Earlier this month I visited Killing Floor and Red Orchestra 2 creator Tripwire Interactive to play Rising Storm, the upcoming standalone expansion to RO2 (look for a preview on Monday). After the demo, Tripwire President John Gibson and I got talking about the state of first-person shooters, and Gibson laid out a detailed criticism about the way Call of Duty "takes individual skill out of the equation." Gibson also expressed frustration over how difficult it had been trying to design a mode for Red Orchestra 2 that appealed to Call of Duty players.
Call of Duty: Black Ops - Multiplayer
If you splashed out on a Black Ops 2 season pass you'll get access to the zombified Nuketown map this Thursday. Zombie Nuketown has been knocking around Xbox 360 playlists for a short while, and serves as a taster for this year's season of Black Ops 2 DLC packs (which will kick off with the recently spilled Revolution pack.)
Zombie Nuketown is a haunted, skeletal doppelganger of one of Black Ops' most popular maps. It used to be a bright, breezy place where military sorts ran round shooting each other in the back for sport. Now it's grim, apocalyptic and full of crazed flesh-eaters and charcoal coloured mushroom clouds. Take a tour in the trailer below.
The actor behind the most famous walking talking 'tache in gaming, Bill Murray (not that one), has made mention of a somewhat inevitable follow-up to Modern Warfare 3. "Yeah, on Monday I am off to meet Infinity Ward about the next game, Modern Warfare 4, I’m doing work on the sequel to Modern Warfare 3, it carries straight on and I only ever appear in the Modern Warfare games” he told This Is Xbox.
Black Ops 2's future setting moves its gruff warrior sorts into a world that's used to drone warfare, but hasn't invented awesome laser cannons yet. That lets Treyarch weave a pleasantly paranoid plot in the single player campaign without jeopardising the great golden goose that is CoD's multiplayer mode. I imagine Call of Duty devs are quietly terrified of messing around with that world-winning formula too much, which is why the eight minutes of multiplayer scooped by IGN look so darn familiar. The appearance of a little robot 5:44 in livens things up a little, though.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is getting an expanded co-op mode called "Tranzit" that'll send four survivors on a zombie road trip across the US. As one of those survivors you'll get to bus from place to place, mounting heroic stands against the zombie army at each location. IGN mention "buildables" that con be constructed to furnish you with new weapons, or open up extra areas, which are probably full of more zombies.
The latest Black Ops 2 zombies trailer shows a fuel stop, a diner, a farmhouse reminiscent of Left 4 Dead's Blood Harvest finale, a power station and a town center blighted by lava pools. Zombies AND lava? It's the doompocalypse alright. You'll find the video stamped into the page below.
Some cheeky blighters have obtained what Activision are calling a “development demo build” of Black Ops 2, and uploaded a vid to prove it. It’s an extremely short snippet of action, and overlayed with a superfluous dev interview and some dreadful music, but it does show off the capabilities of the engine.
Treyarch have upgraded the DirectX 9 Black Ops engine to a "leaner" DirectX 11 edition that promises "significant improvements" for us PC players. The updated engine should make more efficient use of GPU power, and will have "more quality vs. performance options than ever before." The upgrade means that it won't run on Windows XP, however.
"Performance has been a top priority for Black Ops II PC from day one" say Treyarch in a post on the Black Ops 2 site, spotted by Eurogamer. "Black Ops II PC features enhanced lighting, shadows, antialiasing, bloom, depth of field, ambient occlusion, and other enhanced effects that are still in the works. And the game can run at higher resolutions and higher framerates on the PC."
It's the future that's for sure. The riot shields all have lights on them, someone's finally realised that those quadrocopter toys could quite easily double as deadly recon drones, and humanity has become warped and warlike in its relentless quest to capture flags. The latest Black Ops 2 screenshots from Gamescom offer us a glimpse of this grim but probably quite fun dystopia. Absorb them below.
When you shoot someone in Call of Duty, there’s a noise. It's positive feedback—a fwip-fwip-fwip to let you know that your bullet, knife, claymore, or phoned-in helicopter is hurting someone. While visiting Treyarch I asked the Black Ops 2 sound team about the creation of the simple-but-essential effect.
PCG: Why does it sound the way it does when I shoot someone in Call of Duty?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 details have been oozing out of Gamescom. VG247 have details of an updated "build a class" mode that will let us occupy ten gear slots with any combination of weapons, perks and killstreak rewards. Levelling up will mean choosing one of seven new pieces of kit to unlock. If you want to grab the six you missed, you'll have to prestige and reset your character.
You're not restricted to having to occupy certain slots with weapons, and other slots with perks. You can forgo your primary gun in favour of an extra perk, or a "wild card" ability that changes the way your weapon behaves, adding an alternative fire mode or letting you slot an extra attachment onto your weapon. Treyarch refer to the system as "pick 10."
