When the startling news came out that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 would take place in the near future and not in the past like every other entry in the franchise, reactions were mixed. Many fans were very excited by the new direction the series would be taking, while others voiced uncertainty and concern about the change. More than 20 million people watched the official reveal trailer at the start of May, and the overall response was very positive. There were plenty of surprises in store for fans in that trailer. Whereas in the past we were used to seeing simple guns and grenades, we were introduced in the Black Ops 2 trailer to robots, flying attack drones and futuristic guns which could blow apart cement.
Several members of the Activision studio have responded to the impact the change is having on fans. While fans have expressed concern that the series is departing from its genre (going from a straightforward modern combat game to a science fiction game), Daniel Suarez, Vice President of Production at Activision, has argued that the game isn’t that big a departure since the team’s research was all based on existing prototypes and consultations with real life military and political advisors. Even though a lot of new machines have been introduced, like those flying robotic drones, Suarez insists that the core element of the game is unchanged, which is direct combat between human soldiers. With that core intact, Suarez says that the series’ legacy is intact too, even though the setting has changed. “The main villain is not a robot,” said Suarez by means of an example. “The main villain is not a drone. The main villain is a human.”
Mark Lamia, Treyarch studio boss, indicated that the team wanted to do something different this year by catapulting the series into the near future while still keeping a firm basis in the present. After all, real-life combat will evolve as well, but it will never lose that essential core reality either. Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, has stated that the game will be “the most ambitious Call of Duty ever,” in part because of the change to the near future setting. Just as the move from World War II to modern times was a revolutionary step in the series, this move to the near future could be equally transformative. Part of the game will still take place in the past, referencing events in the 1980s.
Black Ops 2 will be featuring a number of game play changes as well in its single and multiplayer modes. It’s also recently been revealed that the new game will include a full fledged zombie mode instead of a zombie minigame. Co-op play will allow gamers to create teams of 8 instead of just 4. Both these changes were directly in response to feedback from gamers. Indeed, the move to the near future could itself be viewed as a response to the positive way in which gamers reacted to the originality of the first Black Ops title. That game was popular because it included departures from the standard Call of Duty motifs. The zombies were quite a striking feature when they first made their appearance, and were totally unprecedented, as was the level which included combat on the moon. Since those features were so well received, it only made sense for Treyarch to cater to its fanbase and include some new departures this time around. The setting for the game is a change, but it still is grounded in present day reality, which is how it links to the rest of the series. Combat evolves and real life, and that’s why it’s time for Call of Duty to evolve as well.