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Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer preview - call in the Specialists

Treyarch is not planning to rest on their laurels for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3's multiplayer. They're adding new movement ideas, improving weapon control across all phases of movement, and adding Specialist classes that bring in their own unique firepower to the battlefield.


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.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    April 26, 2015 10:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer preview - call in the Specialists

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      April 26, 2015 10:44 AM

      Ah, this sounds good! The reveal video had the perfect music. :)

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      April 26, 2015 11:03 AM

      Fuck that new movement system. Ruined AW.

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        April 26, 2015 11:13 AM

        So play without it?

        Lol people screamed for something new for CoD and when they do, people scream for a return of the norm. I wouldn't be surprised if they offer another classic movement style playlist for those who don't want it.

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          April 26, 2015 12:05 PM

          It's funny that people were turning to Total Biscuit to rip AW a new one and his video boiled down to, "Hey, this is different. I kinda like it!"

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          April 26, 2015 12:32 PM

          CoD is in a weird position where it is ALWAYS going to leave a large number of people unhappy with any decision because of its large player base and the slow pace of change over a large number of titles. There are people who aren't going to be happy unless its the same as their favorite entry in the series, there are people who aren't going to be happy unless its got some minor improvements that meet their preferences and nothing more, there are people who aren't going to be happy unless they make significant changes, and there are people who won't be happy unless its a completely different game. There are also people who are going to hate it because its a CoD game and fuck that no matter what it is. No matter what they do a vocal group will be pissed because "they ruined it."

          My view is that if I don't like it there isn't a lack of good FPS games to play on the PC (and its the same on consoles, but I generally never play FPS games there), so I'll play something else if the latest CoD doesn't do anything for me (Titanfall is what I'm playing a lot of right now and I've been meaning to play some more Reflex and Quake Live sometime and maybe even seeing if Tribes Ascend has anybody playing it still as I actually enjoiyed that for all its flaws and the fact that it was completely and horribly mishandled by its developer/publisher). If the next CoD is good then I'll play it.

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        April 26, 2015 11:22 AM


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          April 26, 2015 12:06 PM

          I've posted about it several times recently. TLDR I felt it was spammy and rewarded shitty players while making it more difficult for strategy and skill to stand out.

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            April 26, 2015 12:16 PM

            Eh, I disagree...anything that adds a little speed is good and gets us away from the geriatric combat trend we've had going on for the past 15 years or more. My biggest gripe with AW is that it didn't go far enough, I think TItanfall did movement better (giving people the ability to get from point A to B quickly) and that Quake and Tribes have always been the pinnacle of good movement in an FPS.

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              April 26, 2015 12:22 PM

              I would add that I only play these games on PC, so I don't know how something like AW handles on a console. On the PC it didn't really seem spammy so much as it did really wasn't smooth in terms of movement at all. It was like an extreme version of what I didn't like about UT's wasn't smooth. In AW's case it felt really glitchy and wrong whenever you'd mantle up an edge almost like it was intentional packet loss or something. The movement just felt shitty to me for moving around and limited because you couldn't just constantly chain slides and jumps and shit to keep moving as fast as possible (because they put limits on your moves) so you'd end up running on the ground for a bit and the running always felt painfully slow.

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                April 26, 2015 12:30 PM

                yeah it played like shit. that would be my complaint...

                COD while watered down, always felt smooth, AW never felt smooth.

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                  April 26, 2015 12:35 PM

                  I'm interested to see how Treyarch handles it along with the wallrunning mentioned in the article. If they do it well then I'll probably put a good bit of time into it. I enjoyed BLOPS 1 & 2 a good bit so I think they're capable (I pretty much wrote the series off after hating MW2 on PC and BLOPS surprised me with actually being fun and not a laggy mess that took forever to get me into a game that was laggier than it should have been because it had servers...then BLOPS2 actually did a decent job with matchmaking because they actually had servers behind the scenes as I remember).

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            April 26, 2015 12:26 PM


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        April 26, 2015 12:13 PM

        TBH...the movement was one of the things I liked about AW. Games are far too static and grounded and slow these days. These things still aren't on the level of Quake or even something slower like UT. I feel like more movement is welcome unless they're going back to a Cold War era shooter which is the only other direction I would find interesting for them.

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        April 26, 2015 12:20 PM

        titan fall did it correctly. AW half-assed the new movement, plus the game ran like laggy shit.

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        April 26, 2015 6:11 PM

        The movement system in blops3 is completely different than AW or Titanfall, don't worry. These guys know what they are doing.

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      April 26, 2015 11:20 AM

      Not going to fall for this shit again, I'll be interested if they go back to WW2

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        April 26, 2015 12:17 PM

        Its weird that I think I'm finally in a place where I could enjoy a WW2 game (that wasn't a flight sim) again...they milked the hell out of that for a few years. Its not what I prefer in my FPS (but then again, Quake is what I prefer)...but it would be nice to have back in a Battlefield game with destructibility at this point.

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      April 27, 2015 11:50 AM

      Sounds really good could be really good the last was the best in my opinion of the new ones I am happy they are building on the last one. Cool

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