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Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Reveal Hands-On

KevinG4
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Posted September 2, 2010 - By Kevin Kelly






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Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Reveal Hands-On

September 1 has come and gone, and as promised, Activision delivered a slew of Call of Duty: Black Ops news upon the masses. We were lucky enough to attend the multiplayer reveal, held on the grounds of the California Science Center in Los Angeles last night, where we were able to put our hands on the multiplayer modes in the game for the very first time.

Besides taunting gamers with a multiplayer teaser video a few weeks ago, Activision has been fairly silent about the multiplayer aspect of this eagerly awaited game. So what did they tell us tonight? Plenty. They dumped a nice Wager Match video feature on us earlier in the evening, and we'll have videos and more for you from the event later today, but right now we're going to tell you about what they showed off. So sit back, kick your feet up, and delve into the world of Call of Duty Black Ops - multiplayer.

First of all, I have to mention something about the setting itself. This was the first time I've ever been to a press event at the California Science Center, located on the rim of the University of Southern California campus. There's an IMAX theater there, and a sprawling set of outdoor buildings. So for this event, they brought in military displays, computers that looked as dated as the WOPR from WarGames with bleeping and blooping lights, DEFCON signage, nettings, smoke machines, tactical displays, and ... girls dressed in black pencil skirts and white tanks tops, replete with chunky black nerdy glasses.

Were they meant to be nerdy dreamgirls? Government workers circa 1960? Sexy librarians? I'm not sure exactly what Treyarch and Activision were going for here, but the girls were definitely attractive. I'm just not sure what they had to do with the game. Too bad they didn't let us play them in multiplayer, because that's a video feature I would have filmed myself. Anyhow, talk about digression. I'm sure you're thinking "Forget about the women, man! Get on to the game!" 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Wager Match Trailer »


Before we got to play, we were ushered inside the massive IMAX so that they could give us a presentation about the game. With the giant looming image of the single soldier that we've come to identify with CoD: BO looming over everything, executive producer Dan Suarez walked out to the strains of AC/DC's "Back in Black" to kick things off. Dan welcomed us to the event (taking time to thank Xbox 360, who was a partner in the event -- as before, Xbox 360 will be getting DLC first for the game), and then introduced Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia, who in turn briefly welcomed us, and he introduced the multiplayer leads Dan Bunting and David Vonderhaar.  

Dan and Dave tag-teamed their way through the presentation, hitting the three points that were hammered home throughout the event: Compete, Customize, Create

Compete

This portion was kicked off by diving into a live multiplayer match, where Dan Bunting was piloting his way through Team Deathmatch. It looked like your normal Deathmatch, with Dan nabbing several kills in quick order. But then, whaaaat? It was revealed that Dan was playing against all A.I. opponents. In fact, his teammates were A.I. too. They've added a mode to the game called Combat Training, that drops you into the multiplayer ready to play. Turns out this started with a simple A.I. bot that they'd built to test things out in the game, and grew from there. Very nice to see. Now you can populate matches with A.I. and train to your heart's content.

One big change to the game dynamic is that Call of Duty: Black Ops has a money system in the game. They've created their own currency, complete with its own symbol, that they call CoD Points. You earn these every time you play the game, and there are ways to boost your cash haul as well. One is via the Wager Matches, shown in the video released yesterday. You're betting that you'll finish in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, with descending payouts, and you can even Double Down to try and double your earnings. Of course if you lose, you lose twice as much. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Reveal Hands-On

Another way is via Contracts. Contracts are new to the game, and are challenges that you can purchase to try and earn big money, and/or XP. The contracts break down into three different types, Mercenary, Operations, and Specialists, and you might pay a 100 points to accept the Mercenary "SPAS Cruelty" contract, where you have to get 25 kills with the SPAS, or the "Scorched" Specialist contract which needs you to get 5 kills with the flamethrower. There are roughly 8 to 10 per category, and you can try them only once per day. Some contracts require higher levels as well.

You'll get rewards, large or small depending on the challenge, if you succeed, and you're also up against a timer: many challenges only give you 40 minutes to an hour of "time alive in game" to finish. Miss that deadline, and you fail the contract. You can have three contracts active at any one time, and you'll get a notice in-game when you've completed one, similar to the notice you get when you unlock a killstreak. 

Customize

Call of Duty: Black Ops takes the beloved multiplayer from both Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, and gives it a major shot in the arm. I know it's nearly sacrosanct to say that Treyarch has beaten Infinity Ward at its own game, but they've really done it here. Of course, they're playing with an engine that IW initially built, which lowers the playing field somewhat, but seriously this multiplayer has an entire vascular system full of steroids pumping through it.

