'Tis the season. No, not for Christmas-related stuff. At least, not yet, so if you own the house down the street from me, I ask that you please take your lights down until we get closer to the holiday. Maybe you can even meet me halfway and wait until after Thanksgiving.
It IS the season, however, for brand new shoot-em-ups. "Halo 4" was released last week, and we took a look at the new features and reactions to the game
. This week, it's the release of the latest installment of the Call of Duty franchise, "Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Changes have been made to the campaign and multiplayer options in order to entice new gamers while preserving all the elements that keep gamers loyal to the franchise. One of the big changes is the adoption of the League system, which ranks players based on the skill levels they demonstrate. There are seven levels in all, which not only keeps novice players from getting frustrated by experts but also establishes a clear mandate for the Call of Duty series to be entered into the world of eSports (competitive gaming).
Along those same lines, there's a shifting emphasis on team and cooperative play rather than chaotic kill counts. The most obvious example is the changing of Kill Streaks to Score Streaks. Rather than reward players for putting their competitors on ice and moving their counters one digit at a time, instead they will be rewarded for kills, capturing territory, and other subsequent accomplishments. In another obvious nod to eSports, players can stream their matches directly onto YouTube from their X-Box 360.
The multiplayer option has also been expanded so that instead of two teams on a battlefield, matches can contain three or more teams competing at once. It'll be interesting to see how players balance what feels like a free-for-all with a system that inherently rewards cooperation.
Another new feature is Shoutcast, which allows a player to opt out of participating in the ground battle and, instead, observe the map and let other players know what's going on.
As for the storyline modes, "Black Ops II" involves two branching storylines, one of which occurs in the near future (2025). That means we'll get to see a combination of speculative tech with contemporary weapons. But it also means that what you do in the past can change the future and affect mission parameters. Moreover, the new Strike Force missions can change the entire direction of the game as a whole. In these missions, players will be able to control aerial drones, jet fighters, and robots in addition to their avatar. And how the story turns out isn't the only thing that can change, as depending on what decisions you make within these missions, the villain will modify his plan accordingly.
And yes, the Zombies are back. And in fact, they're a bigger part of the game. Not only do they now have their own campaign, but there will now be a mode now as Grief, which involves three teams: two teams of four players each and a team of four zombies. Zombie mode will also now involve eight player co-op, an improvement over the previously allowable four-player.
Treyarch isn't re-inventing the wheel with "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," but they're doing some cool stuff with the rims and using them to take players into some new terrain.
Catch the fastest five minutes in tech, gaming, and comics on this week's edition of All Access Weekly next Thursday at 12/11c only on Spike.