Call of Duty: Black Ops III eSports Gamescom Reveal

Black Ops 3

Sticking with the FPS trend for this week, today we’re going to go over the eSports reveal from yesterday for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It’s a little different event than last year’s Advanced Warfare multiplayer reveal, with this event focused solely around the eSports side of Call of Duty. That said, there’s still some pretty cool info that came out in the stream.

First, the rule set for top tier competitive play is being tweaked. In the past, MLG and Activision have pretty much worked together with the pros to develop a set of rules, then they push them live for online play. It works, but it’s pretty slow, and relies on the pros for changes. That’s getting a bit of a change. Competitive play is getting a ban/protect system – straight out of a MOBA. At the start of a match now, each player picks one weapon/perk/gear to either remove (ban) or keep (protect) for the duration of the game. This is a really smart way of putting the power back into the players’ hands. As the game evolves with patches and hotfixes, the players can adjust bans and protects on the fly; in the past we had to wait for a new MLG ruleset. It also lets teams really define their playstyles – variety is always better in games than homogenization. It’s a really simple idea, but I think it could be the best way moving forward. It just seems so intuitive, which is good, and then allows the game to evolve moving forward. For example – in Advanced Warfare, the ASM1 and Bal-27 are still pretty much the best weapons available, so I would ban one with my pick; while hoping that a different, second tier weapon got protected. It should help foster experimentation – you can’t really be a single weapon player anymore; if your gun is banned, your effectiveness is dropped dramatically. Again, the more weapon and tactic variety that exists – especially in the top level competitive scene – the better the game experience.

One other part of the multiplayer that we got some real time to see in-game were the specialists. Essentially acting like an even further level of score streak, you pick a character, and then an upgrade. The upgrades could be weapon based – we saw a reflex bow, a mini-gun that was built into your arm, and a huge hand-cannon; or they could be mechanic based – sending out holographic clones, a speed boost, and a quick respawn all were shown off. Specialist as an idea has existed in Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2 – in different ways of course, but it’s been there for lone-wolves for a while. In this new form, it acts very much like a scorestreak, a common part of the series. It instead now puts emphasis on proper execution of activation – picking the right moment to use your ability is a major tactical move now. In the three game match in the reveal yesterday, not using the Specialist abilities properly in the Search & Destroy game pretty much acted as the turning point in the match.

I gotta admit, I really like these changes – they put the power to define the pro-game in the players’ hands, as well as help emphasize experimentation with weapons and gear. Anything that exists to keep a game fresh over its lifetime is always a good thing, and seeing Treyarch put that in the game right at the beginning is a good sign that the game’s support is going to be strong.


Weekly News Recap: Week of July 27, 2015

Sunset Overdrive Xbox Bundle

The news cycle continues through the summer, regardless of whether or not there’s any new games coming out. This week has been pretty standard fair – but then that makes sense because next week is Gamescom, the European E3. There’s definitely going to be a few big bits next week – the MLG reveal for Black Ops III (I’m assuming that will basically be the multiplayer detals), The Taken King details galore, and a bunch of Microsoft exclusives including Crackdown.

This week’s news really hit with the start of the Summer Spotlight on Xbox Live. I talked about it yesterday, so I’ll just reiterate that you should check out the games as part of it. You never know what you might find.

In other news, Smite got a pretty sizable update, and Call of Duty has been celebrating “Hammer Week” with double XP and rewards. So it’s been a pretty standard week of news, but pay attention next week – it’s going to be a busy week for sure at Gamescom.

Weekly News Recap: Gamescom 2014 Edition

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time to go back over some of the big new from the past week.

I hit the big notes yesterday – new Xbox One bundles, PS Share, Silent HIlls and Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s Xbox One Exclusivity. I think the other major headline from the show has been the sales figures for the PlayStation 4. Not only has it outsold the Xbox One seven months running, but it’s sold a total of 10 Million units. Sony made a point of emphasizing that this is actually the number of units sold, not shipped to retailers. That’s a crazy amount of consoles – now Sony just has to capitalize on the fast start. Xbox isn’t dead in the water though, despite what internet commenters might say. Doubling the Xbox One sales in the month of July is a good sign that people are starting to come around to upgrading, and the lineup for this fall should help move units too, especially with the new bundles. Xbox also announced they are adding digital pre-orders and pre-downloading for select titles coming up soon.

Quantum Break

During the Xbox Press Event we also got our first look at gameplay for a couple Xbox Exclusives – Quantum Break and Ori and the Blind Forest. With the Quantum Break demo, we got our first look at how time impacts the action, specifically the way that the player can control it. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of time stopping or manipulating mechanics in action games, but I want to hold off on judgement at this point. Ori and the Blind Forest on the other hand takes a fresh look at puzzle platformers, adding in some pretty nifty ideas for movement and attacking, along with the checkpoint mechanic. Add in a really crisp, beautiful art direction, and it’s shaping up to be a pretty solid Holiday offering.

