Black Ops 2: Innovation or Isolation?

It’s no big secret that I am not the biggest fan of the Call of Duty franchise. It’s also important to know that my disdain for it is validated.

Over the years I have seen first hand the negative effect it has had on the industry as a whole and although it has sold billions of copies around the world it has also made developing games a tricky proposition for other studios around the world. Call of Duty is teaching the industry that its OKAY NOT to innovate and its okay to feed consumers the same ol slop every year because they have trained us to buy it.

New franchises are a gamble and every year we see studio closures as a result of gamers being programmed to play a single game without consideration to any other product that gets released. Now to be fair this is not a situation that applies to every single gamer but the bulk of CODS fan base is made up of ” non gamers” who only play Call of Duty.

Running a LAN centre for 3 years made this clear. I tried to show players good alternatives that demanded their attention and would provide them with a great gameplay experience but to no avail….they wanted COD.

So what happens when the all mighty COD machine decides its time to innovate and try some new things?

Well my gaming friends…its about to happen and the game that is going to bring that innovation to the COD fan base is Black Ops 2!

The real questions is ” Will this innovation be a good thing for the franchise”

What is Call of Duty..really?

The foundation of the franchise has its roots in the World War 2 timeframe. It was a game created to bring the visceral and intense conflict of that era to the video game screen. In addition it bestowed on us a respect and knowledge of the wars of that time. The total package was covered in wrapper of beautiful graphics and tight controls. A new breed of shooter was born.
Throughout its iterations the game built on its core foundations and continually pushed its presentation ahead and ultimately leave its world war 2 roots behind and drag the experience into the modern wars that surround us. COD4 was the first ” modern” Call of Duty and it gave us the pinnacle of the franchise.

where it all began…

Call of duty is now in its 8 game and the one thing that has remained consistent ( besides its recycled graphical assets) is the use of contemporary or historic confrontations  to frame the games narrative and to a lesser extent the multi player offerings. Gamers have always had something to relate to and the name ” Call of Duty” has been synonymous with a true to life conflict somewhere in the world. A creed or catchphrase to soldiers both new and old to play this game…because Duty Calls! A Video Game call to arms that was rooted in reality to some extent.

Welcome to Black Ops 2. By all rights this game doesn’t even need to bear the name ” Call of Duty”.  The game recently was unveiled via the launch trailer and although everything on display shows us that it is using the same formula and set piece moments as past games; the near/far future setting shoves the franchise into unfamiliar territory.

We are no longer dealing with conflicts that we can relate to. The enemy presented in Black Ops 2 has yet to surface in the real world. This is a threat that is ‘”suggested” made up. There are no ultra nationalist terrorist groups threatening OUR way of life in this game but threatening a way of life that is yet to come. There is no emotional attachment to a future that is yet to come.

The reason past games worked from a story telling point of view was that it was anchored in real life events or events that we’re taking place around us. Granted MW3 presented us with a potential conflict that had yet to surface ( World War 3) it still placed the conflict in a world that was completely familiar to us and a world we lived in.

…where it all ended

Black Ops 2 is a science fiction game that shouldnt have the name “Call of Duty” attached to it. Plain and simple.

This unreleased game should be a new IP more akin to the Terminator films than the latest entry in the COD franchise.
Sure there are elements that harken to previous games. Characters and …..well that’s about it really. We have a returning character to connect its plot thread to previous games.

In all likelihood the games arsenal of weapons will be retooled or giving a futuristic spin. Equipment and tools of the trade will have to make sense within this new world they have created but why even call it a Call of Duty game.

Why didnt EA  simply call 2010’s Medal of Honor game ” Battlefield: Sandstorm” . Heck why not just name every single FPS game they make ” Battlefield:……”

Black Ops 2 will give everyone what they want. Innovative new gameplay elements ( yet they are using the same tired and worn graphics engine to power it). Bold new story. Exciting and fresh multi player and of course another 5 pieces of zombie DLC but it does not need to be called COD to succeed. Activision is so scared of creating something new and exciting that they are going to slap a “Nike Logo” on a pair of rain boots because it will sell better if they do!

Activision competitors know there is an opportunity here. When black ops 2 releases they need to hope that the name will sell it. Gamers around the world will blindly line up and grab a copy because they liked Black Ops 1 but when they power it up they will realize that it is not simply a sequel but a whole new beast that bears only a passing similarity to the previous game ( a couple of returning characters)

So what happens when Call of Duty players don’t want to play a science fiction laden game and yearn for more contemporary shoote em up experiences. A shoot em up that has settings and trappings of conflict we see on TV and that is closer to hearts.

One game in particular is releasing this year with the intent to take Call of Duty to the cleaners and they have approached it in a very clever way.

Medal of Honer:Warfighter.

Say that really fast…….especialy the last part…” Warfighter”

That title sounds suspiciously like ” Warfare” as in……Modern Warfare?

mmmmmm….Look familiar to a certain game thats rhymes with ” Warfare”

coincidence? Maybe but if gamers craving a contemporary shooter within a world they know and a genre they have enjoyed ( modern conflicts) they are not going to find that with Black Ops 2.

Its is a big gamble that Treyarch and Activision is taking with Call of duty this year and one would argue that there hand was forced by the very people who have been complaining about there lack of innovation to begin with.

We will find out this year and we may also see if the Call of Duty’s reign finally ends and it  winds up telling stories about its glory days in the war liked a retired veteran.

Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash


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