When crowds around the world greet the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops II tonight, it may be the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
Director Dave Anthony, 39, has spent two years working with a team of more than 250 people to create the new, sci-fi themed installment - and tells Yahoo! that he is confident that he has made something that can challenge Hollywood.
Analysts predict the new shoot 'em up game could smash the takings of the new James Bond hit, Skyfall.
Its predecessor, Black Ops, took $1 billion in 16 days - a milestone James Cameron's Avatar took 17 days to hit. There are 40 million regular Call of Duty players worldwide.
"The movie industry is 100 years old," says Anthony.
"To me, cinema is amazing, like going to the Moon - but we're going to Mars. This is the new frontier."
The game has been promoted with a live-action trailer by Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows director Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Junior. One of the game's lead roles is voiced by Avatar star Sam Worthington.
But Anthony says that games can do things that films simply can’t.
The new Black Ops is the first Call of Duty game with ‘branching’ storylines - ie where the player can change how the game ends.
"Have you ever watched an action film, and really invested in a character, and then he gets killed, and thought, 'I wish he hadn't died?' We have branching storylines - so you can actually reverse the situation. You can save them, or let them die.”
"That can't happen in any other medium. It's groundbreaking."
Anthony recruited Hollywood scriptwriter David S Goyer - the writer of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight rises for a storyline that takes in conflicts in the Eighties and a future war in 2025.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 game trailerDive into the near-future world of 2025, unravelling a generation-spanning story that has led to a global conflict unlike ever before. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 arrives November 2012
'The process of making a film starts from a script,” says Anthony.
“With gaming, it's the reverse. The script is one of the last things - but there are key characters who will live or die depending on your decisions in this game."
For the first Black Ops, Anthony, a veteran who has worked on Call of Duty games for studio Treyarch for a decade, found inspiration from Hollywood films.
For the new game - with sections set in the Eighties, and others set in a war-torn future - Anthony consulted with soldiers and other military experts, including Colonel Oliver North, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel who became notorious in the Eighties for his involvement in the 'Iran-Contra' affair where covert arms sales were used to fund Nicaraguan rebel groups.
North is now a political commentator, historian and author.
"I actually found him one of the most honourable people I've ever met," says Anthony.
"He spends a lot of time with soldiers on bases, and the soldiers play the game - they use it to improve their situational awareness. North said to me, 'Your game is saving lives, that's why I want to get involved.'"
Scriptwriter David S Goyer, a Hollywood veteran who scripted Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, said that Black Ops 2 was far more complex than writing for Hollywood.
"It's quite complicated - we have different endings, branching storylines," he says. "We had to come up with an elaborate flowchart to keep track of all the branching narratives.
"I've actually lost track of how many possible endings there are.
"I loved working on Black Ops and the sequel - we also had a lot less creative interference than your typical film development process.
"I would definitely do more games -- and I hope to. I know that more and more scriptwriters are beginning to migrate to games. It makes sense. As the technology bar rises, the tech usually leads.
"Then, once the technology reaches a new level of perceived reality, the immersive world demands a more sophisticated story.
"One of the things we were working towards was trying to depict how complicated these geopolitical conflicts really are. World War II was one of the last, truly black and white wars."
"Everything since has been varying shades of gray. By shuttling back and forth in time, we tried to s
how that the seeds of many current conflicts were actually planted in the past."
Guy Cocker of game site Gamespot says that Black Ops 2 has every chance of beating every entertainment release this year.
"This is a series that knows how to give fans exactly what they want,” says Cocker. “Encouragingly, Black Ops II isn't afraid to mix things up a bit."
"The game's multiplayer component incorporates an upgrade system that should make the game fairer and more competitive than ever, while it caters to the pro gaming scene with the ability to broadcast and commentate over your matches direct to the web.
“On the single player side, the futuristic setting and its use of drone warfare feels current, and the involvement of Hollywood scriptwriter David S. Goyer should build on a strong story from the first game.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Black Ops
- Dave Anthony