Modern Warfare 2's No Russian mission asked players to choose to take an passive or active role in an airport civilian massacre. It caused quite an uproar back when it was released, but a lot of time has passed. A legal battle has been fought, a new studio has been formed, and many of the designers who worked on Modern Warfare 2 at Infinity Ward are now working for Respawn Entertainment.
Mohammad Alavi is one of them. The designer responsible for one of Call of Duty 4's most memorable levels, All Ghillied Up, also had a hand in creating Call of Duty's most controversial moment. With the legal NDAs surrounding his attachment to Infinity Ward expired, he's spoken to Matthew S. Burns on Magical Wasteland about the intent behind No Russian.
Hey, remember how we always say Call of Duty DLC is overpriced? Well Activision have just launched an great big sale, offering 50% any Black Ops or Modern Warfare 3 Map Pack for the next week. That takes the price down from an exorbitant £11.49/$14.99 to a much more reasonable £5.74/$7.49.
There's something else to, a portion all all sales will go to The Call of Duty Endowment, a charity launched by Activision back in 2009 that helps veterans find jobs when their tours of duty are over.
The money printing behemoth that is Call of Duty just got even bigger. Activision have announced Call of Duty Online, a free to play multiplayer version of CoD aimed at the lucrative Chinese market. Chinese law requires that any Western studio wanting to release a game work with a local business partner, so Activision are partnering with Chinese publisher Tencent to make it happen.
But why should we care about a game destined for the Chinese market? Well dear readers, what happens in China no longer stays in China. Games like Crytek's Warface have used a successful eastern release as a springboard to enter the western market.
Nuketown was one of the most popular maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops' back shooting filling multiplayer, and a favourite of fans. Now an IGN reader has spotted a poster at Irish game store Xtravision that indicates the beloved map is coming back, but not for everyone.
If you're partial to Modern Warfare 3's tight arena tussles then you might be interested in investigating the new game mode, Face off. It allows for quick, violent 1 v 1, 2 v 2 and 3 v 3 contests on "smaller, super-concentrated multiplayer maps." Two of these new maps have been released for free and are playable right now.
This free taste of Face Off could help to move copies of the newly released Collection 2 DLC, which comes with two more Face Off maps, a standard multiplayer arena set in a hotel poised on top of an ancient fortress (why not?), and two co-op spec ops missions.
Treyarch director of technology Cesar Stastny has confirmed on Twitter that the latest Call of Duty will feature dedicated ranked multiplayer servers on PC.
Confirmed: Ranked Dedicated Servers for #BlackOps2— pcdev (@pcdev) June 16, 2012
It's good news, and more than a little overdue. Dedicated servers made a return with Modern Warfare 3, but were unranked and therefore didn't contribute to your overall progress. It seems like reliable, full-featured servers have crawled back bit by bit since they originally vanished from the series.
The studio behind the Tony Hawk series and Guitar Hero have started working on Call of Duty. Evil Avatar note that their website has been updated with a message saying "we have molded our team into a crack squad of eager developers ready to push the First Person Action genre in support of Activision's Call of Duty franchise."
Working "in support" suggests they might be handling ongoing DLC content for an upcoming Call of Duty, in the same way that Sledgehammer are supporting Modern Warfare 3 with Call of Duty Elite content. Alternatively, they could be working on a new CoD title entirely, but will it have skateboards?
"Noisy" and "quite orange" were the two overriding sentiments coming out of the E3 2012 demo for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The futuristic setting does allow for some neat toys, though. There's a sniper section in which the player plugs enemies from a broken carriageway, spying and shooting them through solid concrete pillars, Perfect Dark style.
With ITV mistaking games footage for video evidence of terrorists attacking planes and the BBC mistaking a logo from Halo for a genuine UN flag, the boundaries between the real and the virtual are getting interestingly blurred – although not, curiously, by people who actually play a lot of games. Accidents like the BBC and ITV incidents happen, but intentionally confusing games for reality is still rare. Unless you're Sam Orchard, a photography student from Falmouth College hopes.
He's taking screenshots to the art world, with a project called 'Uncanny Valley' which will be exhibited at the Truman Brewery in London. In it, he uses shots from Call of Duty and Battlefield 3 to “question the validity of the perceived ‘real’ war photograph”.
The introduction of the Frostbite 2 with Battlefield 3 last year threw down the gauntlet to other shooters. Visually, things have taken a step up, so it's interesting to see how the other big shooter franchises like Call of Duty respond. Black Ops 2 was revealed just a few weeks ago, and while it's been updated, it's still running on the modified version of the id Tech 3 engine that the series has been using for years. Treyarch aren't concerned.