Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Hands-on Preview -- Modern Warfare Evolved and FuturizedBy Eric Eckstein - Posted Aug 13, 2012
Whether you’re a veteran of the franchise or new to shooters, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer is poised to blow you away. It’d be easy to give it a quick glance and dismiss it as more of the same, but what’s different is what makes this edition shine, and what’s the same makes this COD experience all the more addictive.
While Black Ops 2 multiplayer is exclusively set in the year 2025, that’s not the biggest change to the series. Yes, you’ll have futuristic weaponry, like assault rifles that can be equipped with Target Finder attachments to auto-locate enemies or the Millimeter Scanner that will see stationary enemies through smoke and even walls, but let’s start from the beginning.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare introduced the Create-a-Class system to its line of FPS, forever changing the way we tailor our play styles in shooters. Not content with the current system, Treyarch went back to the drawing board for BLOPS 2 to deliver a new point-based mechanic. The premise is simple: When creating a class, you have 10 points. You equip a gun, that’s one point; a grenade, one more, etc. A fully loaded class will typically use all your points. You can still pick Perks one-three for up to three points…but now there are Wildcards that will let you change the rules.
- VIDEO PREVIEW: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Hands-On Preview Part 1
Want three attachments on one gun? You can do so, as well as selecting two Perks from the same level (two Perk ones), but you need to pay for it by not including other selections. The point system allows players to customize their class in a deeper, more meaningful way. If you never use your secondary weapon, don’t waste points on it; use them to increase the number of lethal grenades you carry. Or if you just love Perks, take no equipment except for as many Perks as you can handle.
Even better, the process for creating classes has been revised so that you can browse through weapons and equipment in a more visual carousel. Attachments have become even more important as they now serve as the only way to alter a weapon. If you want longer range, a variable fire rate, or deeper impact on your shots, you’ll need to bring along the attachments to do so. There are new weapons of war, so don’t worry. You’ll have access to the Assault Shield, an upgrade to the Riot Shield that can now be deployed as cover, or Shock Charges that can temporarily electrocute enemies or short out robotic rewards.
The team at Treyarch went beyond Classes though, and also revised the way streak rewards are awarded. Now referred to as Score Streaks, players will earn points for performing game actions (killing enemies, defending the flag, etc.), and those points will accrue to fill your reward meter. The goal was to help players who engage in a support role. For example, calling a UAV will generate extra points whenever a teammate takes out a bad guy while up.
Naturally, you can expect the rewards themselves to run the gamut of Assault to Support, and to rattle off a few, you’ll be seeing Stealth Helicopters, Hellstorm Missiles, which can strike single targets or burst overhead for an area effect, and the controversial return of Attack Dogs and RC-XDs. Our favorite though is a lower level reward called the Guardian, which is a portable microwave emitter that slows down and cooks enemies that cross its path; the Guardian being the perfect tool to help lock down an area.
Black Ops 2 will allow players to have more influence on the operation of AI/player controlled rewards as well. If a player calls in a helicopter, at any time, the player can move the grid which the helicopter oversees. If it’s a military drone, like the quadrocopter or AGR, players can assume control at will; for example, jump into a drone, fly it around, disengage, let the AI take over, and then resume control later. In addition, enhanced audio feedback will help keep reward owners informed as to progress with dialog cues as to what they’re up to while sighting or downing enemies.
- VIDEO PREVIEW: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Hands-On Preview Part 2
Gone are COD Points, thankfully, and instead, players will earn an Unlock token each level (the Black Ops 2 multiplayer experience will constitute 55 levels, with an additional 10 ranks of Prestige). Content will be gated by rank, and we’ve been told that there is more content than unlock tokens on one runthrough. How Prestige (or previous title Prestige) factors into this is unknown at this point.
Beyond all of these changes to the metagame, the core BO2 game is mostly unchanged. You’ll still engage in Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Domination, albeit in better-looking and occasionally dynamically changing environments. For example, on the map Cargo, a set of cargo containers is constantly being lifted and placed, creating different points of cover on the map. We also snuck a peek at a new game mode called Hardpoint, a King of the Hill-style mode that requires players to control an area to earn points.
