Tag Archive: TreyArch


A bigger, blacker CoD

Call of Duty has come a long way over the years. Every subsequent release, though, has the ever-increasing challenge of upping the ante, especially as the fiction has crossed from the historical, to the modern, and, most recently, to the future. But just when you think there is nowhere left for it to go, Treyarch finds a way to push each mode to new heights and tie it all together in its most cohesive package yet with Black Ops III.

Set in 2065, Black Ops III’s world has actually taken a step backwards in some ways when it comes to how it wages war. Due to the setup of an air-defense grid after the attacks of Raul Menendez’s hacked drones 40 years earlier, warfare has once again gotten down and dirty, with foot soldiers serving as the difference makers in combat. But mixing with the blood, sweat, and tears out on the battlefield are the oil, rust, and frayed wires of robot soldiers and augmented humans looking for that extra edge in conflicts around the world.

It is here where Black Ops III begins, when your character is critically wounded on an op that goes sideways, and forced to replace several body parts in order to survive and continue operating for the United States government. As the story progresses through the eyes of your now-supersoldier, back in the field with robotic limbs and unfathomable abilities, you and your team uncover a secret that could turn the world on its head. Worse yet, you realize you weren’t the only ones to recently find out the truth.

Black Ops III’s campaign is easily the series’ most ambitious yet from a storytelling, gameplay, and design point of view. Each chapter is longer and larger than any we’ve seen in the past, with multiple paths to objectives available to players if they are willing to explore. These massive levels substantially lengthen the campaign, pushing my first playthrough to the 10-hour mark.

The wide maps and different routes are also ideal for the return of four-player campaign co-op. For the first time since World at War, you and some buddies can tackle the campaign together, with the difficulty ramping up dynamically depending on how many players have joined you. This also adds an element of potential planning and group tactics, as you can choose to be a team that moves as one, picking off enemies as you go, or branches off and tackles objectives from multiple angles. I personally found the multiple angles suited my team’s playstyle best, especially in the campaign’s handful of traditional boss fights—which were a surprising, but not necessarily unwelcome addition for a series known for its bombastic action filled set pieces.


The most significant addition to gameplay, though, is likely the new Cyber Cores. These are the different cybernetic abilities you can take out into the field with you. Grouped into three sets of six, each individual power can be upgraded as your character progresses.

Yes, one of the ways that Black Ops III more seamlessly brings the Call of Duty experience together is that progressing your character isn’t just limited to multiplayer. You can level up in all three modes of play, giving you specific unlocks in each one. In campaign, you not only customize your character’s armor, face, and guns, but their Cyber Cores, too.

This is done in-between levels, where you can visit a safe house that allows you to mess with your character depending on what chapter you’re going to tackle, while providing a nice respite from bullets whizzing by your ears. If you would like to be an offensive powerhouse, for example, you might want the Chaos Cyber Core that lets you shoot sonics out of your hands, debilitating all human enemies within range, or release nanobots that will swarm enemies and ignite them in flames. In the safe house you can also play a special simulation that acts as a Horde mode—which also features four-player co-op—within the campaign to test your loadouts before heading back into the story.

One of the most interesting aspects of the future setting, though, is that some of the levels are set in the virtual realm. While you can still die and have to restart from a checkpoint, these virtual levels make it so that nearly anything and everything are possible, like the inclusion of zombies for the first time in a main campaign, and even a return to Treyarch’s roots a bit with a World War II simulation that will blow your mind, all while still finding a way to progress the story.

That story, however, might be the one aspect of the campaign where things stumble a bit. Although the gameplay is phenomenal, and does a great job of really allowing you to play it however you want, Treyarch ran into the issue of having to essentially establish a brand-new world due to the 40-year jump in their continuity. Part of this takes place in the aforementioned safe houses, where people who want to dig deep into a small computer terminal will find fun articles ranging from fictional reports on major world events to fun little Easter eggs, like a failed military experiment that tried to weaponize cows.


The rest of the world-building begins in the middle of the narrative, derailing critical character development for the sake of establishing the backstory for your impending conflicts. One of the qualities that have made the Black Ops arc so great is that the conflict traditionally serves only as background noise for the characters that we get to know and love. David and Alex Mason, Woods, and Hudson were memorable characters that I adored. Black Ops III starts out similarly with this unfamiliar squad of undercover badasses, but then about a third of the way through, starts leading you down a rabbit hole around the conspiracy that you happen upon and forgets about making me want to care about any of the characters.

Although critical to the twist at the end of the campaign that will have players arguing on forums as much as Zombies enthusiasts do about that mode’s secrets, the campaign feels like it takes a break from the character development during that time to beat us over the head with themes like “Where do we draw the line with our dependence on technology” and “Americans messing with things they shouldn’t just creates more enemies.” This disrupted the narrative flow, and that became more evident just before the end when a romance subplot comes out of nowhere and the villain’s presence, predictably, is revealed to be with us since near the start of the story. I still enjoyed the campaign’s story as a whole, but I wish the conspiracy could’ve been better woven in with the characters so that the flow of everything didn’t feel so disjointed.

While on the subject of twists at the end of the campaign, the one that made me drop my controller was the reveal of a second campaign at the end of the first one. Dubbed “Nightmare,” this second campaign remixes the level order of the main campaign, but does so while providing a new protagonist, a new narrative, and new enemies.

