Black Ops 2 customization and the quest for Prestige

By Andrew Yoon, Sep 27, 2012 9:00am PDT

One of the reasons why Call of Duty has been so wildly addictive for its fans is the constant lure of new loot. Weapons and perks can be endlessly customized, and each level-up entices players with new unlockables. Players will be able to not only unlock new weapon and abilities, but special camo, reticules, and emblem designs as well.

Players earn one unlock token per level, granting them access to any single item in Black Ops 2's vast collection of virtual goods. There are 55 levels in the main progression, giving players ample customization options--but to unlock everything, players will have to "Prestige"--resetting their level back down to one.

There are 10 levels of Prestige in Black Ops 2, which should ensure that even the most devout fan will have to work quite a bit to earn the game's most prized designation. Along the way, players will want to complete challenges, each which unlocks a cosmetic item. There are thousands of challenges, each with a virtual reward and an XP bonus. Every weapon in the game has a base set of ten camo to unlock, and there are high-end challenges that can unlock "very special camo." When you see an "atypical" weapon skin in a Kill Cam, you know that a player has earned the right to use that skin.

"We wanted to reward players for branching out of their comfort zone," game design director David Vonderhaar said. The challenges encourage players to try new weapons and new strategies. The rewards can be oddly amusing, at times. For example, you can unlock "The Steve," a reticule named after the game's lighting director--because it comes in the shape of an old timey mustache. There's also the "Zombie Stomper EO Tech scope," which turns your reticule into a biohazard logo.

Other challenges will unlock emblems for use in the emblem editor. This avatar will appear on your player card, alongside a custom background, clan tag, level XP, and league play rank. There will be over 150 backgrounds to unlock and 150 shapes to use in the emblem editor--meaning players will have no shortage of challenges to partake in.

"We've essentially created Photoshop," Vonderhaar said while describing the new emblem editor. You'll be able to copy, paste, flip, move, rotate, and scale emblems. The editor also supports 32 different layers, meaning creations can be especially elaborate. Add in RGB color mixing and transparency effects, and there's almost no limit to what you can create in the emblem editor--so long as you dedicate the time.

With so many challenges and unlockables, Black Ops 2 places a greater emphasis on player identity than ever before. And because of the overwhelming amount of content unlocked during a 55 level run, it would be devastating to have to lose it all when hitting the "Prestige" button. Instead, players that choose to go back down to level 1 will lose access to later-level abilities, but no challenge progress will be reset. Weapon XP will remain intact, as well. So once you unlock a weapon again during your Prestige run, the game will acknowledge all the time you've spent on it.

Going Prestige will give players perks more significant than a shiny new icon. Not only will new Prestige challenges open up, but you'll also get a "Prestige unlock token," which lets you unlock an item permanently and ignore the level gate. That should make subsequent playthroughs a bit more manageable. In addition, you'll have the choice between three different perks: an extra create-a-class slot (up to a maximum of 5), a refund of all unlock tokens (letting you re-spec your character), and the ability to completely reset your stats. It will totally wipe out your entire record, for anyone that wants to wipe their slate clean. "Keep your little brother away from this button," Vonderhaar joked.

Should you make your way all the way to the 10th level of Prestige, you'll have reached the endgame. Everything the game has to offer will be unlocked, even for challenges that were not completed. Of course, if you've devoted hundreds of hours into playing the game, perhaps no other reward would suffice.

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