But the real gamechanger is the inclusion of Multi-Teams. Now, up to 6 teams can compete (up to 18 players), creating an even more chaotic and exciting dynamic online. Expect other game modes to be announced over time, but there’s one other element, and it’s a big one in the world of eSports.
As its first step, Black Ops 2 will include League Play across (currently) seven divisions of skill-based matchmaking. Players will be placed simply by playing a game, and then rank up or down as they win/lose. While there has always been a bit of under-the-covers matchmaking for COD games, this will be the first time that players can find themselves with a more appropriate challenge level. The bigger addition is the inclusion of live streaming.
- VIDEO PREVIEW: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 "Story & Multiplayer" Preview
Black Ops 2 will allow the live-streaming of games out of the box on consoles; even more so, it will allow shoutcasting in tandem with that live stream. Again, all you need is reliable upstream bandwidth (USB camera is optional if you want player video), and you can turn your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 into a broadcaster. This can be from live games or even pre-recorded games that you’ve saved in Theater mode. It’s likely that Elite will complement a lot of these features to store and stream, but right now, Activision’s being mum on that front.
What Shoutcasting means for Black Ops 2 though is a whole slew of new features for presenting content. As a shoutcaster (and there can be multiple in one match), you’ll have almost total control of how you want to show off the action. Go from first-person to third-person and customize the display to toggle on/off visual elements (the minimap, score streak notifications, etc.). A picture-in-picture mode is built in to the product, so that shoutcasters can switch between a player and a ‘live’ mini-map showing where the hot spots in the match are.
Also at a glance, a scoreboard will tally up who’s dead, who’s on a run, and what particular players are doing (capturing a point, running with the flag, etc.). Lastly, at any time, the shoutcaster can choose to listen in on a team, as a way to both take the temperature of a team in the heat of battle as well as gauge how effective their communication is.
Privacy seekers can relax though as they’ll very clearly see if their game is being broadcast to the world. And for those worried about cheating, the live stream itself runs on a delay so no one will know exactly what you’re up to. Of course, if that world just bugs you, you can avoid it altogether.
The addition of live streaming and shoutcasting straight from the game itself is pretty mind-blowing for a console title. I’m still not entirely clear how it’s all going to work, but if it works as the team desires, it could be a powerful way of empowering its audience with sharing Black Ops 2 gameplay. We see what a small group of people can do with a super-sophisticated tool like Steam Filmmaker…imagine what happens when millions have a way to push out a clip with their own commentary over it.
Of course, all these details are one thing; playing is another, and as a self-admitted COD junkie, I have to say the game is still as addictive as ever. I armed myself with a variety of different types of weapons, from an assault rifle that was more precise if you feather the trigger, to a shotgun that rotates the chamber every four shots. All very cool and useful weapons in certain scenarios. I rocked the Target Finder attachment a lot, as I tend to play Support roles and wanted to call out enemies or pick them off when least expected, but found the Millimeter Scanner attachment handy when enemies opted to hide instead.
I’m no super soldier, so I knew the higher-end streak rewards were going to be difficult to pull off. To offset that, I chose a UAV, Care Package, and Guardian for my loadout so that I could randomly receive cool stuff. I adore the Guardian though. If you play with the right group, you can completely hold key areas of the map and just own, especially since you can’t just rush in and knife it. I was able to receive some great rewards though during my time, including the AGR, which is a more powerful Sentry Bot, letting you rain bullets and missiles on everyone, and the Stealth Helicopter, which cannot be shot down. I never received the Lodestar, which allows you to laser target enemies, but it did obliterate me in one match.
Instead of simply giving its die-hard audience more of the same, Treyarch has gone the extra mile to keep the Call of Duty brand fresh. A revamped Create-a-Class and Score Streak system is more than icing on the cake of the futuristic multiplayer game, which still remains very ‘pick-up and play’ friendly. So far, Treyarch has positioned Black Ops 2 as the best Call of Duty ever, and we still haven’t seen everything yet! But the proof will be with the finished game when it’s released on November 13.