Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer ditches kill streaks, embraces e-sports, first screenshots

Score Streaks, Live Streaming, six team multiplayer and more.

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A street fight in Yemen.

Treyarch has lifted the lid on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer at a special event at German show Gamescom, confirming the series' famous kill streaks have been ditched and new e-sports focused features have been added.

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Drones guarding a flag on the Aftermath map.

Kill streaks have been replaced by score streaks, hinted at in the multiplayer teaser trailer released last week. In the game, killing enemy players and performing 'Scoring Events' gains you points that fill up the 'Score Streak Meter', displayed on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen next to the score streak icons. When the meter fills up, you gain access to a score streak, which you can activate in the traditional way (using the d-pad on the Xbox controller). Currently, there are 22 score streaks in the game.

You can even earn two score streaks in one scoring event. Game design director David Vonderhaar gave the example of a player who had grabbed the flag, which earns points, killed an enemy player while carrying the flag (a flag carry kill) and finally captured the flag, for a total of 400 score streak points, which unlocked two score streaks at once. This new system "allows us to reward desirable gameplay behaviour, that is behaviour that helps you and your team win the game mode you're playing".

Black Ops 2 will ship with 55 levels of progression and 10 levels of prestige. "We wanted to return some simplicity into the level system," Vonderhaar said. "Most players can get through 55 levels in about 24 hours - a couple of nights of playing for a hardcore guy." Treyarch is saving more information on the levelling and unlocks for a reveal closer to launch, but we know that medals will be awarded to players who "do something cool". Players with medals then earn extra experience points, and medals are repeatable.

"When we were looking at this system very critically, when we were looking at ranking and progression and what we wanted to do with this thing, we realised there are some things you do as a player that are just completely awesome, but that shouldn't necessarily count towards earning your next score streak," Vonderhaar explained. "So intentionally and carefully, we've separated XP and scoring events. Sometimes scoring and medal events are the same thing. Sometimes you'll see a scoring event with no medal whatsoever, and sometimes you'll see a medal with no scoring event.

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More action on the Aftermath map. Note the A.G.R. score streak reward, and the Assault Shield item, which can be placed into the ground as portable cover.

"This keeps you engaged. You know something awesome is happening, and you feel rewarded for doing those things."

Black Ops 2 does not use COD Points. Instead, you get one unlock token every time you level up. Tokens can be used to unlock all the items in the game (currently over 100), including weapons, perks, equipment, wild cards (more on that later) and score streaks themselves. This content, though, is gated by major rank changes. So, some items only become available at certain ranks. Vonderhaar said you won't be able to unlock all the items in a single progression. The only way to do so is with prestige.

"This offers freedom of choice while still keeping drama in the system, still giving you something to look forward to you," he said. "You have to decide which one you really want, and that makes it a lot of fun."

Items are used in the new Create a Class system. Eagle-eyed Call of Duty fans will have noticed from Activision's multiplayer teaser video that some classes did not have primary weapons, or secondary weapons. This is all down to Treyarch's new system for customising your classes, called Pick 10.

Back when we started, we were pretty pleased with Black Ops, and pretty happy with how Create a Class came out. It was a very successful game for our studio. But as a team of game makers we really knew in our soul we wanted to test all the assumptions about these gameplay systems - Treyarch game design director David Vonderhaar.

"Back when we started, we were pretty pleased with Black Ops, and pretty happy with how Create a Class came out," Vonderhaar said. "It was a very successful game for our studio. But as a team of game makers we really knew in our soul we wanted to test all the assumptions about these gameplay systems."

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The Pick 10 Loadout paper game, which Treyarch used to help revamp the Create a Class feature.

Treyarch used a paper board game to help come up with its new system, which it called the Pick 10 Loadout game (see image). "We learned what problems had been introduced into the system we wanted to solve. And most importantly, we learned where we wanted to take it. This 'aha!' moment for us was when we realised the fun is in building classes that further a particular play style or favourite gameplay tactic, that didn't impact the tuning of the game in any way we couldn't solve for."

Pick 10 lets players take any 10 pieces of content from the game, including weapons, weapon attachments, perks, grenades or equipment, and assign them to a pre-determined slot. But you don't have to take content from a category. Instead, you can trade something you don't care for for something you will. In fact, you don't even have to take a primary weapon. Or any weapons at all. If you do not want a grenade, you don't have to take it. You might use the allocation point for a perk.

Every item costs one of these 10 allocation points, which fill a bar displayed at the top of the customise a class screen. In addition, wild cards, which each use one of the 10 allocation points, let you "bend the rules". They can let you take two perks from the same category, or add a third attachment to your gun, for example.

Vonderhaar highlighted some of the new items. The Assault Shield is a special piece of equipment, seen in the multiplayer trailer, that lets you plant a shield in the ground and use it as portable cover. The Millimetre Scanner, a weapon attachment, detects targets in the world by sending a pulse from your gun. This lets you see through walls and smoke, and is good for spotting campers. There are no perks that modify the behaviour of a weapon in Black Ops 2. Instead, you have to take an attachment for the gun you wish to modify.

Another new item is the Shock Charge, again, seen in the trailer. This stuns your target, making them easy to pick off. "The Pick 10 system combined with wild cards illustrates how we give the power of complete customisation to the player," Vonderhaar said.

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The bridge on the Turbine map is a great choke point.

Score streaks include the Guardian, a turret that sends out player-stunning waves. The A.G.R. is an AI-controlled tank that starts mowing down the enemy as soon as it lands on the battlefield, but hold the X button (on the Xbox 360 version) and you can assume direct control over it. The Hellstorm missile flies down from the heavens. As you pilot it, you can drive it straight into the ground (and even speed up its progress), or you can choose to burst it into many smaller missiles, potentially killing more bad guys. And finally the Escort Drone, a flying death dealer, acts under the guidance of the AI, but it reports in to the player with voice communications.

We think there is a tremendous opportunity here to bring e-sports to the masses, and we think Call of Duty is the game to do it.

With Black Ops 2 Treyarch is embracing e-sports to a greater extent than any Call of Duty game. "We think there is a tremendous opportunity here to bring e-sports to the masses, and we think Call of Duty is the game to do it," Vonderhaar said.

Treyarch has introduced League Play, a skill-based matchmaking system that sorts players into divisions. It is hoped it will mean players of all skill levels can get something out of the game, traditionally inhospitable to newcomers. To rank up into a division, you'll need to win and win consistently, Vonderhaar said.

Complementing this is Codcasting, a new system that lets shoutcasters "put a show together". Shoutcasters have a number of viewing options they can switch between, and more information is displayed in the UI, including the score panel and a large name plate on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Feeds include an overhead map view and a picture in picture view, which shows the action on the left and player information on the right. Shoutcasters can also tune in to the players themselves, listening to communication during a match.

But perhaps the most exciting new e-sports related feature is Live Streaming. This work-in progress system is designed to allow players to stream their games from within the game itself with the press of a single button. Vonderhaar showed a live game running on multiple iPads, suggesting we'll be able to watch matches from multiple devices.

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More action, again on the Turbine map.

There is little information on Live Streaming at present. There is room for players to use a USB camera to show themselves picture in picture. "You're going to need some decent upstream bandwidth," Vonderhaar added. "You do not need a high end PC. You do not need complex streaming software and hardware." More information will be revealed closer to launch.

Treyarch showed off two brand new modes. The first is called multi-team, a first for the Call of Duty series. It allows up to six teams to battle against each other on the same map, with any combination of 18 players available.

In a multi-team game there are a lot of bad guys for you to worry about.

"This makes small group tactics matter," Vonderhaar said. "In a multi-team game there are a lot of bad guys for you to worry about. So when you get partnered up, three on three on three or any combination of six teams, up to 18 players, you've got to coordinate, you've got to protect each other's backs, you've got to work together."

The second new game mode is Hardpoint, a riff on classic king of the hill. A Hardpoint is a location on the map, which changes as the battle progresses. The only way for your team to score is to occupy it. Hardpoint can be played in multi-team mode too. Classic modes confirmed to be returning include team deathmatch, domination and search and destroy.

Four maps were unveiled. Aftermath takes place in 2025 (the year the game is set) right after a drone attack. It has unique environments and is designed to show off "the level of destruction we can get at 60 frames". Cargo sees crates moving around, so cover constantly changes. Turbine, shown on the multiplayer trailer, is one of the game's largest maps., and has a number of areas players can climb up on. And Yemen is a close quarter urban street fight in dusty city streets.

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A flag rush on the Cargo map.

All of the score streaks in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Gamescom build are below, in order of cost to activate, from cheapest to most expensive:

  • RC-XD
  • UAV
  • Hunter Killer
  • Care Package
  • Counter UAV
  • Guardian
  • Hellstorm Missile
  • Lightning Strike
  • Death Machine
  • Sentry Gun
  • War Machine
  • Dragonfire
  • AGR
  • Stealth Chopper
  • Orbital VSAT
  • Escort Drone
  • Warthog
  • EMP Systems
  • Lodestar
  • Vtol Warship
  • K9 Unit
  • Swarm
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More action from the Cargo map.

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