Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 enlists Hollywood talent to bring its story to life

Black Ops 2The Santa Monica-based Treyarch is once again taking advantage of its Hollywood backyard to bring the new campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops II to life. The game developer, backed by Activision’s huge coffers, enlisted The Dark Knight Rises scribe David S. Goyer to write the game’s story and dialogue.

James Burns

Actor James C. Burns (Criminal MindsMake It or Break It), who returns as Sergeant Frank Woods, said having Goyer on board shows how far the art form of interactive entertainment has come in a relatively short period of time.

“The writing of a narrative for a game is important, and it’s also an avenue for writers like Goyer to really tell a story in a different way, in a much broader way, than in film,” said Burns. “In a game like this you have multiple opportunities to change the story. You can follow storylines to different places. It’s more like doing a mini-series with a lot of characters, but it’s all done in one big swoop. For a writer it’s an opportunity to really stretch the legs and do a very multiple tasked story.”

Activision also brought actor Sam Worthington (Wrath of the Titans, Man on A Ledge) back as Alex Mason and enlisted a huge cast of notable talent to breathe life into the game’s many virtual characters, including Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Slither). In a first for the franchise, Goyer, who came on late in the development of the first Black Ops, decided to focus the story on the villain, Raul Menendez.

sam worthington“The most important thing is to create someone that the player can empathize with,” said Kamar de los Reyes (Read Between the Lines, Salt), who plays Menendez. “You can play a one-dimensional villain, that’s easy. But you want to create someone that the player will at one moment might love and empathize with, and another moment he will hate and not understand or relate to at all. That’s where it becomes really difficult, and fun, fun as the actor.”

In another move towards a Hollywood scale production, Black Ops II features full performance capture. The actors donned the increasingly familiar skintight motion-capture suits and read their dialogue while acting on set at the House of Moves in Los Angeles.

“This is the first game where actors like myself, James Burns and Rich McDonald are actually actors playing the roles,” said de los Reyes. “We are the guys in the video game. In the past, you always had stuntmen playing the roles and doing the motion capture and then having someone come in the voice like Keifer Sutherland or Gary Oldman to do the voice. It’s a lot of fun for the actors. I personally thought it was a hell of a lot more fun doing it all, and I think that’s what sets this game apart from all the others.”

Kamar de los ReyesTony Todd (Chuck, Candy Man), who plays Admiral Tommy Briggs, believes Black Ops II is going to be the most narrative game that gamers have ever encountered.

“Between the ‘80s flashbacks, the future setting, the holograms, and the current situation on the Battleship Barack Obama; it’s just going to be mind-bending,” said Todd in a previous interview for Digital Trends, who had over 50 pages of script to perform in the game.

Getting actors to come back for more Call of Duty isn’t that much of a chore for Treyarch. Everyone involved had nothing but accolades for director Dave Anthony, who helmed the game’s epic story once again.

“I loved working on Black Ops I,” said Burns. “Treyarch is a dream job and Woods is a fun character to play. Come on, I play army for a living for God sakes. And the story progression is phenomenal. I’m a big fan of the game itself, and Black Ops II is such a great, inventive idea of how to take it to the next level. I’m very proud to be part of it.”

Rich McdonaldWith the sequel being set in 2025, the returning characters are a lot older in this game – although the story does jump back in time to the ‘80s for some missions. Burns said Woods has evolved from a “badass weapon” into an “elder oracle” in the new game.

“Woods is the guy that has all this information and his function in the game is to illuminate the player as to the nature of the events, why things happened, and what’s happening,” said Burns. “He’s evolved into this still highly wired, pretty powerful – even though he’s in a wheelchair – character. He has his mental acuity is there. He’s smart. He’s incisive. He’s a smartass. He’s just that old guy in a chair that knows sh*t before you even think that you need to know it. He’s already got you pegged before you walk in the room. He’s evolved from this warrior with a knife to a warrior with an intellect. He’s this rugged badass in a wheelchair.”

The characters in the game are now old enough to have sons that become involved in the plot. Rich McDonald (Heart of DixieGod Bless America) plays Commander David Mason, son of Alex Mason. He commands an elite team of Navy SEALs, which ends up going after Menendez. The actor loves the futuristic setting, which introduces new weapons, drones and vehicles to the story and gameplay.

Celestin Cornielle“That’s a very intelligent choice to make as far as a time period to pick; not going too far into the future, but just far enough to where they can bring in certain aspects that are being explored right now in the technology fields,” said McDonald. “It’s all too realistic in that time frame. You also have elements from the present that are still going to be applicable in that timeframe, as well.”

Thanks to Goyer, the game’s script challenged actors to cope with major plot twists, as well as serious choices.

“My character is Javier Salazar, who is a military man whose spirit is torn between a way of life that he’s been taught and trained to do, and then something that moves him in a very internal level,” said actor Celestin Cornielle (The Finder, The Mentalist). “He’s forced to choose between two roads. One leads to light, one leads to darkness. To him, it truly leads to an awakening, a new consciousness, and a revelation that we all must be aware of. That’s all I can tell you without killing you.”

The campaign mode in Black Ops II is about much more than killing, although there’s plenty of that. With the success of the Call of Duty game franchises, developers have been able to work with larger budgets. And the growing fan base of gamers includes many Hollywood “names” both in front of, and behind, the camera. Goyer’s involvement has helped assemble a great cast of actors, who in turn deliver performances that Treyarch hopes will connect with gamers.

Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

'Terminator: Dark Fate' is the working title for the new Terminator movie

The most recent Terminator films didn't do so well, but now James Cameron has returned to reinvigorate the franchise. Here's everything we know about the cast, crew, and story of the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate movie.
Gaming

These are the best weapons for taking down mutants and bandits in Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a very difficult game, and choosing the right weapons is key for surviving the post-apocalyptic Russia that 4A Games has created. These are the best weapons in Metro Exodus.
Gaming

Exotic Masterwork Weapons are in Destiny 2. Here's how to upgrade

Destiny 2's new Masterwork gear offers a number of special bonuses. Here is what you need to know about it, including how to find the gear in the game and even create it yourself.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Gaming

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.
Gaming

Razer Game Store to shut down at end of February, less than a year after opening

The Razer Game Store will shut down on February 28, less than a year after it opened. Games purchased from the digital store will continue to work, but purchased keys will need to be used before its closure.
Gaming

Niantic promises to make Pokémon Go less troublesome for homeowners

Niantic is looking to settle the lawsuits filed by angry homeowners who were affected by hordes of Pokémon Go players trespassing on their properties. Niantic promised to resolve complaints within 15 days, among other things.
Gaming

These Xbox One exclusives are the definition of quality over quantity

Xbox One has a prestigious collection of handpicked titles that you can't play on other consoles. Here are the latest and greatest Xbox One exclusives, including some that are also available on PC
Gaming

Kingdom Hearts 3 on Nintendo Switch reportedly never going to happen

Kingdom Hearts 3 for the Nintendo Switch will likely not happen, according to Game Informer's senior editor, Imran Khan. Square Enix is reportedly considering an alternative in bringing the franchise to the console.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.