Throughout the week, we’ve also gotten little bits of info for a number of other games. Evolve showed off a new map, as well as announcing that the Beta will be held in January. Halo: Master Chief Collection showed off gameplay footage on Sanctuary, and also announced the Halo 5: Guardians Beta will run from late December into January. The also announced the Halo Channel, a hub app for the Xbox One that will have all the Halo you could want. Assassin’s Creed showed off a new trailer for Unity and also talked a bit more about Rogue, detailing the new frigid water environments as well as assassin enemies. Sunset Overdrive had a new gameplay demo and trailer, and they announced that the eight player co-op multiplayer features pretty seamless transitions away from the single player. Battlefield: Hardline showed off a new multiplayer mode – Rescue – as well as showing off 12 minutes of the single player campaign.

Battlefield Hardline

All in all, I think this was a pretty solid Gamescom – it built very well on the momentum for all the developers and publishers from E3, both by just showing off the games, as well as unveiling a lot of new info. We got our first look at Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer, a lot of new Xbox info, a really cool teaser for Silent Hills from Sony and lots and lots of awesome gameplay footage.

Gamescom 2014: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MP Reveal

Advanced Warfare CoverThings have gotten pretty Call of Duty heavy around here again, but that’s pretty much how it always goes toward this time of year. Yesterday at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany Sledgehammer Games showed off the first look at Advanced Warfare Multiplayer. I’ve been pretty on the fence about this year’s entry, just based around the strength of this fall’s release schedule, but after Evolve‘s delay, along with my slow progress catching up in Dragon Age, Call of Duty may have earned a slot back in my fall rotation. Yesterday’s reveal did more to sell me on this year’s game than the E3 info did, mainly by solidfiying a lot of the info around the Exo-suit’s role in MP. Let’s dive into the info a little bit.

The big selling point for Sledgehammer is the Exo-suit – basically turning your soldier into a super-soldier. We saw how it worked in campaign back at E3, but I think most gamers were curious exactly how it would work in the multiplayer. I think, perhaps justifiably, that there were a lot of fears that the suit would turn the game into a Titanfall clone. Taking a second to just think about that in relation to the three year development cycle really should have wiped that fear away – Sledgehammer most likely developed the suit years ago, using the same thought process as Respawn and Bungie – bring back verticallity and mobility into the shooter arena. While the suit definitely adds a lot, one thing it doesn’t is wall running – one of Titanfall’s major defining features. There may be similarities, but I really think they will feel, and play, different enough. Double Jumps, Jump Dashing, Boost Slides all add in all kinds of different ways to move – and fight – throughout the maps; it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system that I really think the franchise needed. The suit also has a built in customizable ability that can be used as long as the charge is there – this could be a cloak, ballistic shield or a hover ability. This adds even more variety to gameplay – which really seems to be the focal point of Sledgehammer’s development.

Speaking of variety, that’s a great segue to talk about the create a class system for Advanced Warfare. One thing I noticed from watching the reveal last night was a really noticeable similarity to the Treyarch developed games. This extends to the create a class model. In Black Ops II, Treyarch allowed players to really customize their loadouts with the “Pick 10” system – giving you ten points to allocate among primary, secondary, perks, grenades and wildcards. In Advanced Warfare we will get the “Pick 13” system – those three extra points will come in handy, since we will be able to customize primary, secondary, perks, grenades, wildcards – and the new Exo suit abilities and, for the first time, scorestreaks. Adding in this degree of freedom lets the player really fine tune their loadouts so they’re exactly the way they want them. With all of the possible options, it’s a good thing that Sledgehammer has also created the Virtual Firing Range, letting players hop right in from the game lobby to try out their weapons.

One thing that has never really been the Call of Duty franchise’s focal point is player customization. From Modern Warfare 2 up through Black Ops II all we could really change is the playercard and emblem – Ghosts was the first game to really offer any sort of player customization. From what we saw last night, Advanced Warfare is taking it up a bunch of notches. Every aspect of your player can be tweaked to your liking, further enhancing your connection with your avatar. While this customization doesn’t exactly influence gameplay – Sledgehammer is bringing in one way that will. For the first time, players will be able to customize their scorestreaks. At the expense of needing more points to earn, the scorestreaks can be upgraded with some awesome upgrades – the example they showed in the reveal was using the Remote Turret (another Black Ops influence). Normally a turret that uses a chaingun, with a base score requirement of 600 to use, they showed off two upgrades for it, each with a cost of 100 extra points. The first switched the turret to a rocket turret, while the second allowed the player to pull it off the tripod and carry it around the map. This degree of customization will let players further nail down exactly how they use the scorestreaks to their advantage.

There’s still a lot about the game that we don’t know – the full weapon list, the full assortment of attachments, the complete map list, what the level cap and how Prestige will work – along with whether Sledgehammer has a co-op mode planned a la Zombies or Extinction. With the November 4th (3rd for pre-orders) release date only a couple months away, I don’t know exactly how much more we’ll find out. Sledgehammer did previously work on Modern Warfare 3 – which they helped support pre-launch with the Call of Duty XP event, so perhaps we will see something similar to that this year.