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E3 2012's Most Anticipated: Black Ops 2

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This, of course, triggers a bit of conflict. War is now defined by robotics, drones and cyber sabotage, packing a far more devastating punch than regular fleshy grunts but inherently built with one small caveat: this unmanned technology could turn against the very side it was meant to protect.

While we hope it doesn't turn into Terminator-style, machine-uprising cheese, the fact that there are more fleshy beings out on the battlefield, potentially opens up some interesting rock-paper-scissors gameplay. One developer told of how EMP blasts are devastating against everything but horses, the most technologically advanced devices powerless against a four-legged mammal with a long face.

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Nevertheless, you'd be forgiven for thinking it all sounds a bit, well... Frontlines: Fuel of War. A bit... robotic. But there'll definitely be men and they'll definitely have guns. Some of them will be pretty old, Black Ops stalwarts Alex Mason (no word yet if Sam Worthington reprises his role) and Viktor Reznov (same for Gary Oldman) playable in 80's-set sections.

Later, in 2025, you'll take control of Mason's son David, while a now 95-year old Frank Woods (the bearded guy with the cool arm tattoos in the first Ops') narrates. Even though this is a future tale, Treyarch are definitely looking to build on the story already established.

But iteration isn't why you're here. Let's talk Strike Force missions. Throughout the branching story (another CoD first) you'll get access to several, and these affect the overall plotting. Die and the game incorporates it into the narrative, eventually impacting the entire Cold War - no quitting, no reloading to an earlier save. Luckily these are completely optional, but when they're among Black Ops 2's best new feature, you'd do well not to pass them up.

As if to hit criticisms of CoD as a 'brainless shooter' square on the nose, Strike Force requires intelligence and planning, offsetting set-piece-heavy running-and-gunning with almost real-time strategy levels of depth. You'll control war assets such as aerial vehicles (unmanned), jet fighters (actually manned, by you) and robots in a massive, open battlefield where threats can come from all 360 degrees. Think Medal of Honor: Airborne - but not crap.

And then there's Treyarch's usual stamp of silliness, Zombie Mode. It'll be longer, promoted from a handful of stages to a full-length campaign, and doubles the co-op count from four to eight. Like last time, famous faces are bound to drop in. Expect the likes of J.F.K., Nixon, and Fox News political commentator (and, controversially, dealer of illegal weapons to Iran in the 80's) Oliver North. And possibly Danny Trejo.

Black Ops 2 is the hottest, freshest, most dissimilar Call of Duty in years. It's a new dawn and a new day for a franchise patently aware it needs to change. And it has, in typically kick-ass fashion.

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