Black Ops’ story is ‘complex,’ but not confusing

A game’s story can make or break it. Shooters are so common that it usually takes an above-average story to elevate one into the upper echelon of the genre. For me, that was the main factor that distinguished Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 — Infinity Ward developed both games, but the plot in the latter game was disjointed and incredulous enough to make me wish I were playing the first game’s campaign again instead.

Treyarch is billing Call of Duty: Black Ops as having an “incredible narrative”; when I spoke with community manager Josh Olin at a press event earlier this month, he told me that the studio had put “a huge, enormous focus on telling a great story with this game.” So I brought up Modern Warfare 2, noting that I didn’t enjoy its campaign nearly as much as the single-player of Call of Duty 4 — and Olin knew exactly where I was going, even interrupting me when I was searching for a word to describe MW2′s campaign to suggest the term “disconnected.” He felt the same way I did, and he had a guess as to why the game turned out like that:

I’m on the development side of things, so […] my opinion of it is that it seems like they cut a little too much. You know, maybe they had some levels that just weren’t quite finished, so they had to cut them, or something. Maybe their cutscenes didn’t have enough explanation or setup.

He went on to draw a contrast between MW2 and Black Ops, explaining that while the story is certainly complicated, “we walk that fine line between ‘complex’ and ‘confusing’. And I’m pretty sure we stay back on that ‘complex’ side of the line; we never get to the ‘confusing’ side.” Olin also mentioned that he found some plot holes in MW2, and told me that at the worst, gamers who find that they don’t know what’s going on in Black Ops will be able to figure it out by the end of the game.

“I can’t describe enough how much effort we put behind our story, and our character development, and our plot. It’s really, really good. I’m stoked,” he said with a grin. Decide for yourself if he’s right when Call of Duty: Black Ops launches on November 9, 2010, for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii.

Samit Sarkar