It's cheating a little when Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is set in both the Cold War and a dark vision of 2025. The weapons and gear in Black Ops were from the 1960s and at best looked like rough early prototypes of rifles we'd recognize in the Modern Warfare titles. The weapons that I had a chance to run with in my time with Black Ops don't feel old, retro or early in any way. These tools of destruction are cool, state of the art and totally unrecognizable to those of us who don't subscribe to Guns & Ammo magazine. But unfamiliar doesn't mean unappealing. Working the new guns in my first dabble in the new "Pick 10" Custom Class system was extremely satisfying and it really is because customizing my loadout to perfectly support my chosen play style is the awesome.
I had the chance to run the Overflow and Express maps in the Kill Confirmed, Demolition and Team Deathmatch game types recently. Express is set in a 2025 Los Angeles metro train station while Overflow seems to be a recently flooded town in Afghanistan. I mean, there are piece of boats strewn in the middle of the streets in Overflow. Flashfloods in the desert are a real thing but I never knew boats would be part of the equation. The mix of tight indoor spaces, winding walkways and cluttered streets makes Overflow feel much smaller than you initially think. Express has parked trains that you can sneak through to get around to other sides of the station and of course there's one track that has an active train that will run you over without warning. Great use of vertical spaces both inside the station and out on the tracks mean you're always going to be walking into an ambush in this one. The low visibility that comes with walking around those train cars is a problem too. Black Ops 2 is meant to appeal to the world of competitive video gaming so the killer train in Express can be turned off to accommodate tournament players or pansies who are afraid of runaway trains.
So yeah, I got a chance to play but it was a limited window. Between actually playing to experience and trying to remember/record what I'm experiencing the notes below are all you're going to get.
The Executioner is a pistol that apparently functions like a handheld shotgun. You can dual wield them too. With its quick semi-auto action, this pistol is already one of my favorite secondary weapons. I'm pretty sure there were no handheld shotguns back in the 1980s but who knows.
The Pick 10 system is made more overwhelming by the volume of options you have and the weapon-specific items available. Most assault rifles can be outfitted with the following attachments: red dot sights, reflex sights, quick draw, fast mag, fore grip, stock, laser sight, select fire, suppressor, full metal jacket, hybrid optic, extended clips, a grenade launcher and --my personal favorite -- the MMS optic. That's a lot of stuff and it's going to take a lot of concentration and hard decisions to figure out when to use quick draw versus fast mag or fore grip versus stock. Both stock and fore grip increase accuracy but one does it by having you guy hold his gun steady (fore grip) and the other reduced recoil (stock) so you have less sway to deal with. Quick draw gets you aiming down sights quicker but there's also a Perk that handles that for you. Which do you use if quick ADS is important to you? Same thing with fast mag. You can make your guy a quick reloader with a perk or just make his reloading quick on that particular gun in that particular custom class.
The MMS is a powerful reflex optic that sends a wave of energy out that will briefly reveal enemies behind walls and objects when you're aiming down the sight. However, using this will disallow other attachments like full metal jacket or long barrel (more killing power) because that would be too imbalanced. There are a lot of tradeoffs like this in the Pick 10 system in general and specifically in the realm of weapon attachments. You can try to have the ultimate weapon whatever but something is going to stop you. Select fire let's you switch back and forth between semi-auto and full automatic fire but that doesn't mean you can pair it with just any other attachment to make yourself into a walking tank.
The MA81 assault rifle is already my favorite gun in Black Ops 2. It's a burst weapon that gets off four rounds per trigger squeeze when most other guns in Call of Duty have usually been limited to three. This thing puts people down. However the MA81 becoming my favorite was a total accident and indicative of the power of the Pick 10 system.
Somebody had created a class with two Wild Cards --these are the "attachments" that take your Pick 10 down to a "Pick 8" essentially but allow you to have two Perks from a category-- so that the guy had tremendous speed and durability. He could run fast and for a long time as well as take extra bullet hits and survive explosions or something like that. However, this class had no grenades, no secondary weapon and only one attachment on the primary weapon. That weapon was the MA81 and with all of those super powers, I was a killing machine that could handle most any situation. This Pick 10 thing is going to lead to a cottage industry for loadout fanatics online. It's not always going to be about gear and attachments. It's going to be about proper use of Wild Cards and other "softer" attachments and buffs.
The Guardian microwave turret --like all the turrets in Black Ops 2-- can be a major problem. The swirly invisible waves of death it sends out also disrupt and confuse your HUD enough that if the waves don't get you, the bad guys will. And no you can't run up and knife them before they finish cooking you. It takes EMP grenades and/or entire clips to take down turrets now and this was done specifically to force team work and proper use of custom classes. You've got to have an EMP grenade guy on your team now or you won't be capturing any flags or capture points. Those things are brutal.
This brings us directly to the Scorestreak system --the replacement for the Killstreak reward system. You get remote control cars, airstrikes, hovering gunships and all that by racking up points in one life now instead of simply racking up kills. This means players who like supporting or focusing on the objective (flag capturing and bomb detonating are my thing) will be rewarded for doing what they're good at too. Turrets like the Guardian are available relatively early in the Scorestreak ladder so that's why they can be such a dominant force on the battlefield. It's not hard to imagine a game where a team is able to dominate and entire map with well placed Guardians and some decently skilled players. If they're going up against a team that doesn't have enough guys with EMP grenades equipped, things could get ugly quickly. The Scorestreak system will likely go through some tweaking both before and after launch because limiting rewards to just kill streaks kept things nice and simple over the last four Call of Duty games.
We'll have more on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 because new details were surely shake loose from my brain in the coming hours and days and I want you all to know everything. Sound off on Facebook and we'll try to answer any questions that we can.