity Ward callously removed the dive functionality last year; without it, we had no way of knowing if our team-mates were on-side or not. With rumours abound that Treyarch are planning to throw undercover spies into the mix, we need to know who we can trust more than ever.
The Zombies mode is Treyarch's ace in the hole. What began as a fun extra at the end of CoD: World at War has quickly blossomed into a legitimate third gameplay pillar that stands shoulder to shoulder alongside the multiplayer and campaign modes.
It was also the first indication that Treyarch were so much more than a 'me too' studio', fit only for toiling away on World War II shooters. Free of the confines of real-world conflict, Zombies has allowed Treyarch to take Call of Duty into uncharted territory - taking in sights such as Nazi Zombies, Sarah Michelle Gellar v George Romero and 'Space Monkeys'.
In one memorable scene, we even get to step foot on the moon! As much as there is to like about Infinity Ward's games, we can't say they've ever taken us into space. Well, maybe once, briefly. But then they blew us up.
Zombies is now an essential part of the Call of Duty tapestry, and try as it might, Infinity Ward's Spec Ops mode just can't compare. We can't wait to find out where this year's installments will take us. How can you ever possibly hope to top Space Monkeys? For now at least, the answer lies locked in a climate-controlled vault, deep within Treyarch HQ.