Call of Duty: Black Ops – multiplayer gameplay impressions from LA reveal

Thursday, 2nd September 2010 09:54 GMT By Justin Kranzl


Following on from the first bunch of details from Black Ops’ LA multiplayer reveal this morning, Justin Kranzl drops full play details, including hands-on experience with the exploding RC car and time with the just-videoed Wager modes.

Despite what the untutored layman may tell you, remote control cars are twitchy, fiddly numbers to control. Which is why in Call of Duty: Black Ops you’ll have the ability to unlock one on your third kill, which is strictly “entry level” in the COD vernacular. Easy access is important, because there’s every chance when you do get one, your strikes will be anything but surgical as you race around banging into scenery looking for any foe to drive it up to and explode.

We speak from first hand experience. Tonight at an event in Los Angeles, Treyarch finally unveiled its vision of multiplayer for the Call of Duty series. And the exploding RC car – unveiled in their initial trailer – was always going to play a part. But with press finally being given both detail and hands-on time, there’s considerably more on offer than rehashed Modern Warfare material and miniature four-wheelers.

As the earlier summary revealed, Treyarch has imbued Black Ops with a distinct gambler’s atmosphere. Players not only will accrue in-game currency (with no real-world monetary value, Activision producer Daniel Suarez was careful to point out) but they will be able to lose it to other players. COD Points (or CP) will not only enable additional goodies and customisation options to be bought, but will also be able to be gambled away in the form of in-game contracts (see below) and in the game’s Wager Match modes.

Playing in one of these modes – titled One in the Chamber – was an exercise in focus and frustration. The premise is simple: everyone spawns with a pistol and a knife. You have one bullet. Kill someone and get their bullet. Miss them, and you have to hare around trying to stab someone. Even in the comfortable confines of an opulent Activision event, the word most were using to describe the action was “intense”. Factor in people gambling online with their hard-earned CP (a typical Wager Match winning condition is finishing in the top three) and it’s only going to be more so.

Aside from running around shooting, missing, then trying to stab each other, a lot of play time was spent in trusty team deathmatch tonight. The first thing you’ll notice is the sense of identity. Or rather – how the convergence of Treyarch’s Call of Duty body of work with the Modern Warfare series is as complete as it ever will be. The countdown to action, the colour slowly bleeding into black and white – even the sound and sight of your teammates sprinting carelessly away from you into open ground (and death). It all brings to mind Infinity Ward’s efforts – and that’s not even touching on the custom loadouts or the playing modes. The only omission we found was third-person deathmatch mode, presumably gone forever. The experience was kind of like Modern Warfare. Call of Duty: Recent Warfare probably wasn’t considered as compelling as “Black Ops”.

Recoil increased

Moving along. Standard multiplayer modes in Black Ops are like slipping into a comfortable pair of shoes. The main glaring difference we noticed – killstreak gimmicks like the RC car and the dogs (yes, they’re back) aside – was the dispersion and recoil on most of the weapons we tried was noticeably increased. When quizzed later on this, Suarez stated this was just a game balance technique, although we had a hard time finding any weapon which would fire bullets with the kind of precision of some of Modern Warfare 2’s.

The result is firefights which can last a beat longer than you may be used to. If Modern Warfare is blink and you’re dead, Black Ops is more blink and you’re at death’s door. If you’re not playing a Wager Match, it’s a safe expectation that if you’ve picked up Modern Warfare title in the past, you’ll know what to do right from the start.

Even the game’s new bot mode, Combat Training is being pitched not only as a skirmish field for new players, but also as a training tool for more advanced CODers. Suarez claims he likes to warm up with the mode before playing the hired guns at Treyarch. He thinks the mode will get some love for veterans who want to experiment without it costing them their precious kill:death ratio – which the game helpfully lists on the score screen.

There were two maps for players tonight. Radiation, a installation-themed map with an open area with a twist. A large hatch in the middle opens up and allows easy egress to a sub-floor level – otherwise only accessible from a (more vulnerable) ladder climb down. Expect this sub-area to come into play in objective-based modes; Suarez called it out as a control point area for the Domination play mode. Treyarch are hoping the ability to open and close the hatch adds an element of strategy, although in the games we played, strategy was taking a back seat to wild firing and kamikaze tactics.

The other map, Cracked, is a semi-destroyed urban locale. Lots of buildings to duck into, windows to shoot out from, and collapsed rubble to scale. Sessions on this map helped bring home the realisation people may love to complain about grenades – how many, how damaging – but everyone throws them about if they’re available. Black Ops follows Modern Warfare 2’s path in restricting their availability to freshly spawned players, but that didn’t stop the final kill on the very first game we played being to a hapless punter who ran into two at the same time.

If you’re the kind of person who runs around like a maniac trying to knife people you’ll have plenty to feel encouraged by here. Even amongst the sedate confines of the games press there was plenty of panicked melee action when aim failed. Throw in rewards – both from normal challenges as well as the new Contracts – for stabbing people, and you can expect to see even more.

While on the subject of Contracts, it’s the other way to gamble away your hard earned CP in Black Ops – although there’s arguably a little more control over how you do so. Contracts are split into three different types – Merc, Operations and Specialist – and are essentially you taking a bet on completing specified combat tasks in a set period of time. The more difficult the task, the higher the buy-in fee – and reward if you manage it. Merc contracts and Operations are reasonably run-of-the-mill, if difficult. Kill X people, finish on the top spot of the scoreboard, etc. But the Specialist contracts look positively evil. Kill five people – via headshot – in one life. That kind of thing.

