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Call of Duty: Black Ops faces many challenges

The Black Ops teams had unparalleled expertise in more or less every field of combat you could imagine, and this opens up a world rich with potential. We’ve experienced levels where you flit from specialty to specialty, always thinking on your feet, never knowing what the next obstacle will bring. We’ve guided grounded troops from the air, joined the troops on the ground, battled our way covertly through an underground tunnel and rappelled down a cliff face. The only thing we didn’t get to do was catch our breath in between.

“Pacing is a huge part of what Black Ops is all about,” interjects Lamia. “We’re always thinking about where, psychologically, we want you to be. We’re not talking about differences between levels, we want players to feel the change of pace from ‘beat-to-beat’ – to always be wondering what’s around the next corner.” In a nutshell, if variety is the spice of life, then Black Ops will have to come packaged with naan bread.

Despite the wealth of possibilities it brings, it cannot be ignored that the Cold War setting sees the Call of Duty franchise enter another new arena of conflict: this time in a political sense. The series has of course courted controversy before – most notoriously with Modern Warfare 2’s ‘No Russian’ level – but this is a bold new era for the series, which has previously played it safe. It’s very easy to see World War II in black and white; winners write the history and there’s no ambiguity over who the good guys were.

Modern Warfare is set in a fictitious universe. But the conflicts covered in Black Ops’ timeline – Vietnam, Cuba – these are, in comparison, quite morally ambiguous wars. The least you can say is that America did not survive these battles with its reputation entirely intact. Is the traditionally jingoistic American audience ready to mix entertainment with soul-searching? This isn’t an issue according to Olin, who indicates that Black Ops concentrates on the personal rather than the global.

“We’re not telling the story of the Vietnam War,” he elaborates. “Portions of the game take place in Vietnam, but you’re not fighting any specific battle from that war. For example, in Slaughterhouse, your mission is to infiltrate the compound and recover a piece of key intelligence. So while the battle of Hue City is going on around you, you are not a regular marine on the battlefield attempting to win the city back. You’re there to accomplish your objective and get the hell out!”

Nevertheless, Vietnam remains a political hot potato that few dare to prod with a fork even after all these years, but Olin vehemently denies that Black Ops is out to make a political statement. Treyarch’s remit, he notes, is to entertain and that’s the be-all and end-all. These theaters merely act as backdrops to the Black Ops’ personal journey through the wars, but real-life events will not be embellished or ignored, as Olin admits. “We went to great lengths researching this era to create a ‘believable fiction’. At the end of the day, our story is 100% original and fictional. It just weaves its way through historical reference points in time; through various conflicts of the Cold War that you may or may not have heard about.”

Although the devs claim they’re not looking beyond Black Ops, the hope internally within Treyarch must be for it to become a series within a series – its own equivalent to Modern Warfare. The key elements for this to happen are in place: a dedicated, enthusiastic team with experience; a strong, proven game engine capable of handling detailed war environments at a smooth 60 frames per second; and the time and space for the developers to do the concept justice.

But although knowledge is important, so, of course, is creativity. Finally free of the shackles that saw them as prisoners of World War II, Treyarch is keen to show the world what it’s capable of, and it’s throwing its entire technical prowess at a thematically unique universe that can be mined for resources time and time again, without ever repeating itself.

The pressure to perform must be intense, even if Treyarch isn’t letting it show. But as long-time students of the Second World War, the devs will surely be familiar with General George S. Patton’s wartime quote “pressure makes diamonds.” In the fallout of Infinity Ward’s meltdown, videogame warfare may have just found a new hero. A true diamond in the rough?

Jul 14, 2010

25 comments

  • presc1ence - July 17, 2010 6:49 p.m.

    As long as the stupid leaning mechanic, that they like to talk abotu doesn't show upo then it MIGHT be OK. Seriously I remeber the treyarch cod that had ti on the ps2, it was the most laughably unplayable game ever! TBH i think the series will die a death now, as everyone know the GOOD cods were IW and the sucky ones were treyarch!
  • jakenatr12 - July 15, 2010 11:20 p.m.

    Cmon people mwf2 wasnt that bad... the multiplayer had a few problems but it was at least a half decent game. Hopefully Black ops can surpass this world renowed pre-quel... and lol oryandymackie
  • JADENkOTOR - July 15, 2010 8:43 p.m.

    I play CoD quite a bit but that doesn't change anything I said. It will sell millions... The campaigns blow and each one is the exact same experience as the rest with different weapons... Do you disagree with that? If you want to play I own all from CoD2 on... My gamertag is my username
  • gmcb2011 - July 15, 2010 5:27 p.m.

    @JADENkOTOR: Do you hate fun? I mean, do you really hate a series so much that you feel the need insult everything about it? True, it has a huge fanboy base that are too blind to see that MW2 really was not good, but Call of Duty in general is still a very fun and rewarding experience (if they get rid of killstreaks that just BEG for camping).
  • JADENkOTOR - July 15, 2010 3:43 p.m.

    This game won't fail as every little kid on earth will go out and get it day one... It also won't fail because it will be the exact same game as every CoD before it, just with a few different guns mixed in. The story will blow, it will sell millions, and tiny CoD junkies will play the multiplayer for the next year... rinse and repeat.
  • Zanthis - July 15, 2010 1:59 p.m.

    My interest is now piqued. I'll have to keep an eye on this.
  • HonestGuy - July 15, 2010 1:38 p.m.

    Wish them luck guys! remember, if the games sucked, it's not only their lost in sales, it's also our lost in the opportunity to have another great title of a game. :)
  • fanboypcs360 - July 15, 2010 12:13 p.m.

    @mdhammer that friendly/angry faced(depending what screenshot) guy looks like he could be captain price of this game and also have a moment where he is about to die and your jaw will drop in shock. now if only he could grow a mustache...
  • oryandymackie - July 15, 2010 10 a.m.

    'Many challenges'? With the amount of dodgy dealing going down at Activision, you could probably actually set a CoD game there...
  • lovinmyps3 - July 15, 2010 9:56 a.m.

    I'm really interested in this because of the time period. Much more interesting than "modern" war(fare).
  • Tronto13 - July 15, 2010 8:43 a.m.

    @liekmudkiepz8 how can you say this CodD games are terrible if you have never played one?! i agree with @MDhammer i cannot remember a sinle character from WaW. IW just has that something extra over Treyarch. I liked WaW for a single player campaign but the multiplayer just didnt do anything for me. I think the only reason people loved it so much was for zombies, as i have never really been a fan of zombie games there was no pull for me. Ive got my fingers crossed for BO though.
  • jakery22 - July 15, 2010 8:18 a.m.

    @ MDhammer, what about Sergeant Reznov. He was epic. :L. And i can't wait for this game, it looks briliant, and hopefully shall be great to play. :D.
  • Timtimhuthut - July 15, 2010 5:35 a.m.

    I hope that instead of treyarch failing, they make the series good again. Don't get me wrong i played the hell out of CoD4, WaW, and MW2. I loved CoD4, and WaW and MW2 had those moments where they felt the same for me, just in a different era. Except in WaW i never got into a match where the game was excruciating to play because of some glitches/mods. But i wish the best of luck to Treyarch, and i seriously hope they deliver something refreshing to the multiplayer.
  • skynetiscoming - July 15, 2010 3:33 a.m.

    @liekmudkiepz8 Why would you hope a game to fail when it could redeem itself (in your mind), and be fun to play? Would you rather laugh at a failed game and get some kind of weird pleasure from that than see a game make millions of people happy? @vektote Something about that is very profound...
  • DaCunt - July 15, 2010 3:12 a.m.

    If they can fix all the problems that made mw2 a glitch filled mess I might buy
  • vekrote - July 15, 2010 2:24 a.m.

    @liekmudkiepz8 It's kind of hard to take you seriously when your name is liekmudkeips, but i, for one, hope this game does not fail in the least bit at all. Treyarch is a wonderful game studio that is very close to its fans; they listen closely to the community and are always looking to improve thier games, unlike Infinity Ward, which seems to believe that there is no room for improvement at all and has almost always managed to make at least half of its fanbase mad at one point or another. I don't want to sound biased, because I'm not. If this game fails, Treyarch will most likely fade into oblivion, never to make another game again, and in a world being clouded over with party games and increasing amounts of "z" pluralization, every 'true' game studio left is a beacon of hope in an otherwise bland gaming world. I hope this might have altered your views at least a little, but if not, it is none of my concern. You are entitled to your opinions, and me to mine, but please, give your opinion a second thought...
  • sed598 - July 15, 2010 2:21 a.m.

    @liekmudkiepz8 The only cod that was overrated was mw2 and it was terrible cod world at war was my favorite personally and i say trey arch is really stepping up there game for this one.I hope there is a beta for multiplayer it better not end up like mw2's multiplayer its just terrible
  • FNG - July 15, 2010 2:14 a.m.

    I like how he said "with two full Call of Duty games already under its belt, there are no other developers out there so finely attuned to what the series is all about.", even though Respawn Entertainment is filled with the same people who created the series and made it popular.
  • liekmudkiepz8 - July 15, 2010 1:59 a.m.

    I REALLY hope this fails, cod is really overrated. Every time I log into xbox live at least 3 quarters of my friends are playing cod. I have never bought a cod game and never will, I would rather support better games. (I really hate people who continuously say cod is the best game/franchise ever.)
  • Cwf2008 - July 15, 2010 12:47 a.m.

    @HotCyder: Now that would be epic!!!

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