The next title in the Call of Duty mega-franchise is barely a week away. In preparation for the launch, I thought I’d bring together all the important bits of information about the game to cover the three major aspects of Black Ops 2: Single player, Multi-player, and Zombies.
Almost Everything We Know About Black Ops 2: Single Player
I’m not really going to go over the story much. Most of the game takes place in 2025 with about a third taking place in the 1980s. There’s a bad guy who takes control of America’s drone armies in an effort to turn a cold war (between China and America over Rare Earth Elements) hot. There are lots of explosions, at least one building will fall down, and you’ll fly (and fall out of) a jet. ‘Nuff said.
I want to talk more about what Treyarch is doing differently within the single player, not just what new, globe-trotting adventure you’ll take part in.
For the first time in the CoD franchise (you’ll hear this phrase a lot), players will be able to select their loadout prior to entering a mission. Not only do players now have a choice in what they bring along with them in their missions, but they can also complete challenges within each mission just like in multi-player. Certain challenges can only be completed using certain weapons or equipment, and completing challenges further unlocks more weapons, attachments, and equipment for you to play with. So not only do you now have more control over how you play out a level, but you’re given more reasons to revisit the campaign for more than achievement hunting.
Strike Force is another first in the series and aims to help diminish the sense of linearity of the series. After every few missions in the campaign you’ll be given a Strike Force mission to complete. You’re dropped into a semi-open/sandbox world and given a number of objectives to complete. You’re given a number of troops, drones, and other assets to complete your objectives, which you can use one of two ways. You can assume a sort of "commander" top-down mode where you can command your units similar to an RTS-style game. You can also choose to jump into any of your units and control them like you normally do during the campaign. If the unit you inhabit gets killed then you can choose to jump back into another unit or resume the commander role. If you do not complete every objective before your assets run out (a.k.a. everyone got killed) then the mission is failed. Rather than take you to a "load checkpoint" screen the game carries on and the campaign is in some way shape or form affected by your failure. Which brings me to…
Call of Duty is chock-full of moments where you’re manning a turret, sniping from a building, or assaulting a beach, but what if you didn’t have to do that? At several points throughout your adventures you’ll be given a choice as to how you want to approach a certain objective. The most commonly used example is choosing to stay up on a freeway overpass and conduct over-watch via a shoot-through-walls sniper rifle, or you can rappel down to the streets to "locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and to repel the enemies assault with fire and close combat"…for all my 03’s out there.
You will also be making choices throughout the campaign that will contribute to your ending. Both your success (and failure) in Strike Force missions and other choices made during the campaign will determine which ending you get. That’s right, you now have multiple endings. I would bet that you’ll probably have a choice at the end to side with the bad guy.
Almost Everything We Know About Black Ops 2: Multiplayer
When you now Prestige your weapons will no longer reset themselves. Any progress you’ve made with each weapon (challenges and attachments) will hold over whenever you prestige and reset your progress. Instead, weapons will have their own Prestige system, allowing you to manually reset you weapon’s progress. This means that you can reset your weapons multiple times without going Prestige with your character, and you can also go several Prestige levels without once resetting your weapon’s progress. While Treyarch did not say so, you can bet that certain weapon skins or other customizable options will be locked behind each weapon’s individual prestige level; such as the infamous Gold paint job. One reason why weapons now have their own ranking system is because…
…pressing the Prestige button no longer resets your progress! That is…you still return to level one, but you don’t have to lose your challenge and weapon progress just because you press a button. Prestige-ing now gives you several options on how you want to continue your play. Every Prestige level will give you a token you can use to permanently unlock weapons, perks, and equipment so that you can access them no matter what level you are. In addition to those tokens, you’re also given one of three choices: unlock another Create-A-Class custom slot, reset all of the Prestige tokens you’ve spent (so you can re-spend them on other items), or classically reset all of your progress like usual (except weapon progress). At Prestige level 10, everything will be unlocked for the player, which is a big deal since you can’t unlock every weapon, perk, and equipment in a normal playthrough
The original Black Ops introduced Combat Training, a feature that allowed players to play multiplayer game modes, but substitute real players for AI-run bots. Absent in Modern Warfare 3, Combat Training returns with a few extra features. Combat Training can now contribute to you multiplayer progression, allowing new or less talented players to safely build up their character to level 10 and start multiplayer with custom classes, challenges, and Scorestreaks unlocked from the start. Combat Training that contributes to your progression is split into three major parts: Bootcamp, Objective, and Bot Stomp. Bootcamp is a 6v6 team Deathmatch mode that pairs three human players with three bot players on each team. Objective is unlocked after playing Bootcamp and follows the same human/bot split but includes Domination, Demolition, and Capture the Flag game modes. However Objective will only give the player half of the normally accrued. The last mode is Bot Stomp and it trades the human/bot split in favor of six humans versus six bots. However, Bot Stomp does not reward multiplayer XP and is designed more for practicing gameplay tactics with friends.
