Just another annual update on the same old tired first-person war shooter? Donít be so hasty to judge just yet - Activision and Treyarch have been putting a lot of work in on the Call of Duty multiplayer experience with Black Ops II, and at a recent press event the studio showcased a number of new features and details that will aim to excite core CoD fans and pique the curiosity of everyone else.
The information that was discussed really narrowed down to three key elements - eSports, Prestige and Zombies. The latter, in particular, could very well sway those who might not be initially convinced that a Call of Duty
game is a reasonable purchase this holiday season.
While we run through some of these details, take a gander at these fresh new screenshots of the game in action, featuring maps Express, Hijack and Overflow and a sneak peek at the popular Zombies mode - which now comes ready and waiting as a bona fide extra on the disc.
Treyarch and Activision are taking on eSports in a big, big way. Anyone who attended the Eurogamer Expo in Earls Court this past month will know of the huge space that Call of Duty: Black Ops II
occupied, set solely on pushing the gameís online community features and sporting initiatives.
League Play will be supported, allowing clans of all kinds to jump into skill-based matchmaking tournaments. Some events will have various conditions set for victory, which each team will need to adhere to in order to win. CoDCasting - the term used for broadcasting your FPS game to the community - allows spectators to watch games, switch to map views, access picture-in-picture features and check up on live stats.
Each player in action has a Ďnameplateí that spectators can see to identify them - a bit like the number on the back of a footballerís shirt. And itís not just online players who will be able to spectate either - new live streaming features will mean that matches can bounce off servers to reach all kinds of users on different devices. An example Activision used was back at E3 2012, where the company used its own server to push live streamed matches onto iPads.
Some gameplay mechanics have been tweaked that take full advantage of the sporting opportunities available, too. The most obvious of these is the Pick 10 feature - essentially, itís a brand new loadout system that allows you to pick and choose any weapons, items or perks within a value limit of 10.
The beauty in this is, as everything has its own value, you can be tactical in what you pick to give yourself an edge - or just outright show off. You can choose to simply wield a combat knife and rock six perks if you like, or just load yourself with a bunch of guns and decide against any perks or secondaries. Itís that flexible.
Players can also equip Wildcards, which go some way to bending a particular rule in their favour. For instance, having a Perk 1 Greed Wildcard will allow you to pick two perks from the first perk tier, instead of two. Weíre assuming that balance has been considered when designing these.
Rejoice! You wonít have anything taken away from you once you hit Prestige! Hooray! There are 55 levels to reach in Black Ops II
, and 10 levels of Prestige to ding. Every time you do, you wonít get your weapons XP reset, nor will your challenge progress be wiped. Itís a Prestige feature for a more gentler, kinder era.
With Prestige comes great power and responsibility, obviously - and such powerful unlocks in Black Ops II
are tied to tokens. Tokens can be exchanged for a piece of content, but itís not quite as straightforward as youíd think. Unlock tiers begin to split and branch off after a while, meaning that you can build a rather unique super-soldier depending on your combat strategies.
As you would expect with a system like this, there are more pieces of unlockable content than there are levels. Thatís where Prestige comes in - if you reach the hallowed halls of the 10th, you earn the title of Master, and can access everything on the board. In the meantime, you can use Prestige Tokens to reset your stats and start over, to experiment with another selection of unlocks, or get your tokens refunded outright and build upon what you have.
Perhaps a major turning point for the Call of Duty
series was in the rather enjoyable and throwaway Zombies experience. In the original Black Ops
, Treyarch released the Rezurrection
add-on pack which provided a nice wrapper to contain the mode in and to expand upon it somewhat.
Now that the Zombies mode is right on the disc, Treyarch wants to build on it further with new zombies, new worlds and new weapons. Looking at the announcement trailer, itís almost as if this is Activisionís interpretation of Left 4 Dead
- especially when you consider that the story in Rezurrection is continued in a story mode titled Tranzit.
As youíd expect, Tranzit is a co-operative affair, with 1-4 players jumping in as civvies looking out for each other as the cursed undead come to munch on their brains. Treyarch is promising an expansive world this time around, with large areas linked together by bus and collectible items that can be used to create new weapons beyond those you find on the field.
On top of a Grief mode and Survival mode to complement Tranzit, it also transpires that Black Ops IIís
Zombies mode is using the same multiplayer engine as the main game. This means that everything that you can access from the core multiplayer side - leaderboards, stat tracking, matchmaking, custom games - is also accessible in the Zombies side.
Say what you will about Call of Dutyís
single-player themes and storytelling approach - when it comes down to it, the thing that tends to draw people back is the admittedly addictive multiplayer. And with Treyarch upping the stakes, this could very well be the game that takes competitive gaming to the next level.