It can't be an easy job, building on what could happily be called the biggest gaming franchise currently in existence. But the team at Treyarch do have one big idea they're adding to the Call of Duty formula. It's simple, it's time-tested, and it's so obvious that you've got to wonder why it wasn't in the last one. It's gambling.
Perhaps the defining characteristic of Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer was its persistent character progression, which kept even the most flighty gamer hooked from match to match. The idea of ranking up and getting new weapons and abilities was irresistible. We still don't know why, although special scientists in the PC Gamer lab are hard at work figuring it out.
Tonight, Treyarch revealed the most ambitious of their new additions to Call of Duty's multiplayer - CoD points. Acting as a form of virtual currency, CoD points will be used alongside experience points in Call of Duty: Black Ops to buy tangible rewards like extensive weapon customisations. The difference is, XP is eternal. Holy, even. No man should have the right to touch another's XP. But CoD points? We'll all be allowed to grab one another's CoDs whenever we like.
In addition to standard multiplayer matches, players will also be allowed to enter special Wager matches, with the top 3 players in a Wager match dividing the pot between them. Black Ops will ship with four types of Wager match available- Sticks & Stones, which sees everyone armed with nothing but the crossbow, the ballistic knife (Black Ops' answer to the Commando knife lunge) and a tomahawk (the axe, not the missile). Gun Game, which has everybody starting off with the pistol, and getting a new, better gun with each kill. Sharp-Shooter, in which all players are toting the same randomly-selected gun, and that gun cycles throughout the match. And, my personal favourite, One In The Chamber, in which all players start with a pistol and one bullet. Kill a player, and you can happily take their bullet. Miss with your shot, and it's knife out for you, and best of luck.
Black Ops will also let players wager their CoD points on 'Contracts', which amount to bets saying that you'll achieve a certain goal in a set amount of game time. You'll kill 4 people with the flamethrower (now an attachment, not a weapon) in the next 40 minutes of matches, say. Succeed, you get more CoD points back, plus some XP. Fail, and those points are gone forever.
There are cool-sounding multiplayer features, and then there are ideas like this. Something tells me 2011 will be seeing a lot of wager-related game modes. As for this November, we'll just be seeing a lot of Black Ops, and with any luck the single player will be just as inventive as the multiplayer.