Treyarch is going into the next Call of Duty fully knowing they have a tough act to follow. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 stands as the most-played multiplayer game of the last console generation and remains one of the most beloved entries in the series, even withstanding competition from subsequent additions to the franchise. So what’s the plan to make Black Ops 3 stand out from its predecessors? The strategy comes down to a simple phrase: Guns up!
“‘Guns up’ is our philosophy,” explained game director Dan Bunting. “It’s one that’ll always allow you to have persistent weapon control through all movement.”
Movement mechanics like vaulting and sliding are nothing particularly new to the Call of Duty series, but Treyarch is refining these ideas in some sharp new ways. First and foremost, Black Ops 3 will allow players to control their weapons at all times. Players can aim and fire across all phases of movement, including in mid-mantle and mid-slide. Black Ops players will have a limited thrust meter that will serve multiple purposes. Thrust can be used for a makeshift double jump or to boost in any other direction. It can also be used for a power slide, replacing Treyarch’s old ‘dive to prone’ maneuver. Thrust is limited and can be recharged, but the initial burst will allow players to reach new areas quickly, especially when combined with unlimited sprint (now a standard and no longer a perk) and auto-mantle.
New movements are also being added. Black Ops 3 will introduce wall runs, which are activated by hitting the jump button upon hitting any wall. Wall runs can be chained to run across multiple surfaces and boost up to higher areas, though players can also change their mind and reverse direction upon hitting a new wall. Just as with mantling and sliding, anyone that’s in mid-wall run can aim down and fire upon foes seamlessly. Those looking to take their fight from the skies to the seas will also find a new swimming mechanic. All players will get a limited time to swim underwater, in which characters will retain full use of their weapons and equipment. Swimming can be combined with thrust jump to quickly launch out of the water and surprise enemies with a burst of rifle fire.
“The way we’ve designed it, wall runs are designed as paths,” Bunting added during a roundtable interview. “There’s definitely walls that are adjacent to regular ground paths, but the way that they’ve been designed, they’re always high-visibility and very distinct. [...] Each wall run opportunity is designed as a path.”
Weapon customization will go further with the new Gunsmith system. Players can build and personalize their guns with five attachments (along with one optic), more than what was available in Black Ops 2. Attachments will include high caliber barrels, extended clips, fast mags, grips, rapid fire, and more, all with variants. Paint jobs with custom emblems, decals, colors, and other visual pieces will also be available. These custom weapons will fit in alongside the Pick 10 feature.
Yes, Pick 10 returns from Black Ops 2. This may be something of a disappointment to Advanced Warfare players that have grown accustomed to Sledgehammer’s Pick 13 system. Game director Dan Bunting addressed this change, noting that Pick 10′s former Black Ops 2 incarnation works better for Treyarch than Advanced Warfare’s system of instituting Scorestreaks into a Pick 13.
“We felt like Pick 10 was a very balanced system and spent a lot of hours iterating on that system,” he said. “For our game, it just wasn’t right to mix Scorestreaks into it, because Scorestreaks are a different system than the moment-to-moment decisions of selecting weapons and equipment. What happens with equipment, you always get them, they’re always at your disposal and it defines how you engage with competitors at a moment-to-moment level. In terms of the power band, Scorestreaks can range from something you’ve never seen in a match to something you might get at the end of the match that’s super powerful and just that wide range of power band didn’t fit in the Create-A-Class for this game.”
One major new feature for Black Ops 3 will add new pre-made soldiers from the Call of Duty world, called Specialists. Specialists are elite Black Ops soldiers that have a gameplay mechanic unique only to them, adding something of a class element to the game. Players will be able to select either a unique weapon or an ability from the lobby, with that decision final for the duration of the match. Players cannot switch back and forth between weapon/ability or Specialists in-between deaths. The weapons/ability can be activated through a meter on the bottom-right of the screen. This meter gradually fills up through a charged time mechanic. These weapons/abilities are meant to appeal to more novice players that are intimidated by the Scorestreak idea. The meter will not reset upon death, but the Specialists will lose their weapon or ability if they are killed while they are activated.
Black Ops 3 will include nine Specialists, with four revealed, thus far. They include:
- Ruin – A military soldier that volunteered for cybernetic limb replacement, who often rushes into situations head-first. His weapon is the Gravity Spikes, a one-time use weapon that can clear out crowds, making it an ideal choice for Domination. His alternate ability is Overdrive, which speeds up his movement to ridiculous proportions, making it a good fit for modes like Capture the Flag.
- Seraph – This dangerous assassin is a part of Singapore’s 54I crime syndicate. Her weapon is the Annihilator, a handgun that uses penetration rounds that often kill in a single hit. Her ability is Combat Focus, which triggers a bonus multiplier that will go towards Scorestreaks.
- Outrider – A sharpshooting archer raised in the streets of Favela, she eventually found herself applying her skills as a part of the Brazilian Special Forces. Her weapon is the Sparrow, a compound bow that gets long range and has explosive rounds, which not only takes out foes in one hit, but also blows up the corpse. Her ability is Vision Pulse, which will ping the surrounding area and tag all enemy locations, making it an invaluable skill for team-based games.
- Reaper – A deadly robot created by the Coalescence Corportation. He was meant to serve the military, but the Experimental War Robot was scrapped when Reaper came out far too dangerous. His weapon is the Scythe, a high rapid-fire minigun. His Glitch ability allows him to teleport to a previous position, allowing him to get the drop on foes.
The Specialists were interesting to play with during my brief hands-on with the Black Ops 3 multiplayer, as I noticed that select characters worked better in certain situations than others. For example, Ruin was good for crowd control, while Reaper was better for clearing out tight corridors. With their invaluable weapons and abilities, Black Ops 3′s multiplayer has become something of a pseudo class-based game, with individual Specialists also able to level up. The balance implications of Specialists will make the eSports side of Black Ops 3 something to keep an eye on. Treyarch will look to discuss their eSports strategy at this year’s GamesCom later this summer.
Map design felt like it favored movement, with high areas that can be reached with either a quick thrust boost or through some well-utilized wall runs. These are the current maps, with more to be revealed later:
- Combine – A facility located in the remote Egyptian Sahara. While the facility has tight spaces within its walls, there’s also a massive space in the middle of the map, near a fallen vehicle. This is where most firefights will take place, though sneakier players can also slider underneath the vehicle and hide before picking off any incoming targets.
- Hunted – A hunting lodge along Ethiopia. This map is known for its narrow bridge, but it also has a waterfall that leads towards a cave area. Look for plenty of firefights to break out underwater, as well as on the map’s two bridges.
- Stronghold – A Swiss chateau along the snowy mountaintops. It’s an asymmetrical map filled with exposed area for snipers, as well as tight quarters for close-quarters combat.
Treyarch still has more to reveal on multiplayer, regarding Scorestreaks, Pick 10 perks, and more, which will be revealed later. The studio is very proud of their multiplayer, to the point that they will make Black Ops 3 playable at E3, the first CoD game to be playable at the event in several years. With balance concerns also looming, Treyarch is also looking to kick off a multiplayer beta, another rarity for the Call of Duty series. Those that pre-order Black Ops 3 will also receive access to the game’s multiplayer beta.
There’s also one more aspect of multiplayer that Treyarch mentioned, but didn’t go into detail about. Zombies will make their return to Black Ops, with studio head Mark Lamia noting that this game mode will stand out on its own as an entirely different experience from the campaign or multiplayer. More information on Zombies is expected in the coming months.
Look for far more on Black Ops 3′s multiplayer to be revealed over the coming months. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is set to release on Friday, November 6 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
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