The reveal for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2's online mode in Cologne this week was a rather sedate affair by Activision's standards.
Two years ago, the publisher took over the California Science Centre for the first Black Ops and last year it rented out Howard Hughes's old airplane hangar for the utterly insane COD: XP. Attendees to the latter event will remember the three-storey zip line, the life-size replicas of The Pitt and the Scrapyard Maps from MW2 and Kanye West closing out the event.
Compared to that, the Black Ops 2 multiplayer reveal at a non-descript building in Cologne looked positively subdued. It was fitting in a way; perhaps Treyarch were aware that there was only so much time to unload a massive information dump on the journalists crowded into the venue. The last thing they needed was to have us distracted by flashing lights and celebrities. We had a lot to get through.
Between a lengthy presentation by Treyarch's Game Design Director, David Vonderhaaar, and two-and-a-half hour's worth of time spent at its controls, Black Ops 2's online mode seems focussed on bringing the player up to speed as quickly as possible.
Treyarch have crafted a mode that's eminently accessible; it hurls a ton of customisation options at the player, encourages them to work out their preferred approach to playing the game and then drops a couple of carrots in front of them to keep them glued to the multiplayer incessantly. While it's doing all this, it also sizes up the player's skill level and prepares to introduce them to a wider community by upping the stakes of the entire experience. Here's how they do it:
First up, Treyarch's bolted a brand new Create-A-Class feature to the multiplayer. The rigid Class structure in which players were forced to fill slots with weapons, perks and equipment has been stripped out and replaced with a points system. The new 'Pick 10' system assigns the player 10 points to buy perks, weapons and equipment and they can spend them any way they like. If, for example, you've never used your secondary weapon in a fight, why bother having it? With the Pick 10 system you can toss your secondary weapon aside for some points, which you can then use to buy a second weapon attachment.
Players can also buy Wildcards for a point a piece, which allow them to deepen their customisation options. The 'Perk Greed I' Wildcard, for example, allows players to double up on perks from Tier 1, so you can pick the Hardline perk and the Flak Jacket perk at the same time. Wildcards also allow players to bolt up to three attachments to a gun or carry more grenades and flashbangs. Naturally, there are a limited number of slots to maintain the balance in the multiplayer; you can't start a match with eight perks and three bazookas.
Once players find themselves in a match they'll notice that Killstreaks are gone. Or rather, they've been renamed - they're now called Score Streaks - and they've been made easier to string together. Every Score Streak reward now has a numerical value attached to it, and players obtain them by reaching said score through their activities on the battlefield.