Not all gamers agree about which Call of Duty game is the absolute best. However, it’s a generally accepted fact that the Nazi zombies and flamethrowers in 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War resulted in the most satisfying pairing of people and fire since the invention of the barbeque grill. Now, the developer of that title is back with Call of Duty: Black Ops. We’d seen a trailer already, but publisher Activision invited us to peek behind the curtain and check out two levels of full, playable chaos. Here is our war journal.
Above: The Spetznaz were Russian Special Forces. They were hard men and formidable, very well-trained soldiers. Your mission is to destroy the very thing they are guarding. Have fun with that
The first level on display is titled “WMD” and bears the date stamp “March 5, 1968” – this is smack in the middle of the Cold War, when tension between the USA and the USSR threatened to plunge the whole world into nuclear winter. “WMD” takes place largely at a weapons facility nestled deep in the mountains of the Soviet Union. We say “largely”, because you begin the level dressed in what looks for all intents and purposes like a bright yellow astronaut suit, complete with a mirrored bubble-helmet. This is, in fact, the flight suit worn by pilots of the SR-71 Blackbird, an extremely high-altitude stealth spy plane.
Once you hop in and take off, the scene fast-forwards and your Blackbird is shown cruising at the pitch black edge of space, the Earth far, far below you. You, however, are more concerned with the view inside your cockpit – specifically, a tiny black and white screen that displays a small house surrounded by snow-laden trees. A group of American soldiers is infiltrating enemy territory, and it’s your job to warn them when an enemy patrol comes by. When a patrol inevitably arrives, you tell the team to head into the house. When the patrol decides to check out the house, you send your boys out through the back door, to take cover in the trees. When the patrol decides to run out the back door and look for your troops (tenacious buggers, aren’t they?), the game does the only logical thing: it switches your perspective and puts you in the body of one of those same troops on the ground.
Above: As a top secret, elite soldier, stealth and discretion are critical. Right up until the moment you start blowing up fuel trucks
A dozen enemy soldiers walk by, covered head to toe in snow camo. Long moments pass… and then all Hell breaks loose. Your team is discovered. However, they are also ready. In mere moments, the enemy forces lie dead, completely outmatched by the player’s skill with a compact crossbow (very cool) and a scoped rifle.
No longer troubled with stealth, your team presses into the forest and comes upon a cement platform, ringed by a rail, on the edge of a cliff. It’s interesting to note that this level is covered in snow, but feels nothing like the opening level to last year’s CoD game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Here, there is snow, but no storm. The sun is out, making the snow look almost golden, and you can see for miles. The scenery is postcard-pretty.
However, things are far from peaceful. Your team hooks onto the rail and begins to rappel down. It becomes clear that the platform you were standing on is actually the roof of a facility built into the mountain. And with one final leap, your crew swings down to the same height as the building’s windows, which you riddle with a quick machine gun blast just before your feet crash in through them.
Above: A still frame really can’t describe how cool it’s going to be to crash through that window in 3… 2… 1…
Your boots catch the closest enemy right in the teeth, and you mow down two others almost immediately. Heading through the bunker and back outside, you see a cohort named Brooks heave another enemy over a handrail, sending him on a doomed base jump down the mountainside. You continue down the mountain in a slightly more controlled fashion, pausing on a catwalk to snipe two woodcutting soldiers with your crossbow. Man, we are loving that thing.
Amazingly, our crossbow lust reaches a whole new level a few moments later when, upon encountering another building guarded by Russian soldiers, the demoer fires green-tipped explosive bolts first into a poor Russian’s crotch, then into a fuel truck, which explodes into a fireball. We make a mental note to ask the developers if this is one of those “experimental but real” weapons that existed in tests but was not widely deployed to troops. Then we decide we don’t care if it was real or not.
Above: Snow spikes, but no parachute – it’s going to be a very fast, but awfully rough ride down for this guy
From there on, things get progressively more hectic. A siren is squawking, and enemy troops are on high alert. Your target appears to be a massive satellite dish – clearly a communications relay. You shoot the hinges off the door of the building it rests upon and four of you plow into some sort of lab, full of electronics and men in white coats, with guns blazing. Your reinforcements rappel down and crash in through the windows, just as you did previously. You find the dish’s power supply and rip out the cables. That seems to do it.
Naturally though, that’s not the end of the mission, because now you have to get away. Enemy air support is closing in, so you start running. An explosion – was that a rocket strike? – sets off a bloody avalanche. You blink and the bridge is swept away by something … a rocket, or collapsing chunk of mountain… you missed the cause, but the effect is about to kill you. The only solution now is to base jump off the cliff. You run, jump, and the screen fades to black…
That was the first mission we saw. The second was crazier.
Above: Look at that red sky. Hue City resembles Hell on Earth as much as it does an actual city