The Nightmare campaign is a what-if version of the main campaign where all the enemies were zombies. You can’t personalize your loadout here, though. Instead, you have to rely on random magic boxes and drops from enemies in order to power up. The lack of control after having the keys to the customizable kingdom in the main campaign adds to an overall increase in difficulty considering how, even in the widest maps, the zombies will swarm you before you know what hit you. The Nightmare campaign provides a fun alternate narrative that might be stronger than the original and is also playable in four-player co-op.

But for all you Zombies fanatics out there, never fear. A more traditional Zombies experience called “Shadows of Evil”, themed on classic film noir, is also available. As that story goes, the four main characters, played by Ron Perlman, Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, and Neal McDonough, have each committed some horrible evil that is allowing zombies to enter their world. By working together, they’ll have to uncover the secret that supposedly somehow ties into previous Zombies entries and might save their damned souls.


Unfortunately, I didn’t get as far as I’d normally like in Zombies, but I did get plenty of time to experiment with two major additions to the mode’s gameplay. The first is the new Gobblegum system. Each player can customize a set of five gumballs they want attributed to their person, with each gumball offering a different ability. When you find a Gobblegum machine, you can spend some of the cash you’d normally use on guns or other power-ups to get one of the five gumballs in your set at random. And just like in single-player, there is a progression here that will unlock better gumballs as you level up.

The second element is the purple flame, which can be found at different locations throughout Morg City. For a limited time, this turns players into a lightning quick plant monster with tentacles (think Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors) called “The Beast” that lets you open special doors, break boxes, and unlock the paths necessary to find all of Morg City’s secrets. There are few things more satisfying than finding new secrets and special narrative clues while killing the undead, so when combined with the hysterical dialogue that each character randomly spews, this year’s Zombies mode might be the best yet.

As great as Campaign and Zombies are, multiplayer is really Call of Duty’s bread-and-butter. Never to be outdone, the multiplayer has taken the futuristic ideas of the campaign and turned them into the slickest multiplayer suite yet.

Before you build your first loadout, though, you should check out Freerun. This short series of four time trials are a great way to teach you how best to use your wall-running abilities in multiplayer and get used to the idea of the maps’ new sense of verticality. Ramping up steadily, Freerun will show you moves you never thought possible, like running up columns or wall-jumping down narrow corridors, all while stoking your competitive fire by sticking a clock on you and daring you to get the best time.

Once your cybernetic legs are all warmed up, then you can jump into the largest selection of multiplayer modes yet. I was able to play on live servers pre-launch, and while there weren’t nearly as many people online as there will be on launch day, everything worked fine. You never know what might happen when the servers are flooded by millions of gamers, though. Multiplayer touts a bevy of returning favorites like Capture the Flag, Kill Confirmed, Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, and many more, but Black Ops III also touts a new mode called Safeguard.


Safeguard tasks you with defending a bomb strapped to a robot as it heads to a designated point on the map. The robot only moves when members of your team are near it, and the enemy team can slow the robot down by shooting it repeatedly. If time runs out before the robot reaches its destination, the defenders win, and if the robot makes it, the attackers win. I found the mode to be immensely difficult because standing next to the robot makes you a sitting duck, so it really requires one person to act as a direct escort, and the rest of your team to keep the enemies off your back. In that regard it has elements of CTF in it, and requires monumental amounts of teamwork whether you’re an attacker or defender.

The beauty of multiplayer now, though, centers on the chain-based fluid movement system. After a little practice, I was stringing together wall-running and double jumps so effortlessly I felt like I could single-handedly change any battle. With each map and mode having their own special nuances to cater to this movement style, surprising my opponent meant a lot more than flanking them. Knocking that sniper off the high ground wasn’t nearly as impossible anymore. And springing up out of water with assault rifle blazing added even more depth to what are some of the best-designed maps you’ll see in any Call of Duty.

The other major change we see in Black Ops III’s multiplayer is the Specialists. Sure, you can still customize and choose whatever guns or weapons you want to bring into battle, especially with the return of the beloved Pick 10 system offering another layer of balance that I feel the past two Call of Duty games have lacked. But the Specialist a player chooses gives them more of an identity online than in previous Call of Duty games, from who the player selects, to how they define their look, and finally which of their Specialist’s two special abilities they pick.

Knowing what each Specialist does and what situations their powers are best used in could turn the tide of a battle on their own, and offer yet another strategy for players to think for, and potentially plan against. For example, I played with Ruin a lot. His two abilities are Gravity Spikes, which allows him to kill everyone close to him with a shockwave when he slams the spikes into the ground, and a supercharged sprint called Overdrive. In TDM, racking up that kill count is critical so the spikes were great. But in something like CTF, grabbing the flag and then hitting Overdrive with that enhanced sprint means I can get a point for my team a lot more easily, covering half the map in a fraction of the time I used to. Considering there are nine Specialists to play around with (four to start, with others unlocked via progression), I can only imagine the strategies players will come up with.

It’s never easy to continually one-up yourself, but Treyarch seems just fine rising up to the challenge each time its turn comes up to put out a Call of Duty game. By adding progression and co-op to each mode, players have new reasons to go back and play each one more, while also providing a common thread through each part to help pull it all together. Multiplayer and Zombies are more robust than ever, and although Campaign’s story might not have been the strongest we’ve seen from series, it’s still a high-quality thrill a minute ride with a twist that will keep players talking until the series’ next installment. Simply put, Black Ops III is the deepest experience the franchise has seen thus far.


