Is Black Ops 2’s Alternate Reality Setting Risky?

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The Call of Duty Black Ops 2 trailer is upon us, and it has everything Call of Duty fans could want: explosions, locations, timeframe, even Tebowing.

(The trailer can be seen at the end of the article. Go watch it. I’ll wait.)

Just what one would expect from a new Call of Duty trailer, right? High action, an intriguing near-future story, horseback riding…color me curious. However, there’s one thing that bothers me about all this, something that precedent says doesn’t fall in Activision and Treyarch’s favor: the alternate reality setting.

Military games have tried this before, rewriting history to serve the individual game’s purpose. Last year’s Homefront, where North Korea invaded America after taking South Korea and Japan, is the most recent example. While the concept was excellent and the story promising, the game was mired by technical issues and both critical scores and sales numbers suffered. The developing studio, Kaos, even closed its doors due to the game’s lackluster performance.

There’s another game that some many not remember, by choice or otherwise, that also tried to rewrite world history. Turning Point: Fall of Liberty told a story where Winston Churchill dies in 1931, completely changing the complexion of World War II. Hitler basically bends Europe to his will, then crosses the Atlantic and invades New York City. This idea is even more interesting than Homefront’s, however the game was received even more poorly. The game was universally panned, citing its control inconsistencies and wasted story potential.

Now the kings of military shooters are trying their hand at an alternate reality. It seems that the Cold War never really ended, as the trailer shows a fair amount of Cold War imagery (the red star on the rocket, for one). Technology has made armies stronger but soldiers weaker, according to Sgt. Woods. There are robot walkers a la the Gekko from Metal Gear Solid 4 walking around. Unmanned planes soar through the sky. The future is here, and it doesn’t look pretty (especially for those in Los Angeles).

Going the alternate reality route is a risky gambit. THQ and Kaos couldn’t get it right, and neither could Spark Unlimited and Codemasters. However, Black Ops 2 has too major things going for it: the Call of Duty pedigree and the “third’s time the charm” mantra. If anyone can learn from the mistakes of others, it’s Treyarch and Activision. Let’s just hope that, unlike others, re-writing history doesn’t bite them in the ass.

As promised, if it wasn’t viewed already, here’s the trailer in all its glory.



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