Worth mentioning even from a couple of hours of play is the increased detail Treyarch has applied to the in-game player card. The game tracks considerable amounts of detail – weapon usage, accuracy, what’s killing you, and what you’re killing with. There’s pages of this stuff, even two different “heat map” options we saw, one showing on a model of your body where you’re being hit, the other showing the kill zones on a given map – where people are dropping. For those familiar with the Battlefield series of games and their stat tracking, it’s a familiar (and welcome) sight.

Special spot in our heart for flamethrower attachment

Our main reservation is Cold War setting or not, maybe it’s too reminiscent of last year’s winning formula. Differentiation in scenery is a hard ask from the two maps we saw: late 20th Century urban decay is ageless, and one industrial facility looks like another. Weapon differences too are toned down. Put away the Black Ops crossbow for a second and you’re confronted with a very similar set of firearms – a selection of shotguns, machine guns, rifles, pistols and rocket launchers are what you’ll be leaning on mainly. That said, we already have a special spot in our heart for flamethrower attachments, the “Grim Reaper” chain gun, and steerable rockets.

Ever the man with an eye for a quote, Treyarch head Mark Lamia described the studio as going “all in” on Black Ops. With the game’s big selling point being tied to in-game currency and the ability to win or lose more via online gambling in Wager Matches – it’s an apt statement. With Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward also working on Call Of Duty titles, it’s no secret Treyarch realises they have a one-game window to prove themselves the lead developer for the franchise. If they falter, it won’t be from offering multiplayer that’s unfamiliar to the masses.



  1. EscoBlades

    Lead developer? LMAO!

    Wait…he’s serious….ROFl! *wipes tears from eyes*

    #1 4 years ago
  2. SunKing

    I’d be very surprised if CoD Points weren’t purchasable for real-world monies.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    “Black Ops is more blink and you’re at death’s door.”

    Right decision

    “Even the game’s new bot mode, Combat Training is being pitched not only as a skirmish field for new players, but also as a training tool for more advanced CODers.”

    great oldschool idea. Last time i checked only Killzone 2 had this. I wanted bots a lot. Sometimes when you don’t have connection or just want to mess around or trying to explore something that helps a lot.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. freedoms_stain

    The accuracy thing is a good idea, assault rifles shouldn’t really be able to sniper as well as they can in MW2.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Erthazus

    @4 That was so fucking stupid in Modern Warfare 2. 90% of the guns make you shoot like from the sniper rifle.
    Heck, it was much easier to shoot from the distance with a rifle, than from a sniper rifle.

    MW2 did everything wrong. It’s just a clusterfuck for people who enjoy Meta Gameplay a lot and just fast kills aka Quake 3:Arena style of gameplay but just slower.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. DrDamn

    I agree but if initial bullets don’t go exactly where people are pointing with their sights then watch the people bitch and complain – see Killzone 2.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. _Sikamikanico_

    Nice to see Treyarch taking some risks with the extremely tired and repetative CoD gameplay style.

    Good luck to ‘em, I’ll certainly give it a rent.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Erthazus

    @6 because it’s a CASUAL audience for most of the part.

    For me, everything was fine in Killzone 2 about controls and everything else in the multiplayer.
    for the most of part i was like “WTF”? Why people ask for the Call OF duty controls, than i understood why.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. M2Kx

    Doesnt sound very promissing :/

    #9 4 years ago
  10. SunKing

    Man, one of the best parts of Bad Company 2 is being able to curve sniper bullets over a boulder where someone is crouched behind and get a head shot. I’m not saying it would work for CoD, but there’s a place for this kind of stuff.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. AHA-Lambda

    “recoil on most of the weapons we tried was noticeably increased”


    #11 4 years ago
  12. Thalius

    This multiplayer thing with in-game money is for hardcore players(with that i mean kids with nothing to do but play videogames)…a casual player will get is ass handed in a silver platter because he gets no money…
    Every time Black Ops make a reveal Medal of Honor get BETTER.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. stretch215

    This game will be what every cod is: an update to the last one. Not that that’s a bad thing, I DESTROY people in mw2, now i’ll be able to wager on it. I just hope they got rid of commando and lightweight, which I think belongs in a game like halo.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. AHA-Lambda

    apparently commando IS back in it despite early reports. The diff this time is that it takes a place of your primary weapon not as a perk

    #14 4 years ago
  15. DSB

    @14 Dude, that’s even worse. Generally I don’t judge the way people choose to play a game, I just try to counter it, but the knifetards who pick lightweight, commando and marathon are far and above the least fun to play against.

    That limitation will do absolutely nothing against those guys (since they’ll have their pistols out for use of tactical knife) it’ll just gimp the rest of us by not allowing us a quick takedown before they get to us.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. kranzl

    @SunKing – that won’t be happening, at least in this game. Suarez (producer on the game ) repeated a few times there was no tie between COD pts and real world cash.

    It’d be a legal nightmare – a game rated in most parts for 15+ which allowed them to gamble an in-game currency with real world cash value. And that’s aside from Microsoft and Sony having a heart attack about their services being used to do it.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. Erthazus

    Ok, i changed my mind after watching this:

    you should see it too.

    this is the console version? does everybody on consoles kill that much with the knife? Gosh…

    #17 4 years ago
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