There are two major aspects of how you will connect to other players in Black Ops 2: skill level and ping/latency levels. Firstly, your skill as a player will determine the type of players you will be consistently matched against. As you win and lose matches and your K/D slides around, you will be bumped up or down tiers of players with similar skill. So hopefully that should reduce the number of times you will get matched into a group of players who are ridiculously more talented then you, and also preventing you trolls out there from continuously jumping into groups of less talented individuals and lording your K/D over them.
Secondly, you will now be connected to players based on their connection, not by your region. Now, you’ve always been connected to hosts the game thinks you will fit best in, but it has always been restricted to hosts within your reason. This will most likely not be that noticeable to most of us American players, but those in Europe, Asia, and Australia will benefit more because of their more diverse region coding no longer restricting who they connect to.
However, if Treyarch does not fix whatever happened with the lag compensation of MW3 then I doubt these features will really help. The lag compensation was one of the biggest reasons why esports players turned from Call of Duty…
…and esports is a big target of Treyarch. Included in Black Ops 2 is a shoutcast feature for multiplayer. You can enter a multiplayer game as a spectator and will be given a whole host of options on how to view the game. You can juggle between first- and third-person views of each player, view an overhead map showing the teams, view player scores, or a number of combinations of each. You can also listen in on a team’s conversation and add your own voice commentary as well. You will then be able to stream your view of the match over the interwebs without the use of video capture hardware or software. All of it is built into the game. There is no official word about how it will be done, you can bet a partnership with twitch.tv or justin.tv is in the works. I would also say that the same shoutcast features will be included in the revamped Theater (which allows you to combine multiple edited clips together and new camera options to create insanely long or complex productions), though I was unable to find a direct statement or reveal saying so.
Almost Everything We Know About Black Ops 2: Zombies
Zombies is a staple of the Treyarch versions of Call of Duty. Introduced as a bonus game mode at the end of World at War, Zombies has grown into a full fledged game mode alongside the story campaign and multiplayer. Treyarch has expanded the game mode into three separate (but hopefully equally) fun modes.
As far as Treyarch has said (or at least as far as what I call research turned up), nothing has really changed about the classic mode. There will be new zombies and new weapons. If there’s anything else, Treyarch has either not said so or I haven’t found it. Basically, all of the new stuff is built around the new modes.
A twist on the Survival mode, Grief pits two teams of four-player survivors against each other. Now don’t get excited and start shooting the other team when you see them, you’ll just waste ammo. Only Zombies can kill player characters, so the whole point of the mode is to outlive the other team. While simply outlasting another group of players would be fun, Treyarch named this mode Grief for a reason. While I could not find any specific act of griefing mentioned, you will be given a number of ways to make the other team miserable. You can imagine things like zombie-bait grenades to lure the masses to the other team, or beating the team to a certain point and kicking out a ladder or shutting a door to force the other team to take a longer, more dangerous route. Maybe you can even mess with the other team’s power supply and deactivate their traps and upgrade machines. I don’t know for certain, so please don’t take those examples as gospel. You get the idea; make the lives of other players miserable and outlive them. Shouldn’t be difficult a concept to grasp for many veteran CoD players.
Tranzit is the story mode for Zombies. Players will be given a bus and an "expansive" world to travel around in and explore. The bus provides transportation and some protection, but it’s pretty tight inside, and if you want to explore the world, you’ll have to get out of it. Exploring the unknown is a must to replenish you supplies, gain new equipment, and remove obstacles out of the way of the bus so you can carry on. Tranzit will also feature "Buildables", items that you can craft from things you find in the world for offensive or defensive uses. You can still be attacked when you’re in the bus, so if you have any desire to actually survive, you’ll have to leave what relative safety it provides and go out into the hoard.
Tranzit also has connections to the last Zombies DLC in the original Black Ops, Moon. Decisions you made in that map will have some sort of affect on how you world will play out.
Treyarch has talked much about them building the new Zombies mode using the multiplayer engine and that it allows them to do a number of things that could not be done using the single player engine. The inclusion of the multiplayer engine means that you can now record and edit your Zombie experiences using the Theater feature. Everything that you can do with the Theater for multiplayer video can also be done to Zombies. Hopefully that means that the shoutcasting feature will also appear in Zombies mode, allowing players to magically stream their progress without the need for expensive video capture hardware or software.
The change in engines also allows for continuous stat-tracking, leaderboards, better matchmaking, and custom game modes. Don’t want magic guns? Turn them off. Want only headshots to count? It’s your funeral. Just because you’ve already beaten these modes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go back.
So those are the big changes we have to look forward to in Black Ops 2’s, at least what we know about. While Treyarch has been pretty open about mechanics and features in the single player and multiplayer modes, they’ve decided to hold back several bits of information about Zombies for players to discover on release day.
What are you excited for most about the upcoming blockbuster?