Gamescom 2010

Treyarch Pulls Call Of Duty: Black Ops’ Helicopter Off Rails

by Bryan Vore on Aug 20, 2010 at 11:10 AM

I saw extended live gameplay here at Gamescom of Call of Duty: Black Ops’ helicopter sequence first shown at E3. Normally in a Call of Duty game this would be an on-rails turret sequence, but Treyarch has given players accessible controls to actually steer this flying mechanical menace while unleashing a storm of bullets and rockets. The developer’s community manager Josh Olin explains in a recent chat with Game Informer how the team came up with a unique solution to sometimes complicated flight controls:

“Traditionally, it has been on rails. And that’s been the number one philosophy with Black Ops, to provide unconventional stuff. Stuff people haven’t seen. … There have been other aircraft before, but it’s always been on a rail and you’re just gunning. So we’re like, ‘You know what? No more. We’re going to take that off the rails. You’re going to be able to fly this chopper.’

“We went to the designers and said, ‘Look, it has to be a Call of Duty helicopter. We’re not making a flight sim. There are other games for that. What we want to do is have you start on the ground fighting on a normal Call of Duty level and then you hop in a chopper. You go above the canopy. And you discover a whole expansive world in front of you. And then the player shouldn’t have to think about the controller in their hand. That would take them out of the immersion.

“Part of what makes Call of Duty so great is the tight controls. People just, they get it. It’s kind of like walking. You don’t think about every step you’re taking. You just do it. When you’re playing Call of Duty, you don’t think about every button you’re pressing. You just do it. You learn it and it becomes second nature. If you were to jump in our chopper and had to go ‘Wait, what buttons do I press?’ We’ve un-immersed you and now you’re thinking ‘Oh yeah, I’m not in this world. I’m actually in front of my TV.’

“We don’t want to do that, so when you get into our chopper you’re just going to get it. If you’re a Call of Duty player you’re going to be able to fly this helicopter. And that’s done by way of controlling the elevation for you. So your left thumbstick, just like when you’re on the ground, will move you forward and back and strafe you left and right in the chopper, and the right thumb stick will look around just like on the ground. The AI will fly the elevation of the helicopter for you and you don’t have to worry about that.”

Those who have seen this chopper sequence in the trailer know it's chock full of explosive action, and the rep playing the demo never seemed at risk of crashing into canyon walls even when pursued by two enemy choppers. Of course, the true test will be if an average player can fly it without problems. I can't wait to get my hands on it to know for sure.