Call of Duty: Black Ops - Everything you need to know about the new multiplayer

Contributors: Charlie Barratt, Nathan Irvine, Joe McNeilly

We've had our first hands-on time with Black Ops, the Cold War-spanning opus that finds Treyarch mining new eras for face-blasting inspiration. While this is the developer's most Modern Warfare-esque offering to date, Black Ops manages to distinguish itself, most notably with the introduction of Wager Modes, in which players can put their money where their trash talking mouths are. From the rampant customization options to the unique new Killstreaks, Black Ops is shaping up to be a worthy entry in the Call of Duty canon.

While we were hoping to get a taste of the rumored Commie Zombies, there was more than enough competitive multiplayer to keep us occupied for a few drunken hours. Here's what we managed to write afterwards.


The most interesting announcement of the night. You'll earn money ("CoD Points") in Black Ops, which you can gamble in special Wager Modes, each of which has its own set of creative and challenging rules. These are the four we've tested so far.

Gun Game

What is it? Start with a knife and gradually work your way up to a mini-gun (or as it's known in the game, "Death Machine") by scoring kills.

What we thought: Brilliant. In fact, it’s possibly the best of the wager modes. It all starts on a level playing field with every person on the map is equipped with a knife. Slam your blade into an enemy and you’ll be awarded a pistol. Plug another man and you’ll get a more powerful weapon like an MP5K, but to keep things fresh the armory is mixed up each time you play Gun Game. Oh, and like the blue shell in Mario Kart, if you whack a guy with a thrown tomahawk, they’ll lose all their weapons and regress back to the knife. Ouch.  There’s a real sense of panic and satisfaction as you try to quickly gain the bigger weapons before your foes, and it’s always kept to a frantic pace.



What is it? All players start with the same randomized weapon. 45 seconds later, everyone is automatically switched to a different randomized weapon. Guess what happens 45 seconds after that?

What we thought: The concept seems stupidly simple, yet the results are surprisingly rewarding for two reasons. First, nearly every minute of the match is a totally different, totally unique experience. The first 45 seconds might be a traditional M5 showdown, but the next could be a ballistic knives-only game of cat-and-mouse. As soon as you've grown accustomed to the blue-scope, heat-map assault rifle, everything changes and you're running amok with dual pistols.

Second, the Sharpshooter mode – contrary to its hardcore sounding name – evens the playing field for players who aren't elite experts. The most painful part of Modern Warfare multiplayer is being thrown into a match with opponents who, because they play so much more than you do, are equipped with a much better arsenal… and a much better chance of continuing to dominate. Here, no one can pick their preferred loadout, and no one can predict which loadout will be next.

One in the Chamber

What is it? You have one bullet, one knife and three lives. Each kill earns you a single extra bullet. Last man standing wins.

What we thought: This mode is intense – imagine a mixture of the "golden gun" and "pistols only" mode from N64's classic GoldenEye, with a few important twists. You've got a knife in addition to your gun, for example. One shot kills, but since you start with only one bullet, that one shot is doubly crucial. Make that triply crucial since, if you miss, your intended target receives that bullet as a reward. Actually, go ahead and make that quadruply (that's a word, right?) crucial, since merely surviving – regardless if you've scored a kill – eventually results in match points and CoD Points. The potential downside? Hiding and camping are intrinsically encouraged.

Sticks and Stones

What is it? Everyone in the match is equipped with a crossbow, ballistic knife and tomahawks. Chaotic carnage ensues.

What we thought: This wager mode is basically an excuse to play with all of the gorier new weapons in Call of Duty: Black Ops… at the exact same time. The crossbow is the default. Upon first firing it, however, you'll wonder if you've actually done anything. Then a couple seconds later, the explosive arrow detonates and, if your aim was accurate, you score your kill. Dodging away and waiting for that +100 to show up – or not – was a wonderfully climactic moment each time. Getting "stuck" equals inevitable death, but the game gives you a warning and the chance to kamikaze your soon-to-be killer. We just wish you could also hit a button to pull the arrow out of your flesh and toss it aside before the bang. Ballistic knife and tomahawks are both slight variations on the basic throwing knife, but fast enough to make you feel like much more of a modern badass.

Sticks and Stones was a crazy, entertaining mess at the press event. What we're most worried about, in fact, is that this feeling will be lost once the general public learns to wield the crossbow, ballistic knife and tomahawk with expert ease.

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  • oreomonkey - October 31, 2010 7:58 p.m.