Developer: Treyarch • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 11.06.15
Black Ops III is the deepest Call of Duty experience to date. With not one, but two campaigns, new multiplayer modes and more robust customization, and a Zombies mode that will suck in even the most casual of players, Treyarch has once again found a way to raise the bar.
The Good More quality content than ever before crammed into a Call of Duty game.
The Bad Character development in campaign has a sharp drop off.
The Ugly Why hasn’t Activision announced a Call of Duty starring Jeff Goldblum yet?
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Activision provided travel to and accommodation at a review event for the benefit of this review.

In an interview with Polygon, Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia speaks to the narrative aspects of Black Ops III, and reveals they went into such detail filling in the gaps between 2025 and 2065 that they created their own in-game wiki-like device for players to use.

As most Call of Duty fans will remember, the Raul Menendez initiated drone strikes of Black Ops II took place in 2025. Moving the narrative so far forward into the future with Black Ops III created some serious questions about how the world has changed since then.

Not surprisingly, that drone strike was a huge turning point in the world of Black Ops, forcing developed countries to perfect air defense systems that would make drones null and void. Thus, recreating the need for boots on the ground, which just so happen to be augmented through advanced cybernetics and reinforced by robot soldiers.

If players want to catch up on the events of the world since Black Ops II, though, Treyarch created a nifty little wiki-like device that players can easily access from their character’s safe house between missions and access it via a computer.

“We’re giving it to the player this time. This is stuff we usually do anyway, with our research,” Lamia says about giving players this kind of information. “How do we come up with these settings? We literally just did our research and project out. We’re fortunate to have experts we can talk to. We’ve become futurist experts ourselves, living in this subject matter for so long. That’s going to be there for the player. It’s important.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops III will be available for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on November 6.

Will the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 feature a stand-alone Zombies story mode? Will old friends (and foes) from previous Call of Duty games reappear as the undead? Could this be the first step towards a stand-alone zombies franchise? Watch the video for the latest info!

With today’s teaser announcement basically confirming Call of Duty: Black Ops III being Treyarch’s entry this year in Activision’s billion-dollar franchise (sorry World at War fans), I got to thinking about what exactly we want to see from this newest installment in the Black Ops series.  With a three-year development cycle this go around, I imagine Treyarch has had plenty of time to mess with some new ideas, or—more than likely—refine some older ones. So, here are the top five things I’d like to see from Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

Editor’s Note: There will be references made to the endings and plot twists of the previous Black Ops games in the following piece. Consider this your only warning. 

1. Returning Characters

So the teaser trailer features a number of echoes from the past Black Ops games. The ones that stood out the most to me is Black Ops II villain Raul Menendez saying “Your life will be consumed by absolute loss” and Sgt. Frank Woods mentioning “You’ll always need men like us.” Now, there were four different endings in Black Ops II, and we don’t know which one will be considered canon to pick up the storyline—but the hope is that it will be one where it allows both of these characters to return in some form or another. Menendez made a great villain, and Woods has been a fan-favorite since the first Black Ops. It’d make a lot of sense if we saw some returning faces for the series’ third installment, and that’s especially true for these two guys—and using those particular lines from them in the teaser makes me think it’s not that far-fetched.

2. Parallel Storylines

Something that kept Black Ops II’s narrative feeling so fresh was the constant shift in perspective from the 1980s to 2025. And, again, depending on what becomes canonical for the series going forward, the return of Alex Mason in certain endings leaves a lot more questions on the table than answers. Why tell players where he was during all those years he was missing from his son David’s life, when instead you can show them? If Black Ops III goes with the ending where Alex lived in the end, then you can very easily have the game go back and forth between explaining where he was in the 1990s and dealing with the inevitable ripples caused by Menendez in the late 2020s—and still have it all tie together in an over-arcing plot line.

3. Remove Strike Force; add campaign co-op

The RTS element introduced via the special Strike Force chapters of Black Ops II was an inventive and interesting idea that just didn’t pan out as well as it could have. Often your ally AI would leave you to “super soldier” through missions, and considering how much of the plot relied on the outcomes of said missions, it ended up being more trouble than it was worth. The idea of special “metagame” operations with larger teams affecting the outcome of the plot wasn’t the worst idea in the world, though. When you also consider how much of Black Ops II saw you weaving your way through each level with an AI buddy, the obvious addition that needs to be implemented instead in Black Ops III is campaign co-op. Whether it’s Mason and Woods at it again in a flashback, David and a nameless squad member in 2025, or a pair of guys protecting key interests around the world with a small army of drones instead of a group of incompetent AI to replace the Strike Force missions, I think co-op could easily be doable as an option here.

4. Return to form in multiplayer

We know multiplayer is a bigger draw than the single-player narrative when it comes to Call of Duty. To me, Black Ops II remains the best multiplayer experience of the last generation of the franchise, and I’ll always go back to it over Ghosts or Advanced Warfare any day of the week. After all, Treyarch is the one who came up with the Pick-10 system, and it was at its best in terms of balance and implementation when in this team’s capable hands. I’d love for them to go back to it, especially with three years to tweak things. Plus, the power of new-gen consoles has me really pumped up for the future of multiplayer with Call of Duty—even if they do nothing but fix the Pick-10 system after Infinity Ward bumbled what Treyarch did the first time around.

5. Deepest Zombies mode ever

It’s Treyarch’s turn to shine, and that means one thing when it comes to Call of Duty: Zombies mode. After Black Ops II’s Zombies actually started to piece together a few elements from previous games, and paid homage to many of the theories put forth by the mode’s ravenous fanbase, you have to think that Black Ops III will offer not only a bigger and more robust experience with the mode, but maybe even finally provide players with that definitive narrative within itself. Since the constant speculation amongst players has helped turn this into one of Call of Duty’s most popular features, it feels like it’s time to finally be rewarded.

