In boilerplate multiplayer shooter modes such as team deathmatch, capture the flag, and territory domination, they’re dilemmas we’ve all faced: The win or the kill? The points or the pride? The team or the individual?
There might be no in “I” in Call of Duty, but from World War II in Normandy to World War III on Manhattan’s East River the axiom has only amplified: killing – the “K/D” is king.
Treyarch hopes to reverse this individualistic mindset in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Speaking to Eurogamer, design director David Vonderhaar outlined several of the new multiplayer changes announced for the game at last week’s Gamescom – each of them aimed at fostering a team-based culture.
Step one: a new competitive play matchmaking system called League Play that promotes and relegates players into skill-based divisions. Even playing in a strictly supportive role, it’s possible to advance alongside the heavy-hitting killers.
“When we play you really start caring [about winning and losing] again… I was the goal tender. I stayed back and protected our C Domination flag. That was the entirety of my job. I focused on doing that job and doing it well. And even though I wasn’t in every single fight all the time and running out to my death, I was setting up strategic defensive positions and thinking about it a lot. It was just an incredibly fun way to play. “
League Play’s addition is, in part, a response to the explosive growth of the series following 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; with the flood of players present in Call of Duty’s multiplayer ranks, Vonderhaar expressed how important it is to accommodate everyone: those who “just want to go out and wreck in public matchmaking”, and those looking to form a tighter, strategy-centric connection with their teammates.
To further encourage the latter, Black Ops II is also scrapping a long-time catalyst of self-minded gameplay. The famous kill-streak system, featured in every installment since 2007’s Modern Warfare, has been replaced with Score Streaks. Resetting with each life as always, Vonderhaar describes Score Streaks as outside-the-box thinking, a more encompassing way for rewarding valuable team players.
“When something is a kill and only a kill, that’s a pretty specific thing. When something has numbers, like score, then it can be more or less. That gives us a lot of flexibility to reward the appropriate gameplay behavior for winning the game mode.”
And again, the focus is flexibility: Kill streaks are still fruitful enough to unlock rewards the old fashioned way, but anyone who wants to earn a UAV could just as well capture a flag. After all, as Vonderhaar says: “He probably deserves them more than some guy just standing off somewhere just generating kills, and that’s all he’s doing.”
Doubtless some will try to paint League Play and Score Streaks as a relaying of old architecture from countless other shooters. Black Ops II has constantly shown an ambition for overhauling the Call of Duty formula, however, (look no further than its 2025 setting, branching-narrative campaign, and redesigned “Pick 10” loadout system), and an inherently diverse audience can only benefit from diverse gameplay.
Ranters, does Call of Duty need to refocus and emphasize, like, say, Battlefield 3, team-based multiplayer?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 releases November 13, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
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