At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Richard Pilot Xbox 360 Activision Blizzard Treyarch 1-16 (Online) November 13th

Call of Duty: Black Ops II preview

The traditional Call of Duty multiplayer hasn't really changed. The backdrop, types of weapons and even modes, fluctuate over the course of each entry in the series, but the basic premise of "take aim and shoot the enemy" hasn’t really changed. So when I sat down to hear about the new features that have made their way into Call of Duty: Black Ops II, I didn't really know what I was going to hear about. Those of you who are hoping to learn that Black Ops II now features kart racing or puzzle platforming should turn away now; the fundamental structure of multiplayer isn't changing, but Treyarch has set about to achieve two goals: adding more player choice, and expanding the user base of multiplayer into the e-Sports community.

These aren't like the AR Drones you can have at home.

These aren't like the AR Drones you can have at home.

To allow for more player choice, Treyarch really wanted to look into the customisation that players are given in the classes. They came away with the "Pick 10" system. This is essentially an in-depth create-a-class system that allows players to tailor the weapons, accessories and perks that they use while simultaneously keeping the system fair to other players. Players get ten points (hence "Pick 10") that they can use to spend on anything they want in the entire inventory. To keep things simple, everything costs one point and the user interface has been designed to illustrate this effectively. Treyarch was also keen to ensure that you don't step back, so instead of blocking you once you hit your limit, attempting to add an additional item will prompt you to choose to remove an existing item, so you're constantly moving forward. There's an incredible amount of customisation available, so for example, if you never use the secondary weapon, it can be removed to free up points so you can purchase that additional grenade you always wanted. Mixing things up are Wildcards (which again cost 1 point apiece) that are effectively the rulebreakers. They let you mix up your custom class further by breaking the traditional rules, for example, by allowing you to purchase an additional Tier 1 perk (costing one point for the wildcard and one point for the new perk).

There are other things shaking up the multiplayer too, such as scorestreaks which are replacing killstreaks. These recognise players' contribution to the match other than taking down the opposing team. The example that was used was flag capture which scored 100 points for acquiring the flag, followed by 200 points for a flag carry kill, double the usual score as the player was double the threat. These points stack too, so multiple scorestreaks can be awarded from a single flag capture and score. There was also the brief mention of prestige, which the developers thought shouldn't be a numbers game. Keeping the level cap small and allowing for more prestige means that players are grinding those top levels less. In Black Ops II there's 55 levels and 10 levels of prestige. There's also medals which are there to point out when the player does something cool such as an afterlife kill or headshot. These give the player experience point bonuses and are repeatable. Content is unlocked per level but is also gated by rank. Bringing this back to "Pick 10" and create a class; there are over 100 items to choose from, so in order to unlock everything you must prestige. The other thing that Treyarch talked about was the addition of multi-team games where a number of different teams are pitted against one another, for example, 4 vs 4 vs 4.

I hear Yemen is nice at this time of year

I hear Yemen is nice at this time of year

The other thing that was talked about in our session was e-Sports. Treyarch would love for Call of Duty: Black Ops II to be a serious contender in the e-Sports community. They talked about what features needed to be at players' fingertips in order for them to reach this lofty goal. To help with this aim, Treyarch have included a number of really cool new features into Black Ops II. These center around CODCasting, essentially a set of tools that allow for game sessions to be broadcast, commentated on and presented. This isn't just about showing what other players are seeing; the set of tools allows for picture-in-picture so that the commentator can show match information such as an overview map, scores, player lists and more. Treyarch were very keen to ensure that this toolset was accessible to everyone. There's no point trying to move the game into the world of e-Sports if some of these tools were behind a paywall; with this in mind, this toolset is included in every copy of Black Ops II in-game. There's no need for a keyboard, mouse or webcam and you don't need to hook your console up to a PC in order to stream it. It also allows players to listen in, so that you don't need a copy of the game to watch matches. The only thing that Treyarch was shy on was the names of the content/stream providers that they would be partnering up with in order to create this service.

It's great to see Treyarch introduce these rich toolsets into the traditional console multiplayer and it'll be interesting to see if Black Ops II multiplayer takes off in the direction they are hoping for.

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