A surprising theme for this year’s DICE Summit 2015 has been about how a company’s employees, and not IP and bottom lines, are the most important thing in the gaming industry right now.

To help support this argument, Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia took the stage to tell the story of how the developer’s now beloved Zombies co-op mode for Call of Duty almost hit the cutting room floor.

Lamia reminisced about how the studio, their release date for World at War fast approaching, was behind in development and extremely stressed following up Infinity Ward’s record-setting Modern Warfare with a game that returned to the World War II setting.

Without his knowledge, a rogue team within Treyarch began working on a side project that featured Nazi zombies. Word quickly spread throughout the studio of this fun prototype that was being passed around and worked on during off-hours, and finally it got back to Lamia.

Initially, right then and there, Lamia thought of pulling the plug on this project due to the extreme crunch Treyarch was in. But instead, he decided to actually play the prototype and wait to pass judgment until afterwards. Luckily for all us fans of zombies, Lamia was pleasantly surprised that it was actually more fun than the co-op mode they already had in the game.

The approval from Lamia gave the development team a much-needed second wind, as he allowed them to continue to polish the mode in their spare time and stretch their creative wings a bit, rewarding them for their dedication and extra effort.

After a bit of time, Lamia himself then championed the mode to the higher ups at Activision, with the consensus indeed being that the prototype was immensely fun. But PR and marketing chimed in saying it would have been confusing and too far off brand to just promote outright. This is why World at War originally featured Zombies mode as an Easter egg reward for hardcore fans who beat the main campaign (it later became so popular it was unlocked from the beginning via a patch).

Somewhat surprisingly, the fans then that took the next steps with the mode. Writing fan fiction through message boards and forums, a story began to form around Zombies and why you had to fend off this horde of Nazi undead in a bunker. This led to Black Ops’ Zombies mode forgoing any sort of PR campaign as well, as it allowed the fans to continue to build the lore themselves, with Treyarch employees adding more special Easter eggs and callbacks in subsequent games and DLC to continue fanning the flames. Even during Lamia’s presentation, Treyarch game design director David Vonderhaar continued to play with fans via social media about what could be next for the mode.

Zombies mode now serves as Treyarch’s signature whenever it’s their turn in the development rotation of Call of Duty. And since they’re up to bat for this year’s Call of Duty, we’d be more than a little shocked if Zombies didn’t find a way to rear its head once more.

They were the odds-on favorites coming in, but after hitting a speed bump in the form of Envyus on Day 2, Fariko Impact’s hopes of a trifecta of 2013 Call of Duty championships were in jeopardy. But they would not be denied.

After being relegated to the Lower Bracket Championship against OpTic Gaming, Fariko knew that the road would be tougher, but not insurmountable. And so after getting a good night’s rest and making sure to come together as a team, they began working their way to $400,000, a big trophy, some sweet gold rings, and ultimately the 2013 Call of Duty World Championship.

Led by team captain, Parasite, Impact started off neck and neck with OpTic in Hardpoint. There were seven lead changes in their opening match before Impact locked down the final Hardpoint and won 250-190. And things would be just as hard in Search and Destroy. Going to the 11th round after Impact let OpTic back into the match, a trend we saw across the whole tournament, one man was left on each team. Parasite would again get the clutch kill that would seal the game for his team.

After letting CTF get away from them some, Impact kept their cool, knowing it’s not their best game mode, only winning 20% of their CTF matches in the tournament to that point. But Hardpoint is. And they showed why on their favorite map in “Hijack”. Dominating from the get go, Impact cruised 250-137, never letting the map get away from them, and crossing the finish line 3-1 in the Lower Bracket Championship, leaving OpTic with the $120,000 3rd place prize.

After a ridiculous two and a half hour “break” between matches, it was finally time for the World Championship where Envyus would look to repeat their performance from the previous evening. By the way, easily the worst thing about this weekend was the huge delay between the Lower Bracket Championship and World Championship. The CodCasters were wondering why the energy in the building had died down so much. It’s simple. The live crowd took a nap because there was no reason to take so long there. Not to mention all the cut-ins between the games of the actual World Championship match and I’d be surprised if most of the audience watching at home online didn’t turn it off and go watch Wrestlemania. It was as if we had a power outage every five minutes in the Super Bowl.

But I digress. Since Envyus and Impact met already in the tournament, instead of playing another best of five match, they played as if their series was now a best of 11, picking up where the match from yesterday left off. So right off the bat, Impact knew they had to win four and not three games since Envyus had a natural 3-2 advantage going into the championship. And the first game would be CTF, Envyus’s strongest game type and Impact’s weakest.

But against all odds, Impact forced Stopwatch, CTF’s version of overtime, and pulled off one of the most improbable victories of the entire tournament to tie the series at three. This then brought us into Hardpoint, where Impact again dominated 244-138.

The two teams then traded victories to bring the count up to 5-4, and Impact was going to be playing Hardpoint again. But much like they had shocked Envyus with a win in CTF, Envyus pulled the wool over Impact’s eyes much like they had in their Upper Bracket Championship match and stole a close 220-200 victory.

This set up another all-deciding Search and Destroy match. Envyus again started strong here, winning 3 of the first 5 to take an early advantage. But their nerves seemed to get the best of them because this is when Impact hunkered down and rolled over Envyus in 4 of the next 5 rounds to win Search and Destroy 6-4, and to win the Call of Duty 2013 World Championship six games to five.  The comeback was complete and Impact had finished their personal Call of Duty Triple Crown.