    So whoever was playing in these matches SUCKED.
  • PipBowl420 - September 8, 2010 5:28 p.m.

    so... all of that looks pretty neat.. yes.. but I really hope that they include lots of the gametypes from MW2, and most of all.... we've seen these Wager Matches.. Seen a few of the Online maps... but where's the zombies? Where's the bio-genetic mutated monsters, experiments, and super soldiers? This is a game, a game about black operations.. Again... where's the zombies?
  • BrianDowns - September 7, 2010 3:42 p.m.

    Modern warfare 2 was a steaming pile but this looks awesome. The confirmed zombies mode is all that I need to buy this, the alternative game modes are a bonus. Fair play to those who think gungame is a rip off from Counterstrike but let the console players experience it's vast awesomeness.
  • rytr - September 7, 2010 2:58 p.m.

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  • Stellar91 - September 7, 2010 2:32 a.m.

    All I hear is....blah,blah,blah. It's not Infinity Ward, waah. Every game treyarch has done is better than the last by a mile, so if that stays true than this should be awesome. Just like the people sayin that they were gonna protest Valve since Left4dead 2 came too quickly. 95% of them were playin day one, just sayin'
  • PipBowl420 - September 6, 2010 8:21 p.m.

    Is Call of Duty fresh, new and fun again? I think so!
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  • Limbo - September 5, 2010 12:37 a.m.

    It looks like this game is borrowing everything it can possibly get its hands on. The emblem/clan tag customization reminds me of Halo. The purchasing of guns, equipment, and different clothing remind me of many FPS on computers and also the Reach beta(armory). Gun Game is from Counter-Strike. It has a theater mode that appears to be near identical to Halo's. This isn't all necessarily bad, but maybe a little uncreative. I'd like to see this game bring something unique to the table, but it looks like its a little too influenced from other FPS. The Wager Modes do look fun though. Probably gonna be a Christmas pickup for me, since the only thing that I am really looking forward to in this game is Commie Zombies, which I think is the most brilliant thing CoD has ever had. PS, if you couldn't tell, I like Halo:) Sorry if I came off as a fanboy. PSS, ReCaptcha has gone insane.
  • NanoElite666 - September 4, 2010 7:57 p.m.

    The Wager modes look like a lot of fun, especially the Sharpshooter one. I always loved the swap-to-random-weapons arena rounds in the Ratchet & Clank games, so hopefully this'll be just as fun.
  • Frogger537 - September 4, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    for some reason only the maps will load for me...the rest of the pictures won't. and I know its not my internet I have great service....idk....
  • pat5556 - September 4, 2010 12:57 p.m.

    Man, looks like Trearch really outdid themselves. Even my dad is wanting this when it comes out. (THAT is freaking saying something) Interesting that they use a point-shop system for unlockables. I guess that encourages stylish kills for those few extra points. :D Looking really forward to this. Just freaking looks great.
  • Monoxide - September 4, 2010 11:39 a.m.

    I just joined GR to write this. Did anyone else notice on the customization clip he goes over prestige mode and it says prestige mode unlockes at level 50. I don't like the decrease in levels but the rest of the game looks cool.
  • elpurplemonkey - September 4, 2010 7 a.m.

    This is beginning to get me interested in Black Ops. The customization seems nice, but those wager modes seem especially interesting.
  • MassSaber - September 4, 2010 4:58 a.m.

    I have to admit that multiplayer on CoD MW can be at times the most boring or annoying part of the game, nice to see treyarch shaking things up a little
  • Sickooo - September 4, 2010 4:08 a.m.

    wow wth is up with the people below me... neways this looks so amazing its almost all of the upgrades that i wanted from mw2! also the customizing of your gun is gonna add personality to the multiplayer. i cannot wait to get this game!
  • mausjake - September 3, 2010 8:59 p.m.

    It's still made by Treyarch. So I think I'll pass
  • slowdrum13 - September 3, 2010 5:54 p.m.

    Medal of honor is coming out..... It hasn't even been a year since mw2.... Its set in the past..... It has the Activision name on the box..... Yeah, definitely not buying no matter how hard you guys try and hype it.
  • sheepy94 - September 3, 2010 5:25 p.m.

    Gun game sounds like a helluva lot of fun, who carse if it came from CSS? Wtf is up with recaptcha? I just got one that has missingno in it.
  • kiwimonster5 - September 3, 2010 3:05 p.m.

    I like the customization. They more options they give you to make yourself as crazy or unique from everyone else as possible.
  • BadLadJon - September 3, 2010 2:52 p.m.

    Gun Game came straight from CSS...