Cowboys and spaceships: Black Ops 2 can save CoD

Thursday, 3 May 2012 09:26 GMT By Patrick Garratt

The unthinkable has happened: Call of Duty is no longer predictable. Patrick Garratt says the direction of Black Ops 2 is one to be appluaded, and may well show how the entire franchise can be saved from stagnation.

The worst thing Activision could have possibly done at this point is to push out “another CoD”. Black Ops 2 isn’t just a perfect response to the current climate: it’s a clear indicator of what the current climate is about to become.

These are the moments that truly test a brand. Call of Duty has worked to a ludicrous degree, and its builders are more than aware that stagnation will kill it: the only choice is to innovate. And so we have Black Ops 2, a game set in the future that really doesn’t look all that much like its predecessors, and what may very well be a defining release for the entire Call of Duty franchise.

It’s easy to say it’s just more of the same, as our own Brenna Hillier did this morning, but for many faithful fans exactly the opposite is true. There’s been some wincing in the last 24 hours, as Activision revealed its next major Call of Duty release to be properly futuristic, a setting more in line with weapon-guessers like Ghost Recon than the “realism” we’ve learned to expect from CoD. Is this Call of Duty? Is this special forces with UAVs and Castro at the end of an AK barrel, or, as one baffled MW3 addict put to me yesterday, “cowboys and spaceships”?

There’s a very simple answer: it doesn’t matter if you’re a player. In fact, the plain difference between previous releases and BLOPS2 is great news, as it means current multiplayer communities in MW3 and Black Ops are less likely to be fragmented by a clone of the same formula. For some reason people think that a new direction means you’re being forced to play something you don’t want. In truth, Black Ops 2′s push into the future is exactly the right move for the brand as it can now start to soak up gamers who prefer a sci-fi edge to shooters. No one’s saying you have to stop playing Black Ops and MW2, if that’s what you want to play. The communities surrounding previous games are incredible strong: stay there, if that’s what suits you. If it doesn’t, try the new take.

Black Ops 2 may well save Call of Duty from what is apparently its peak. It’s likely to hold hardcore multiplayers in their respective chosen instalments while offering something entirely different for those looking for something fresh. Before it was announced, it was taken as gospel that everyone knew what it would be. That Treyarch and Activision have been bold enough to tread completely new ground should be commended: Call of Duty can no longer be called “predictable”.

We’re going to get 60FPS Call of Duty gameplay infused with Bond-style war gadgets and Los Angeles getting bombed back to the Stone Age. You’re not excited by that? What the hell’s wrong with you?

There’s been much comment about dragging in elements from other futuristic franchises, such as Battlefield, but so what if that’s true? CoD is always about super-speed action, so why isn’t throwing mechs and machine gun-toting quadcopters into the mix a reason for joy? We’re going to get 60FPS Call of Duty gameplay infused with Bond-style war gadgets and Los Angeles getting bombed back to the Stone Age. You’re not excited by that? What the hell’s wrong with you?

Call of Duty isn’t just Activision’s big shot: it’s the biggest shot in core gaming. This series has expertly covered World War II, the Cold War and World War III, and the games that do so continue to be played by millions of people. The push in the shooter space over the coming years will be for the futuristic setting, with Microsoft and Respawn both aiming major products at the genre in the near- to mid-term. The worst thing Activision could have possibly done at this point is to push out “another CoD”. Black Ops 2 isn’t just a perfect response to the current climate: it’s a clear indicator of what the current climate is about to become.

We will all buy and play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. CoD is the market. The fact Activision is openly innovating with its biggest franchise is something to be applauded. Stop moaning. Put your hands together. Then put them in your pockets on November 13.

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