American newspaper USA Today has gained an exclusive look at a level of this year's Call of Duty: Black Ops, and has confirmed that the game's co-op mode will support four players.
Players begin by looking down on the action from an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, directing a group of four black ops soldiers on the ground to guide them past a convoy of Russian troops. You won't be piloting the plane directly.
Then the action switches to the team on the ground as the four operatives infiltrate a Russian radar station. A scoped crossbow provides a stealthy sniping weapon, but by changing ammo on the fly - a new feature for the Call of Duty series - it's used to accurately place explosives.
Despite these touches, Treyarch's game isn't going to rewrite the series' rulebook. "The firefight that ensues is textbook Call of Duty," says USA Today, chaotic and intense, and cinematic moments include a dramatic rappelling scene and a cliff-hanging close.
Confirmation of four-player co-op comes in USA Today's interview with Treyarch head Mark Lamia. The article, ambiguously, describes this mode as "beyond the single-player story".
The game's story will encompass "at least two main characters in multiple covert international conflicts" over quite a long period of time during the Cold War. "We are not getting into the exact period of time, because it is part of our story that we are going to reveal later, but it does cover a longer period during this era," said Lamia.
Lamia revealed that it has done extensive research into the secret warfare of the period, consulting with a veteran of the innocuous-sounding Studies and Observations Group, a CIA-led black operations unit that fought in the Vietnam War. A former Soviet special forces soldier also contributed to the game. The modified crossbow, and its use to place explosives, is an example of a gameplay element that came directly from their accounts.
"Variety of gameplay. Variety of setting," are Treyarch's watchwords for Black Ops, Lamia said.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on 9th November.