On the second day of the Call of Duty Championship, the final 16 teams were cut down to just three as double elimination bracket rules were put into effect. Meaning the fastest route to the top spot would be to keep winning, but should your team falter, you had a second chance to make it back to the finals should you rediscover your winning groove.

The matches for the second day were now set in a best of five format with Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Capture the Flag remaining the first three games. Should they be necessary, however, Hardpoint and Search and Destroy would return for games four and five, respectively, if needed. And once again, instead of giving you a perfect play-by-play, here are just the biggest things to take away from Day 2’s action.

Perfection Lost

As alluded to yesterday, I’ve watched enough sports over the years to know that everyone would be gunning for Fariko Impact. Not only had they won the previous two professional Call of Duty tournaments, as a team they were undefeated in the game. Not a single match had been dropped by this group of guys. Until now.

Although they faced stiff competition against Complexity, Epsilon, and OpTic Gaming in the winner’s bracket, Impact was able to sneak out some close, yet still impressive victories on the way to the Upper Bracket Championship Match. A victory there would ensure nothing worse than a second place finish. But fate would not be on their side as Envyus, who had not really impressed, but not yet faltered up to that point either, would follow their captain’s lead and constantly change strategies to keep Impact on their toes. And it worked.

The first Hardpoint match was the second closest of the event thus far, and both involved Envyus. Although Envyus beat Killerfish to win Group 4 on Day 1, they lost the Hardpoint game to Killerfish, 220-217. Utilizing a nearly identical strategy to what was used against them, Envyus pulled off a similar narrow victory with a 244-239 win that immediately got a buzz going around the Palladium Theater.

Impact would not have it, however, and would easily handle Envyus in the Search and Destroy match. Envyus would then earn another narrow victory in Capture the Flag to take a 2-1 lead. Impact would not make the same mistakes twice, though, and the second Hardpoint was close again, but this time favored Impact 229-192 and would tie the match at two games apiece.

And this is when things got really interesting. In this final Search and Destroy game, Envyus came out strong and jumped out to an early lead. Impact would catch up though and tie it at 4 rounds apiece. Both teams would trade rounds then to set up an epic tiebreaking round where Envyus’ genius would shine through.

For many of the Search and Destroy rounds Envyus had played the games tentatively, often splitting up to move through multiple map corridors. But in the final round, Envyus bum rushed Impact as a single cohesive unit. I’m not sure if it was planned or came to Rambo, the captain for Envyus, late in the match, but Impact, who had stuck with their tried and true method used in previous rounds, were scattered, trying to rely on their own individual skills whereas Envyus had become something greater than the sum of their parts and polished off Impact in near-record time in that final round.

The crowd then erupted for the mighty Impact had fallen. At least to the Lower Bracket anyway, due to the double elimination rules. But no longer was Impact invincible after we witnessed a match that may be one of the greatest in competitive Call of Duty history.

Stiff Competition

Whereas you could not escape the clean sweep on Day 1, Day 2 mostly had anything but. Aside for a few early sweeps against lesser teams like Pain Gaming, nearly every match went back and forth and we had several instances where, much like the Envyus vs Impact match, we saw a 2-2 game, 5-5 round tie. Everyone in attendance was on edge as we saw it happen time and again, including between Complexity and OpTic to decide who would finish in fourth place, and who would move onto the Lower Bracket Championship Match against Impact and have an outside chance still at the overall title.

We also saw a couple teams flirt with those matches once too often as Killerfish would advance in the Lower Bracket Championship and bring Quantic back down to Earth with a 6-5, 5th game win, but then see the clock strike midnight as they would then fall the very same way in their next match against vVv, missing the money matches by literally a single round of Search and Destroy.

Europe Represents

Speaking of Killerfish, they were just one of the European teams to show up and provide a very good show, and give the typically more dominant American teams a run for their money. Inferno (Italy) and Epsilon (Ireland) would both wow me, and garner quite an underdog following, as they made runs into the money matches and put up strong fights against some of the more elite competition like OpTic. All of the European teams would eventually fall, but they were often in the most exciting matches and surely made their home countries proud. And for Inferno and Epsilon, well, I’m sure we’ll figure out the conversion rate for their winnings before sending them back across the pond.

Money Talks

With so many teams having fallen today, a lot of the money winners were decided before we even get to the major championships. Below is an official breakdown of the million dollars up for grabs and who has won what so far:

  • 8th place: $25,000 – Inferno eSports
  • 7th place: $35,000 – vVv Gaming
  • 6th place: $50,000 – Epsilon
  • 5th place: $70,000 – FEAR
  • 4th place: $100,000 – Complexity
  • 3rd place: $120,000 – ???
  • 2nd place: $200,000 – ???
  • 1st place: $400,000 – ???


So yesterday I made some prediction about the first eight matches we would see and went 6-2, including 1-1 in my upset picks. Not bad. Here’s a better breakdown of where I went right and where I went wrong:

  • Complexitiy vs Killerfish – I saw the problems Killerfish gave Envyus on Day 1 and thought they could’ve done the same to Complexity. They did, but just like their match with Envyus, it was close but ended with a losing result. RESULT: WRONG 
  • Soar vs Quantic – Everyone saw that Quantic had taken advantage of a weakened Unite team to claim their group and Soar put them back in their place, with help from Killerfish who then knocked them out of the Lower Bracket. RESULT: RIGHT
  • Fariko Impact vs Epsilon – Epsilon made a nice run in the Lower Bracket to get some cash, but they were never on Impact’s level. RESULT: RIGHT
  • OpTic Gaming vs Pain Gaming – Another clear mismatch as OpTic crushed Pain before they were, unsurprisingly, expelled from the tournament altogether as the first team eliminated from the Lower Bracket. RESULT: RIGHT
  • Donut Shop vs Enigma – Donut Shop came out on fire and crushed Enigma, but I think a lot of folks were secretly hoping both teams would’ve gone farther than they did, each coming up one round shy of the money matches. RESULT: RIGHT
  • Envyus vs The Stand – I had no idea Envyus was as strong as they ended up being, but I knew enough to trust them against The Stand who barely even showed up on Day 2. RESULT: RIGHT
  • Fariko All-Stars vs FEAR – I fell in love with the All-Stars after the fit they gave OpTic on Day 1 in a losing effort. I thought they’d be able to handle FEAR, but they succumbed as the first of FEAR’s victims, as FEAR was well on its way to a 5th place finish. RESULT: WRONG 
  • vVv Gaming vs Inferno eSports – A sign of things to come as both these teams would face off again to determine 7th/8th place with vVv winning both times, but I think many would agree vVv underperformed, while Inferno might’ve over performed, in this particular tournament overall. RESULT: RIGHT

So the stage is set for the final day. OpTic Gaming gets a rematch against Impact after Impact sent them down to the Lower Bracket to begin with, and the winner will take on Envyus for all the marbles. I still have a good feeling about the OpTic guys, even if they hit a rough patch yesterday against Impact, because after that loss they played ticked off and crushed everyone in their way. If they come with that fire from the get go, Impact ,and then Envyus, will have their hands full.

If you want to watch the results of these ensuing, epic battles, then watch the action live by heading over to http://www.twitch.tv/ or http://elite.callofduty.com/esports starting at 12 PM PT (3 PM ET).

In just the first day of action at the 1st Annual Call of Duty Championship, we saw 32 of the best teams in the world whittled down to 16. This first day was set up in a Round Robin/Group format similar to the FIFA World Cup. Each match-up was decided when a team won the best of three games. The first two games played were Hardpoint followed by Search and Destroy. Should the teams split these two games, Capture the Flag would decide who would win the match.

Even though I was on the floor watching all the matches (or as many as I could at one time), instead of giving you a play-by-play of everything that happened, here are some of the storylines/highlights that we saw emerge from Day 1 as well as who to keep an eye on during Day 2 as we move into the bracket stage of the tournament!

The Odds-On Favorite Dominates

After coming off a pair of Call of Duty tournament wins at EGL9 and MLG – Dallas, Fariko Impact came in as the heavy favorites to cap off the hat trick with a 1st Annual Call of Duty Championship Trophy. Placed into the first group on the center stage of the tournament, Impact rolled to a clean sweep over their group mates in Team Pain from Spain, Immunity from Austrailia, and the up and coming Team Phoenix who qualified through Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s League Play.

Fariko Gaming as a whole couldn’t pull off the sweep like their golden team Impact did, though, as Fariko Dragons fell away in the evening matches. Fariko All-Stars were able to join their fellow Fariko mates at least, but as the second team from their respective group.

Don’t Sleep on These Under the Radar Teams

OpTic Gaming was the group who took the big prize at Call of Duty XP back in 2011 and they’re hoping the smog-filled skies of LA are friendly to them once again. But because of Impact’s incredible roll of late, they were placed inconspicuously in Group 5. And it wasn’t until they wiped the floor with Fariko All-Stars to decide the Group 5 winner that people realized the OpTic team had brought their “A” game to this tournament. Familiar to the bright lights, the big stage, and the fat purse, OpTic is letting Impact hog the limelight…but for how long?

vVv Gaming also came out of their respective group clearly head and shoulders above their competition and could be another team that takes advantage of all eyes being on Impact. It’s not easy having a target on your back and how Impact handles the ever-increasing pressure will be put to the test  once again should they run up against OpTic or vVv later in the tournament, especially since both of them look to advance quickly with favorable Round of 16 match-ups.

North America Asserts Itself, But Doesn’t Pitch a Global Shutout

As seen in most Call of Duty tournaments, the North American teams came in as heavy favorites and for good reason. Many teams from other countries including xTaz from South Africa, a pair of teams from South Korea, Millennium from France, Immunity from Australia, and SSOF from Brazil all fell to the wayside as they ran up against seemingly sharper North American competition.

But a trio of teams from overseas caught my eye. Enigma from Sweden, Killerfish from Germany, and Inferno eSports from Italy were all able to sneak into the Round of 16 as the second teams in their respective groups. Killerfish in particular gave heavily favored, and eventual Group 4 winner, Envyus a fight that went to the Capture the Flag round. Inferno and Enigma have huge uphill battles against vVv Gaming and Donut Shop respectively in the next round, but I would not be surprised if Killerfish came out with a strategy that would shock Complexity out of the winner’s bracket. I got a feeling Cinderella likes Oktoberfest.

Surprise, Surprise

There was a fair share of surprises that came out of the first day of competition. Several of these came from the European circuit as described above, but another big surprise was Quantic. Although given a fair chance to advance as probably the second team from their group, they instead started hot against Unite and never looked back as they dominated.

