Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the newest title in the best-selling video game franchise, officially made its debut in a trailer Tuesday night, quickly amassing more than 7 million views on YouTube. (Watch the preview below.) The first-person shooter starts off in the midst of the Cold War and pursues dizzying missions in Russia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and a futuristic version of Los Angeles. The original Black Ops, which has sold upwards of 25 million units in the U.S. and Europe, is one of the best-selling video games of all time. But will the new title, slated for a pre-holiday Nov. 13 release, live up to the exhorbitant hype? Here, five talking points about the unveiling that has the gaming world buzzing:
1. A twisted new narrative
Replacing the linear gameplay model of previous titles, Black Ops 2's storyline will skip between two time periods: The Reagan-era '80s, and an apocalyptic future set in 2025, where a new Cold War is brewing between the U.S. and China. "For the first time, player decisions will impact the story," game director Dave Anthony tells The Verge. Actions in the past affect how the future unfolds, and the lives of allies and villains' underlings will depend on how smart you play. When the game is completed, "you'll see how things could have been different," says Anthony, giving it deeper replay value in single-player mode.
2. A Dark Knight pedigree
The title's ambitious storyline will be written by "acclaimed movie and comic book writer" David Goyer, says Digital Spy. Goyer's extensive resume includes co-writing credits in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as well as the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel. He joined parent company Activision midway through the last Black Ops, and will now be charged with crafting a memorable villain in Raul Martinez, a terrorist who takes control of the U.S. military's unmanned drones.
3. New emphasis on strategy
A new mode called "Strike Force" takes combat beyond first-person, allowing players to "decide which missions to pursue based on threats that each one presents," says Jared Newman at TIME. Gamers not only assume the role of a lone shooter, but also his comrades (like snipers and reconnaissance), robotic helpers, and overhead military drones. Cohesively controlling the unit's efforts to take down bad guys will be essential to gameplay. "As a result, Strike Force will supposedly play a bit like a strategy game, allowing any given player to have a different experience."
4. A controversial PR strategy
"During the 1980s, Oliver North rocketed into the national spotlight with the Iran-Contra controversy," says Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku. Now he's shilling video games. The retired U.S. marine, who was once arrested for selling arms to Iran and establishing an underground network for the Contras, was hired by Activision to serve as a talking head in a promotional mini-documentary series. "I don't think the average American grasps how violent war is about to become," he says in one clip — the enemy "can be anyone." Is it just me, or is there something "a little distasteful" about using a man who engaged in "extensive illegal activities and misuse of the U.S. military" to sell a game, asks Dave Thier at Forbes.
5. Modern enemies
A Guy Fawkes mask "flashes on the screen for a brief instant" in one of the online documentaries, says Ashcraft. The iconic mask, which has since been "re-appropriated by internet collective Anonymous as well as Occupy Wall Street protesters," ostensibly paints modern-day hackers as one of the United States' potential enemies. The clip has drawn the ire of the internet, too: One real-life hacker crew, AntiSec, was so incensed by the allusion that they mobilized their efforts against Activision, by releasing the personal information of Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg.