EB Games Expo – Call of Duty Black Ops II
If there was one booth at EB Games Expo 2012 where you were guaranteed to see a huge crowd – it was the Activision booth. Whenever I glanced over, there were a sea of people clustered around their booth and they were there for one thing: hands on time with Call of Duty Black Ops II. I was fortunate to attend a special Black Ops II media event on the eve of the Expo where I was given a special preview of both the single player and multiplayer aspects of Activision and Treyarch’s most anticipated upcoming release. Read on for the details.
Activision and Treyarch have taken great pains to ensure that details surrounding the single player campaign aren’t spoiled – this is one of the reasons that multiplayer was the mode on display and playable at the EB Games Expo. In support of this, I won’t describe much in relation to the plot of the single player experience I was shown, except to say the stage I saw was titled ‘Monsoon’ and it was early in the campaign. Taking advantage of the 2025 futuristic setting, there were new weapons and gadgets on display and during your playthrough you will be exposed to a large assortment of futuristic tech and weaponry – it was a surprise to me to see things like squirrel suits included in the campaign. However, you aren’t the only one utilising high tech advancements – enemies can now come with cloaking armor, making them difficult to spot and requiring a well placed EMP to fry their armor and make them exposed to gunfire.
The action I saw was frantic but composed – there were slick explosions and a lot of gunplay. The background score complimented the action unfolding on screen particularly well, and the inclusion of squadmate reactions and comments on your performance is a nice touch. The brief screening of the single player level was enough to show the game is looking sharp, well-polished and that Treyarch seem to be attempting to include new, unique gameplay elements alongside the series mainstays fans know, love and now expect.
The multiplayer aspect to Call of Duty Black Ops II was definitely the focus at the expo, and one which I managed to have a good deal of hands on time with. What Activision and Treyarch are highlighting as the main component of multiplayer is the Pick 10 System as part of the create a class ability. Here, individuals will have ten points to spend when they are customising their class and loadout – and what it means is that players will now be able to create loadouts that have never been seen in a Call of Duty game before. The points will be able to be used to select weapons (both primary and secondary), thrown items, upgrades, perks and special abilities. Wildcards will also be included in this system – where their use will cost a point. In action, this means that via the use of wildcards you may be able to forego your primary or secondary weapon to load up on extra perks. The Pick 10 system presents a level of unique customisation of your character which has never been seen before in a Call of Duty game – in short, it’s a big deal.
Killstreaks make a return, however they are now called scorestreaks and there is a focus on rewarding players who pursue game objectives of the multiplayer mode you’re playing. If you help your team in pursuit of these objectives, you will be rewarded with scores.
The multiplayer itself will be 55 levels, with 10 levels of prestige. The game will feature ranking medals to earn, and there will be unlock tokens given one per level which will provide players with weapons perks and similar upgrades. With respect to e-sports and codcasting – the team at Treyarch are very aware that for league play the competition must be fun for everyone at every level – nobody enjoys having their ass handed to them by better players over and over again, and on the flip side, no-one enjoys a one-sided competition where no challenge exists because you are continuously annihilating your opponents. To this end, Call of Duty Black Ops II seeks to match player skill sets, ensuring that players always know where they rank, and they can use this information to inform their choises in multiplayer. Treyarch and Activision are working to have livestreaming at launch, in addition to enabling players to become their own commentator for their matches. Multiplayer will feature several game modes, among which are Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag and Hardpoint – which is a king of the hill style mode where players must fight to control an area on the map known as the Hardpoint. Party games return and there will also be a bootcamp mode which will grant full XP against bots up to level 10, with half XP granted when a player passes level 10. All the modes will be supported in custom games where players will be able to add bots and adjust the parameters for their online gaming experience.
Challenges will also be included in multiplayer and achieving these will enable players to customise their online identity. Completing challenges will unlock cosmetic content (such as weapon camo’s) in addition to unlocking emblems and backgrounds. The emblems alone are incredibly customisable – featuring 32 layers with over 150 shapes. Theatre also makes a return with the social features being spotlighted once again. There will be bookmarks and community tabs featured, as well as up/down voting and a highlight reel which will show the best clips of a captured game.
Having mentioned Prestige mode previously, it is important to note that Prestige will not reset weapon, XP or challenge progress. Playsers will be able to keep their progress in these areas. For players wanting that extra challenge that Prestige offers – there will be rewards for pursuing Prestige. Prestige tokens will be provided, allowing players to choose 1 out of a selection of very desirable perks, such as an extra create-a-class, a reset stats pass or a refund.
Turning attention to the zombie component of Black Ops II multiplayer – Treyarch and Activision have spent a great deal of time and energy on improving, tweaking and enhancing this mode. Past decisions made previously will follow through and have an impact on events during this mode. There will be new player characters and zombies, new weaponry and the world contained within this mode is the largest zombie world ever featured in a Call of Duty game. The zombie component to Black Ops II has three modes:
- Tranzit, which is the story mode and supports 1-4 player co-op in an incredibly expansive world featuring an overhead map. Strategy comes into play during this mode with the inclusion of two new elements: the bus, which is an actual bus that runs on schedule on a route through the map. Players can decide to take the bus and use it, or bypass it entirely, and these decision will impact player experience with the world. The second element is the buildables – things that are scattered about the world which can be assembled and used to player advantage.
- Survival mode, where the aim is to survive as long as possible, will support 14 players in co-op in addition to custom-mode playable areas.
- Grief mode, which will allow 2-8 players to play humans vs humans vs zombies, or 4z4. Two teams will go head to head against eachother and the zombies, with the winner decided by whichever team has the last person standing. The objective here is to use the zombies to grief your human enemies – casting the zombies attention to the other team to provide your team with the best chance of winning.
Having had hands-on time with the multiplayer of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, I can say it was an incredible amount of fun. I mainly played the new hardpoint mode, and the combination of being able to loadout your character using a variety of different weapons, perks and tactical gear with the frenetic action of the hardpoints changing every 60-90 seconds during the games meant each game felt different whilst retaining that fast-paced, action-orientated feeling.
The Pick 10 system is fantastic in providing an avenue to try out each class with different loadouts until you find one which hits the sweet spot for you. The system is intuitive and easy to grasp and the variety of classes, weapons, wildcards and tactical perks provides something for every play type. The hardpoint mode is perfect for both quick gameplay or a more in-depth gaming session, and I can easily see hardpoint becoming the mode of choice for gaming sessions with friends.
The multiplayer itself is looking well-balanced, with exceptional player loadout customisation abilities and solid gameplay modes and levels. Treyarch and Activision have clearly designed the multiplayer modes and gameplay with a vision for player investment and longevity and from my hands on time with the title, it’s shaping up to be a title you won’t want to take out of your consoles or PC’s disc tray.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II releases November 13. For more information on the title, check out its official website here.