Since Black Ops II was announced earlier this year, there have been surprisingly few leaks from the fortress that is Treyarch's studio. But at Gamescom this week, we had an opportunity to get hands-on with the game's multiplayer mode – and get an idea of what's coming our way.
Customisation is the name of the game for this instalment in the Call of Duty franchise. For starters, class creation is a very different beast now. Instead of the usual system where the player chooses a certain number of weapons and perks, the new Pick 10 system assigns players 10 points to spend on whatever they please. Not using that secondary weapon? No problem. You can now get rid of it and buy an upgrade or second primary gun instead.
Another new feature is Wildcards – rule breaker upgrades that let you personalise your solider even further. For example, the "Perk Greed" Wildcard lets you choose two perks from one category. It's another idea that Treyarch is bringing to the table to make Call of Duty more inclusive and more customisable than ever.
Next – and this will be bad news for some – kill streaks are no more. Instead, Black Ops II brings a new Score Streaks system that rewards players with special upgrades. Reach a certain score, and a cool new item will be yours for the using.
And there are plenty of new items, too. Our favourite was the Shock Charge, a handy little device that emits an electric pulse to stun targets on the spot.
We also sat down with Game Design Director David Vonderhaar for a brief chat about some of the choices in Black Ops II. "It was essential for us to challenge our core assumptions," he said. "We didn't want to do things the exact same as they've been done before… we're returning to right where we started"
One of the new features that Vonderhaar was excited about is eSports, a new system that lets you spectate an entire match from every viewpoint and provide your own in-game commentary. "We were really inspired by the competitive eSports communities, but there's no ranked console eSport game today. Black Ops II multiplayer is going to change that."
For the purpose of our hands-on the Activision team were behind the mic – but we can already think of endless ways for this to be abused online in the future.
The eSports feature also goes hand-in-hand with League Play, a new option that will only pit you against players of a similar experience level (ie ones you have a chance of beating) if you choose to use it.
The Call of Duty name has proved to be a gold mine for Activision – but multiplayer is still the real selling point for most players, and the designers are clearly aware of this. While it would've been nice to get a look at some more campaign information – and perhaps less of a focus on score systems and upgrades – overall Black Ops II is looking good.
For fans of the franchise, Black Ops II looks set to deliver the most immersive Call of Duty multiplayer experience yet. Although we only got to try our hand at a couple of the new maps, we can't wait to get our hands on the full game, which drops on November 13th for XBox 360, PS3 and PC. For the time being, Activision is staying schtum on rumours of a Wii U release – well, this is a game about the world of Cold War intrigue, they have to keep some secrets.
Gamescom 2012 – EA's Label President has seen the PS4 and Xbox 720