It’s clear that Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is looking to clean up what has grown to be a sometimes messy collection of game types and upgrade systems in the super popular shooter franchise. Nearly everything you do in Black Ops 2’s regular multiplayer mode (not Zombies) will help you accrue XP for unlocking and buying cool stuff. Fanatical hardcore players who will burn through the first 55 character levels and Prestige within hours of opening the game will be compensated with in-game rewards early and consistently; all the way up their earning The Master medal that’s apparently too cool to be shown off before it’s earned. Rookies who take on Black Ops 2’s new Combat Training mode, where they’ll be battling bots (A.I. controlled enemies) in all the available game types, will be earning XP for their efforts too so there will be no falling behind while learning the game.
Combat Training illustrates what we’re talking about. Noobs can play adversarial game modes like Deathmatch while playing against A.I. controlled enemies and earn XP points, choose upgrades and everything else all the way through level 10 but without getting slaughtered by other --better-- human opponents in the process. Once you get to level 10 in Combat Training, you’re supposed to just hop into regular mutltiplayer games. However, you can stay in combat training past level 10, adding objective-based games like Domination to the mix, and continue earning XP….but at half the rate. You really should be ready to rock against real human competition at some point right? No? Then you can now totally emasculate yourself and stick with the all new Bot Stomp mode where you forego earning XP at all in human versus A.I controlled enemies matches with six players per team. Bot Stomp can also be seen as a sort of practice simulator where teams can refine tactics, learn maps and discuss techniques while under minimal pressure….but I’m still putting it down as a refugee camp for wussies.
Going hand-in-hand with the Combat Training is the new customization system in Black Ops 2. You can take basic game mode types and tweak a tremendous number of options. Changing scoring and victory conditions in something like Capture the Flag can lead to epic games that last for hours if you want. You can restrict or require certain items in player classes. For example if you want everybody to have some type of launcher in their loadout or don’t want anybody to have grenades, you can make that happen in your custom game set up. The megalomaniacs out there --and CoD games seem to attract them-- will have a tremendous number of tools to work with. The new Pick 10 custom class system (we’ll get to that in another feature but this is essentially the expanded custom class system with even more freedom and ways to accommodate your style of play) can be tweaked to be either a “Pick 3” (it’ll be like playing CoD in the 90s) all the way up to a “Pick 17” (every player’s loadout will have pretty much everything available). Oh and you can pretty much add as many bots in as many ways as you can think of in your custom game.
Customizing your weapons and gear has been expanded in Black Ops 2 as well. There are more than 1000 Challenges that you can achieve in the game and these will help you unlock personalization items like camouflages and reticules for your red dot sights and such. Every weapon --including knives and shields, we’re told-- will have a basic set of camouflages available. Treyarch really wants to drive home the idea of representing how good you are so some of the more advanced camos, like black carbon fiber, are supposed to let the gaming world know you’re a badass when they see your stylish weapon in a kill cam. I guess the idea of functionality, actually preventing the enemy from seeing what kind of weapon you have, has gone completely out the window. The custom emblem editor now comes with 32 layers available and even more nutty unlockable shapes and pieces you can use in CoD’s “paint” program/emblem creator.
The Theater concept in Black Ops 2 has been expanded as well. Once you understand the difference between clips (smaller) and films (bigger), you’ll appreciate the editing options available to you as a Black Ops 2 film maker. A film is made up of up to 20 clips. However a finished film or a collection of clip sequences can be merged down into what will then be considered a single clip. That clip can then be part of another larger film that you wish to make. Sounds daunting and it probably will be at first. You can also stick a camera onto objects within the map and see your match from the perspective of that object. The example we were shown had the filmmaker attaching a camera onto one of those new quad-rotor attack drones so they whole film was from above the battlefield and showed enemies scurrying like roaches away from the drone’s gunfire.
Perhaps the best new addition to Theater, the one that will get the most play is the Highlight Reel. The game is tracking the data associated with your match throughout that match and so it knows what kind of weapons you’re using, the map, game type, detonations, objectives being met or failing and all sorts of stuff. The system is then able to rate certain sequences subjectively and present the best of these to you when the game is over as a completed package of your greatest hits from that match. You can then go in and add, take away, tweak and modify that basic collection of clips the game put together for you automatically so that you have your own custom clip/film just the way you want. If this is even too much of a commitment for you, the Bookmark feature let’s set a marker at a certain point in a clip or film that you can easily access later. You’ll know where a particular point in a match occurred --like an awesome knife attack or grenade toss-- so you can quickly find it later for editing or bragging rights. And all of your uploaded video records can be subject to thumbs up/down votes by the community.
Prestige is perhaps the most important tweak to the organization of Call of Duty Black Ops 2. As you level up through gameplay (Level 4 is where you’ll get Create-a-Class unlocked) you’re getting level tokens to spend on upgrades and items you want. Similar to how the original Black Ops let you only focus on getting, customizing and upgrading the weapons you wanted with its currency system, Black Ops 2 is going the same route but with single tokens that you’re free to spend on what you want. Weapons will still be coming available at certain levels but you’ll have to make decisions with those precious level tokens on how you want to develop your arsenal.
When you get to level 55 you can Prestige. Weapon XP is not reset and Challenges are not reset when you Prestige. When you reach the level at which a particular weapon become available it will essentially be as upgraded as when you left it your first time through. Same thing with Challenges . But wait there’s more. You also get a Prestige Unlock Token that will allow you to ignore level requirements and grab the weapon or item you want right then and there and have it permanently unlocked for the rest of your time in Black Ops 2’s multiplayer mode no matter how many times you Prestige after that. We’re not done yet. “Prestiging” also let’s you choose between adding a custom loadout slot (max of 5), a reset of all unlockables (essentially a return to CoD: Modern Warfare’s system) or a refund. The reset seems silly but it was put in there for those sadistic types who actually dug the original Prestige system. The refund, however needs a little explaining. Essentially at any point during that Prestige “level” you can decide to take back all of the level tokens you’ve spent so far and use them to buy new stuff that you want. So if you Prestige, pick your favorite assault rifle with your Prestige Unlock token and forego the additional custom class you can wait until you’re at say level 48 of your first Prestige before deciding “Nah, I want those 48 unlock tokens back so I can spend them on becoming a better sniper,” for example. That favorite assault rifle is still yours forever but now you’ve got to spend all of those tokens on the stuff you think you want now. From what we understand this refund is a one time thing for that Prestige “level” and you have to take back all of the level tokens --not just the ones you need to buy that fancy scope or whatever it is you must have all of a sudden.
That’s a look at the organizing enhancements and infrastructure systems of Call of Duty Black Ops 2. This is the stuff that doesn’t seem that sexy until the game comes out and you’re wondering how you’re going to get the most out of this Call of Duty title. All the pieces and systems are now place and ready to accommodate all of that ass you’ll be kicking.