As popular as Call of Duty is worldwide, over the years the series has received some criticism for its single-player campaign mode. More and more gamers are impressed with the multiplayer features of COD but question the value of continuing to include a single-player campaign. This criticism was leveled particularly harshly at Modern Warfare 3. The single-player campaign mode can be completed in a matter of hours, rendering it unimportant fairly fast. The multiplayer game mode on the other hand is enhanced with continuous new DLC and unlocks and plays out like a veritable online season. Is single player mode outmoded? Why does Call of Duty Black Ops 2 even have a single player mode?
“We want to create a campaign,” Treyarch studio boss Mark Lamia said. “We have a whole team that’s focused on creating the campaign. It’s what we do. It’s what we want to create. We want to create a campaign, multiplayer and zombies.”
Well, this isn’t much of a reason from an economic point of view. It takes a lot of money to develop a single-player campaign. Lamia describes the need for a first-person, single-player campaign mode as a psychological necessity, explaining that multiplayer mode appeals to the desire for team play and strategy, but that single-player mode caters to the need for, well, ego. “When you’re playing the campaign, you’re sitting down to have that sort of epic and cinematic experience, right? You want to have that first-person role in that experience. But multiplayer is all about that competitive and social experience.”
Okay, well, that’s a good point, actually. But there is more—Treyarch decided to change the entire way that single-player campaign mode works by creating branching storylines driven by success and failure at missions. In the past, it was impossible to fail a mission. You just had to replay it until you succeeded, and then you could progress through the storyline. “As creators we wanted to do something new inside the campaign structure,” Lamia said, “and make the game play new and unique too and make it something that if you failed, the story would progress and note that you failed.”
The thinking behind this makes a lot of sense considering the criticisms which were directed at Modern Warfare 3’s single-player mode. The critics said the mode was too short and was over too quickly. By introducing failure into the situation along with consequences, Treyarch has created the possibility of branching storylines. This in turn increases the replay value of the single-player game. Since the game can end different ways, a player could theoretically play through the campaign a number of times and achieve different results. This would in turn add value to the single-player mode and keep players coming back for more. “It doesn’t affect difficulty per se,” Lamia said, “but it will affect what you experience. It’s meant to add non-linearity.”
Strike Force adds non-linearity in other ways too. In this game mode, players are not confined to playing protagonist David Mason. Instead they are allowed to switch in and out of the points of views of all the soldiers on the fields as well as vehicles and drones. Being as they can operate all these vehicles and can take on the perspective of any soldier, that means there are a lot of ways for the action to unfold.
While single-player mode appeals to the gamer’s desire to be at the center of the action, ironically failure could actually appeal to the gamer’s ego as well. After all, if failure is impossible, success has less meaning. If however the possibility of blowing the whole war exists, actually saving the day could lead to greater satisfaction. So in several different ways, Strike Force will serve to revolutionize single player campaign mode for Black Ops 2, and may well lead Call of Duty in a brand new direction.