Despite phenomenal sales and plenty of accolades, not to mention succeeding as the biggest entertainment launch in history, there are many gamers who have begun to sour on the Call of Duty brand. While multiplayer keeps gamers engaged for countless hours in competitive matches, fans who prefer a robust campaign story or can’t access to online features – i.e. anyone who can’t afford Xbox Live Gold or lives in rural (and some international) areas – have begun to feel underwhelmed by what Call of Duty has to offer them.
Considering the average Call of Duty story campaign, on normal difficulty, can typically be cleared after six or seven hours, it’s hard to blame single player gamers for opting out of the blockbuster franchise in favor of titles that will give them more bang for their solo play buck (such as Assassin’s Creed 3). However, Treyarch is aware of the problem and are prepared to offer non-multiplayer gamers improved replayability in their highly anticipated followup Black Ops 2.
Speaking with The Guardian, Treyarch studio head, Mark Lamia, presented a number of ways that the team has revamped the single player campaign in order to provide more replay value for non-multiplayer types. While Lambia presents a number of minor tweaks to campaign play, his “increased replayability” assertion is primarily grounded in the studio’s inclusion of branching story paths – each with their own unique action events:
“If you look at the Strikeforce levels, and you look at us going after choice and sandbox gameplay, what it does is put replayability inside the campaign.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Strike Force terminology, check out our E3 2012 Black Ops 2 preview for the full details – but, essentially, the in-game mode allows players to take control of multiple people (as well as vehicles) on the battlefield (think RTS gameplay) as well as choose from a variety of objectives on the map. As a result, players will experience different outcomes and story beats based on which decisions they do and do not make.
Lamia believes that Strike Force will lead to increased replayability – since fans will want to see how other paths or choices might have altered the action:
“Look at the branching storylines: all these things, I believe, will drive people who enjoy the campaign experience to go back and play it again, because you’re going to have some new paths that you didn’t experience, or even in the case of Strikeforce levels, levels that you didn’t even play: it’s possible that you might not play all the Strikeforce levels on your first play-through. And then there are the story-endings […] I think the goal at the highest level from a design perspective was accessibility plus depth of gameplay plus replayability. To me, for a campaign, that’s the Holy Trinity.”
The comment about the “story-endings” is especially intriguing, implying that players will have more variety this round, instead of the laughable and overly-patriotic Black Ops finale. However, while it sounds as though Lambia is confirming the game will feature multiple endings, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing multifaceted, cause/effect, Heavy Rain-like epilogue variety as the final sequence will, on the other hand, probably just have slightly varied window dressing – depending on which path players take in the final chapter.
Either way, there’s no doubt that, even if the changes are mostly cosmetic, the diversity will fuel some players to replay sections – so Lambia’s claims of increased replayability, and subsequently the breadth of the campaign, do ring true. That said, while the non-stop action of the E3 2012 live demo was certainly exciting, the presentation didn’t exactly wow players who were hoping for a more nuanced campaign experience. As a result, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not these improvements are enough to win back single player gamers that have, previously, passed on recent Call of Duty titles.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Black Ops 2 as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II releases November 13, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.