And speaking of Unite, they were the one surprise on the negative side. Expected to have a strong showing after giving Impact a run for their money at MLG – Dallas, Unite dominated South African team xTaz right out of the gate. Jaws hit the floor, however, when Unite got burned by Inferno and were ultimately bounced from the tournament.

Not that excuses mean much in eSports, but in Unite’s defense, they had an odd situation on their hands as three of the four team members were not allowed to participate due to the rules of the tournament dictating participants must be 18 years old or older. This led Unite’s captain to calling up some buddies from Europe in the hopes of putting together a hodgepodge team that might shock some people. But the lack of experience playing together ultimately looks to have contributed to Unite’s downfall after their fast start.

Posers vs. Players

Although the tournament was set up for best of three games in each match-up, it was rare that the deciding Capture the Flag games came into effect. More often than not, the teams that were going to win established themselves early and dominated throughout. This means that, for the most part, the truly best of the best have advanced to the Round of 16.  With matches now going to best of five for Day 2, though, I’d be surprised if we saw too many more clean sweeps, especially as we don’t know the game types yet.

Can a Controversial Second Chance Be Taken Advantage of?

The first day of the tournament came off without a hitch. Mostly. The big moment that had players, managers, and press alike scratching their heads was when Group 1 had a three-way tie for second place. Fariko Impact had easily won all three of their matches, but the other three teams had all beaten each other in turn and were left with matching 1-2 records. And because everyone’s head-to-head was the same, and they all won the same amount of games, the tie-breaking rules had been exhausted. No one knew what to do.

What was most unsettling was that several attendees, including yours truly, informed several high-ranking officials at the tournament of what was setting up to transpire at least 15 minutes before it actually happened. Group 1 was on center-stage after all and if you had even been remotely paying attention to those matches, you could see what was unfolding after Phoenix got off to a slow start they couldn’t recover from in the group’s final match against Immunity. It took another 20 minutes after the match had ended before a solution, and not a very good one, had been realized.

Now, logic would dictate that if games were even, the next basis you would look at, much like professional sports where similar situations could arise, would be to look at points forced. People had been tracking scores all day and it couldn’t have been hard to look at the footage or look at players’ previous match results had they not been handy.

First, you’d look at Hardpoint. Then Search and Destroy if still necessary. Then CTF. And then, if somehow, someway, there were still ties, you’d look at Kill/death ratio. It’s very easy when you have all these stats to institute tiebreakers to prevent what actually ended up happening that even the tournament’s own Codcasters called a “debacle”.

Instead of looking at points forced, where Team Phoenix would’ve been the winners, a mini-Round Robin tournament was set up amongst the three teams with a coin flip deciding who played who first. The first team to two wins would advance. Unless of course everyone beat each other once again and then the organizers’ heads would likely explode.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen and Pain Gaming edged out Phoenix in the final match after both Phoenix and Pain trumped Immunity. And, as haphazard a process it may have been to get there, they were some of the best matches I saw all day.

But this was definitely one moment where things did not go as smoothly as planned as match schedules then needed to be shifted and managers for the later teams seemed frustrated because their teams were moved from the center stage to secondary stages. I’m sure part of this frustration stemmed from the thought of the sponsors of said teams loving the idea of Phoenix, Immunity, and Pain all getting extra center stage matches over their teams.

When all is said and done, unfortunately, I think it will all be for naught because Pain Gaming now has the dubious task of trying to upset OpTic Gaming. So, even though they were pulled back from the brink of elimination, I can’t see them progressing past the Round of 16.


So we have eight epic match-ups in the Round of 16. Here are my quick picks for the start of Day 2:

  • Killerfish’s Cinderella run isn’t over and they upset Complexity.
  • Soar brings Quantic back down to earth with an upset of their own.
  • Fariko Impact continues to roll as they crush Epsilon.
  • OpTic Gaming sends Pain packing even after their second chance.
  • Donut Shop shows there are no questions there as they crush Enigma.
  • Envyus sits down The Stand.
  • The Fariko All-Stars are brave enough to edge out Fear.
  • vVv Gaming extinguishes Inferno eSports.

So that’s it for Day 1’s analysis and Day 2’s predictions. Day 2 will feature best of five matches now between teams, with double elimination rules coming into effect. This means that teams that lose their first matches will slip into a loser’s bracket and we will advance from there. With the cream looking to rise to the top, we should expect even more contested contests here on Day 2.

If you want to check out the current bracket, check out http://elite.callofduty.com/esports and to watch the action live, be sure to head over to http://www.twitch.tv/ starting at 9 AM PT (12 PM ET) for the start of today’s matches.

Treyarch’s latest answers the Call again

Like the inevitable changing of the seasons, Call of Duty’s yearly release has become an event to which the gaming community can set their watches. In recent years, many gamers have criticized the cookie-cutter formula—the series has almost felt like a yearly “roster update” in the sports-gaming sense. After my time with Black Ops II, though, I can promise you this is one title that finally deviates from that formula.

Right from the get-go, the plot hits with an innovative one-two punch, as the story splits between two time periods. We get to play as both the original Black Ops protagonist, Alex Mason, in the ’80s as well as his son, David, in the near future of 2025. The key thread that connects them? The villain, Raul Menendez—but this isn’t your standard-issue Call of Duty baddie. The considerable talents of writer David Goyer—co-writer of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight—bring Menendez to life, as he exudes a sinister demeanor and delusions of grandeur that remind you of a cross between the Joker and a classic Bond villain. But Menendez also reveals a human side that elicits empathy at times, making him easily the most interesting, entertaining antagonist the series has ever seen.