When you customize via Create A Character now, you'll see their mods show up right there in the menu, so you can immediately see how different your character will look. Especially with the Tier 1 Perks, which establish your core gameplay style. Equip the Scavenger perk, and your character will be a lot of ammo pouches since you resupply yourself from dead enemies. Choose Ghost, and you'll be wearing a ghillie suit, because you're invisible to enemy radar. You can also cycle through different faction outfits, so you'll see what you look like as Urban Black Ops, Urban Spetsnaz, Arctic Black Ops, Arctic Spetsnaz, SOG or NVA. Yes, you can play as a North Vietnamese Army soldier in this game. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Reveal Hands-On

There are now three categories of equipment: Lethal, Tactical, and Equipment. They wanted to give characters a more consistent experience in the game, so everything that you can throw that kills someone (frag, semtex, tomahawk, etc) is mapped to the right bumper, and anything you throw to confuse the enemy (smoke grenade, gas grenade, flashbang, decoy, etc) goes on the left bumper. The Equipment category houses the deployables in the game, like the Camera Spike, C4, Tactical Insertion and so on. These are all things you drop in the game, and you can pick them up and move them as well.

You'll also see your weapon change on your character in the menus, and there are a lot more attachments this time around. But what caught our eye immediately? The Flamethrower add-on. This slings a flamethrower under your barrel (much like the grenade launcher, and it's activated the same way -- hit left on the d-pad) that makes for very toasty opponents. One of our favorite tactics quickly became downing an opponent, and then flaming them while there were last-standing. Whoops. Marshmallows, anyone?

Killstreaks. What's a CoD game without killstreaks? We counted at least 15 during our hands-on time, and these have to be purchased in the game with CoD Points and in some cases require you to have a certain level before you can buy them. Here's a list of the ones we saw along with their associated kills necessary to deploy:

  • Spy Plane (3)
  • RC-XD - the remote control car that goes BOOM! (3)
  • Counter-Spy Plane (4)
  • SAM Turret - takes out enemy flyers (4) 
  • Care Package (5)
  • Napalm Strike (5)
  • Sentry Gun (6)
  • Mortar Team (6)
  • Attack Helicopter (7)
  • Valkyrie Rockets (7)
  • Blackbird (8)
  • Rolling Thunder (8)
  • Chopper Gunner (9)
  • Attack Dogs (11)
  • Gunship - giving you the chance to both fly the helicopter and attack from it (11)

There are also some very rare Killstreaks that don't come up often, but whoa momma are they cool. Two that we saw were the Death Machine (a minigun you tote around that pours out lead), and Grim Reaper, which gives you access to the M202 Rocket Launcher. Yes, there is also a steerable rocket that you fire, much like the Redeemer from Unreal Tournament, but we aren't sure if that's a killstreak or not. They showed us a brief video of someone firing one, and yes ... it's awesome.

Create

Somewhat under the customize category comes the ability to create your own unique emblem, and we were actually surprised how robust this tool is. You can unlock multiple laters (looks like about 12) for your image, and select from one of over 324 different pieces of clip art that you can rotate, shrink, zoom, flip, or change to outline. Layers allow you to combine multiple items into one image.

Dan and David created a rearing horse with guns for feet (a "Pwny," if you will), and I created a doppelgänger for Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs, complete with a soda cup and straw in his hand. Multiple colors, images, laters, and more mean you'll play with this a ton. Players can also brand their gun with this image, which comes in very handy in Kill-cams, and you can also customize your red-dot sights to the Nth degree. We really enjoyed playing with one of the loadouts that included a purple smiley-face dot sight. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Reveal Hands-On

Even more impressive is the Theater mode, which closely follows the model of Halo's in-game theater function, albeit with an easier to navigate layout. Within seconds, we were recording kills from our matches, fast-forwarding to key moments, using the Free Camera to check out the entire map, and assemble clips into something we could upload to our File Share. Apparently gamers can upload and share these somehow on Xbox Live, but they didn't mention anything about PlayStation support just yet. Personally, I'm hoping to bypass the consoles and dump these directly onto Twitter or YouTube. Pausing the game and doing a 360 degree rotation around an opponent that you've just capped = extreme fun.

When they unleashed us onto the grounds to go grab some hands-on time, we played on four different maps: Cracked, Launch, Radiation, and Summit. Most of them were fairly large, and some include dynamic events, like the rocket that takes off in Launch when the Russians are ahead in multiplayer. We also got to play the four different revealed gametypes: Sticks and Stones, Gun Game (easily my favorite), Sharpshooter (a close second), and One in the Chamber. Besides that, we ran around briefly in Objective games of Demo, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, and Capture the Flag, all of which behave like their previous counterparts.

But, more on all of that later today, when we have the images and videos from the event ready for you. There's a lot more Black Ops to come, so please stick around. My two cents worth? I wasn't looking that forward to this game, to be honest. Now I'm looking at it as a day one must-have. Easily. The multiplayer alone has me salivating for more, and I actually wish I was still playing this right now. When a game can do that to me, even when it's 4AM in the morning and I'm exhausted, I crave it.

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