Call of Duty Black Ops II.

Black Ops II will feature futuristic weapons.

THE world's annual premier trade show for the video-game industry, E3, took place this week in Los Angeles.

One gaming franchise that steals the limelight at E3 each year is Call of Duty, which last year became the biggest entertainment launch in history across any medium, grossing $1 billion in the first 16 days.

The chief executive of franchise publishers Activision, Eric Hirshberg, says the accolade isn't just a great honour, but a massive responsibility.

''We have this balancing act of wanting to bring meaningful innovation to the franchise every year while still staying true to the things that people love about the franchise,'' he says.

At a recent unveiling of the next game in the franchise, Hirshberg said, ''I think Black Ops II could well be the most ambitious Call of Duty [game] we've ever had.''

Since the franchise made its debut in 2003, it has been recognised for its realistic portrayal of past and present military conflicts. This next chapter in the Call of Duty series, however, takes place in the year 2025. For the first time in the series, players will have access to futuristic weapons and equipment.

''We've worked with various experts and consultants to learn about the future, and how every element of the battlefield is going to be networked,'' says Jay Puryear of Treyarch, the development studio creating Black Ops II. ''By 2025, you're going to be seeing a massive proliferation of drones, advanced robotics and all kinds of new weaponry.''

Unlike Call of Duty's previous linear-style campaign mode, another shake-up for the franchise is the introduction of a branching storyline and Strike Force missions throughout the campaign.

''Strike Force missions allow players to take control of the battle like never before,'' Puryear says. ''You can issue commands to your squad, RPG-style. You can take control of various drones and robotic units. Or you can take over any member of the squad, and play classic Call of Duty-style, gun in hand, boots on the ground.''

Supporting Black Ops II's single-player story-driven campaign, Treyarch has separate teams dedicated to the game's online multiplayer modes, as well as the unique zombie mode. The latter will take full advantage of the game's comprehensive multiplayer engine for the first time. Black Ops II launches on November 13.

Mike Wilcox travelled to California as a guest of Activision.