After years of creative stagnation, Black Ops II’s campaign is a revelation. Once you get past the first couple of missions, the game introduces branching paths that can change the ending depending on how you react to the situations presented before you. This injects a healthy dose of replayability you usually don’t get from a Call of Duty campaign, making a seven-to-eight-hour experience worth going through multiple times.

The main campaign is joined by the new Strike Force missions, which add some real-time strategy elements to the proceedings. You serve as a handler for a squad who must carry out diverse objectives depending on the mission, issuing orders from above or taking over as any single unit and fight the battle in the trenches yourself.

Whether it’s assassinating targets or protecting computer terminals holding valuable information, the Strike Force objectives are supposed to help determine how you play. Unfortunately, once you dig into these side missions, you’ll realize how incompetent the ally AI is; it often ignores your commands, and soon the RTS view becomes null and void. In the end, it’s better to try to supersoldier it and control one character at a time in order to win the day. Strike Force is a great idea that finally brings some new gameplay elements into the mix, but it’s poorly executed, making some of the missions a bit of a chore depending on the parameters.

Aside from this one glaring flaw, however, the campaign is the best since the first Modern Warfare. The story enthralls from the start, and the gameplay is still definitively Call of Duty—especially with some sweet future tech like the Millimeter Scanner that allows you to see foes through walls.

It wouldn’t be Call of Duty if I didn’t mention the multiplayer, though—and in Black Ops II, this element’s better than ever. The new “Pick 10” system works like a dream in terms of customizing your classes, and the user interface simplifies things so that most anyone can use it to maximize their killing potential in any match. Plus, with new modes like Hardpoint (Call of Duty‘s take on King of the Hill), League Play for official competition, and CODcasting for those would-be pro-gaming broadcasters out there, this is the biggest, best multiplayer suite ever seen in Call of Duty.

But if multiplayer helps define Call of Duty, Zombies mode—which now offers three play options—defines Treyarch as a developer. In fact, this mode’s now been expanded to the point where it could almost be its own standalone game. TranZit offers a deeper experience as you explore a variety of locations, ferried from place to place on a robot-driven bus that has clearly seen better days. Meanwhile, Survival is more of your traditional Zombies experience with self-contained levels taken from sections of TranZit mode. Finally, there’s Grief mode, which puts two teams of humans against each other to see who can survive the zombies the longest.

Let’s face it: Call of Duty is a phenomenon beyond our control at this point; the game will sell millions of copies no matter what a reviwer says. But with branching story paths, the most impressive multiplayer yet, and a Zombies mode that’s to die for, I can say that—for the first time in a long time—I’ll be proud when I answer the call with everyone else when Black Ops II releases.

SUMMARY: The first Black Ops put Treyarch on par with Infinity Ward; with Black Ops II, they surpass them. This is the most impressed I’ve been with Call of Duty since the first Modern Warfare; aside from some problems with the Strike Force missions, this is a shining moment for the franchise.

  • THE GOOD: Best story since the first Modern Warfare.
  • THE BAD: Strike Force missions are a great-but-poorly executed idea.
  • THE UGLY: The stunning renderings of Manuel “Pineapple Face” Noriega.

SCORE: 9.0

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Nintendo Wii U. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.   

We all knew it was coming. No one could stop it from finally happening. We’ve all been preparing for this day.

Details about Call of Duty: Black Ops II‘s Zombie Mode have finally been let loose.

One of the most popular modes in the franchise’s history, the Zombie mode has evolved to the point that in Black Ops II it is almost a full game within a game.

Featuring three modes in total, Zombie mode will feature brand new playable characters, new zombie models and zombie types, new weapons, and the largest zombie world ever.

Part of the reason for this larger, more expansive world for you to play Zombies in is the first new mode called ‘Tranzit’ (yes, spelled with a ‘z’). This is a 1-4 player co-op campaign type of mode. Depending on how you decide to tackle this will change the outcome and what goodies you may find along the way. Going it alone probably will yield some sweet gear that you can wield to mow down the undead masses, but working together with friends is probably safer in the long run.

The reason for the mode being called ‘Tranzit’ is that your primary form of transportation from area to area is a dilapidated bus that is somehow miraculously still working. As you progress through this new post-apocalyptic world, the bus is your way to get where you need to go as well as provide some temporary protection incase things go from bad to worse.

Also featured in ‘Tranzit’ mode are buildables. These are much like the items from Dead Island where you can collect various tools or equipment scattered about the world to forge more powerful weaponry or equipment as you progress.

The next mode is ‘Survival’ Mode and this is more akin to your traditional Zombies experience. Special one-shot maps have been carved out of the ‘Tranzit’ space and you and up to three buddies must survive wave after wave of the undead horde as you attempt to move up the leaderboards.

The final mode is the one that definitely has me the most intrigued and is called ‘Grief’ Mode. This is a versus mode where two teams of humans, ranging from 1-4 players again (meaning 2-8 total for the mode) will compete against each other to survive. The twist is that you cannot directly harm the opposing humans, as you’re all just trying to survive, but you can cause them ‘Grief’ by interacting with the environment around them and their base, making life for them more difficult. The last team standing wins.

Built on the same engine as the regular multiplayer, we were told to expect improved matchmaking, deeper stat-tracking, and custom games to be included with this mode. Part of the customization experience included turning magic items off, setting the starting round, or triggering the ‘headshots only’ challenge.

If you want, you can also check out the announce trailer for Zombies mode below.