At its core, League Play in Black Ops 2 is a little different than playing the game at level cap with its wide array of perks, weapons, and attachments unlocked. Standard multiplayer uses a leaderboard system both in-lobby and across platforms. For the average player, though, there is little hope of ever gaining a foothold on those leaderboards. As more copies of the game are sold and more exuberant teenagers devote hours and hours to padding their K/D ratio, it is easy to get lost and find yourself floating somewhere in the middle of thousands or millions of other players.
League Play answers this by placing combatants into skill-based divisions where leaderboards reset in seasons every month. Where normal multiplayer makes it an inevitability that your ranking will drop if you step away for a day, League Play encourages players to complete to 200-person lots where competition can truly thrive. Classing players into divisions of similar skill also helps keep matches fair and forgiving, even when the player loses. The fair, competitive nature of matches acts as natural encouragement to come back for “just one more match” to take over the next spot on the ladder.
Taking part in League Play also gives the player the option of being ranked independently or as part of a team in Champions matches. By taking part in five placement matches , single or partied players can take part in three series: Moshpit, Champions, and Team Deathmatch. Moshpit and Champions offer a number of competitive game modes, while Team Deathmatch is a classic kill-to-win affair. Champions Series is distinctly more hardcore limiting matches to 4v4 while barring care packages and tactical insertions.
To Treyarch’s credit, League Play is a solid addition to the franchise. Climbing a ladder of 200 rather than a million allows players to be competitive when they might otherwise have given up. Skill-based divisions are also a success and they help avoid unbalanced matches. These two qualities, combined with the prominent post-match recap of your division standing, really drives the sense of progression behind the game. Playing to beat another player rather than unlock an arbitrary level has a pleasant addictive quality of play that easily surpasses traditional multiplayer.
Unfortunately there are still a number of problems to be addressed if league matches are to become a mainstay of the series. As a prime example, the skill-based system needs to be reworked. Your division is determined by kill-death and win-loss ratios. While K/D is generally fair, W/L can skew how the game assesses your personal skill level. After a solid run of five wins, I was bumped from #2 in bronze division to #13 in silver where I had no business being. By the time I was dropped back down to bronze, I had fallen to #5. Win-Loss seems like a fine indicator on the surface but when playing on a team of random players, how the game sees you is dependent on the performance of each of them. Thankfully, maintaining a 1:1 or higher K/D can reduce the amount of lost ladder points to negligible amounts or nothing at all.