Activision unveiled two more “specialist” soldiers for multiplayer combat in its Call of Duty: Black Ops III first-person shooter game, which debuts Nov. 6. They’re pretty deadly soldiers, and they are part of a collection of characters that the developers at game studio Treyarch believe will keep players engaged in multiplayer combat.
The company made the announcement during a hands-on preview press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. It was a rare chance for me to be one of the first people in the world to play Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer.
Activision has generated more than $10 billion from Call of Duty over the past decade, but it is trying to do even better by making the game more like an esport. And that means creating characters who have skills that can add unique abilities to an esports team’s offensive or defensive capabilities.
The new characters include Prophet, a veteran soldier who has had limbs replaced through cybernetic surgery, and Nomad, a loner who can unleash a deadly swarm of nano bees. I played a few rounds of multiplayer combat with the characters, and you can see how they function in the videos below.
Dan Bunting, the multiplayer game director on Call of Duty: Black Ops III, said that the company never before had a chance to bring a multiplayer beta test to E3, mostly because of the intense scheduling under a two-year development cycle. But with the addition of one more studio, Sledgehammer Games (in addition to Infinity Ward), Treyarch can now take three years altogether to make a new Call of Duty.
That means Black Ops III, already in its third year of development, is a lot more ready for prime time. The game is designed to be fast, fluid, and visceral. One of the reasons for that is that the characters have now become great ways to highlight new capabilities and fighting styles.
Activision previously introduced four specialists: Outrider (armed with a bow), Reaper (a robot armed with a gatling gun), Seraph (armed with a one-shot kill handgun), and Ruin (armed with “gravity spikes”).
Prophet’s real name is David Wilkes, a soldier with augmentations. He has a special weapon dubbed a lightning gun that charges and then fires a killer bolt. It can actually chain and arc to all of the targets in a room, punishing those who try to camp in one spot. The gun can be very deadly. He also has an ability dubbed “glitch” that lets him relocate extremely fast out of harm’s way. When the developers demoed his ability, the crowd went, “Whoa.”
Nomad works alone. He’s a survivalist, the last member of an elite rapid deployment force that specialized in jungle warfare. He uses the environment against his enemies.
He can deploy a Hive. The hive can loose pod traps that release nano drones. These drones can swarm over an enemy when they pass by a spot. He also has an ability called “rejack” where he injects a nano particle serum directly into his bloodstream. That helps him recover from death using meds.
During battle, you earn points that eventually trigger your specialist’s ability. I had some chances to drop the pod traps in the battlefield, leaving a nice little ambush for my enemies. Of course, once I died, I lost the special ability.
Here’s a round I played as Prophet:
I played this round as Nomad:
And here’s a round I played as Reaper: