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6 tips for mastering Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s multiplayer

Between Black Ops 3 this year and Advanced Warfare last fall, the Call of Duty franchise has undergone some big, fundamental changes in how its competitive multiplayer works. It’s not altogether different from everything CoD has done in the past, but there’s a lot of new stuff to acclimate to and learn.

Popping into multiplayer with all of Black Ops 3’s new features can be a bit daunting, especially against other players who are familiar with how some of the new strategies and the possibilities that come with them. Here are a few tips to help you learn the ropes of Black Ops 3 and maximize your new cyber soldier potential.

Related: Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 review

Move Smart

Like Advanced Warfare before it, Black Ops 3 adds a lot of new movement capabilities for players to use in competition — but that doesn’t mean sprinting around the map and running on walls is the right way to play for everyone, or even most people. In fact, in most situations, a more traditional approach to Call of Duty multiplayer is called for: stay low, stay in cover, and try to avoid getting flanked out. Just because you can wall-run toward an enemy doesn’t mean you should, because in fact, you’re more of an open target as you play around with your new capabilities. Jumping and boosting also cause you to appear on enemies’ radar minimaps unless you choose a perk to silence their exhaust sounds. All in all, speed and verticality should be used as tools in the right situations, not default settings.

Use wall running, sprinting, sliding and boosting not as a way to enter every engagement (since most players will just stand their ground and shoot you down), but as a way to get the drop on players or otherwise outsmart them. Slide into close-range situations with a shotgun to make yourself a deadly projectile; use wall-running to access areas of the map where you might not be expected. But most importantly, try to stay out of the open. You might be fast and agile, but as in every Call of Duty game, you’ll go down with just a few hits.

Know Your Specialists

Black Ops 3 changes up multiplayer pretty significantly with “Specialists,” characters you can choose to play that replace the standard soldier characters that you could previously use and customize in earlier games. Each of the specialists is pretty similar to the others, with the exception of their special abilities, which you get to use a few times each match — some are suited to close-quarters combat, others have armor or sniping weapons, still others use explosives.

Specialist abilities aren’t going to make or break your match, but they can be seriously useful under the right circumstances. Each specialist has two special abilities, one an attack and the other a more passive buff like increased speed or defense, and they’re specific to the kind of character you’re playing. So on a large map with long sightlines, you might want to consider a specialist with a long-range ability; on a tight map, an area-of-effect ability like grenades or a shockwave is better. Getting used to each specialist’s capabilities, and which maps they’re most suited to, will give you a bit of an edge both when choosing your character and when anticipating what your opponents might throw at you.

Your special abilities can give you a serious edge in objective-based games in particular. They’re great for when you need to clear multiple enemies off a location or stop someone from scoring points, so be cautious about deploying them. If you’re killed in the middle of deploying an ability, you lose it and have to wait for it to recharge.

Get Comfortable

Call of Duty multiplayer isn’t just about shooting guys — it’s about unlocking new weapons and creating custom loadouts over time. There are tons of guns, perks and other equipment that can be unlocked through the course of the game, and if you just stick to the default loadouts of sniper rifles, assault rifles, shotguns and the like, you’ll miss out on finding sets of equipment with which you’re really comfortable. It’s not about finding the best guns, but finding the best guns for you and your playstyle.

Build custom loadouts and experiment with them to find the stuff that helps you play best. The same goes for choosing perks and scorestreaks. Not every player comes out of each match with a 3-to-1 kill-to-death ratio, so tailor your loadout to help you best contribute to your team or to support your style.

Related: Abby Brammell is first playable female character to answer Call of Duty in Black Ops 3

Play the Wild Card

One of the portions of your loadout that might not be immediately obvious is a group of three blank “cards” at the bottom of the loadout menu screen. These “wild cards” are items you can equip that change the rules of your loadout, letting you do things like add a second perk of a certain category to your character. This can be a very big deal, depending on your priorities — if you’re careful about it, you can deploy with four perks, extra attachments for your weapons, and more.

Here’s the rub, though: you can only equip 10 items in any given loadout and wild cards each take up one slot. That means if you want an extra perk, it’ll cost you two equipment slots, and that means sacrificing something else, like a weapon attachment or a grenade. So keep track of how you play: if you find your reflex sights don’t work as well as iron sights, or that you never throw concussion grenades, try ditching those items altogether to make space for other things. Don’t keep items in your loadouts you don’t like or ignore, because you can use that space to further tailor your equipment to your specific playstyle.

Stick Together

It’s tempting to listen to the dialogue throughout the Black Ops 3 multiplayer mode that suggests you and your fellow cyber soldiers are unstoppable killing machines. The truth is, you’re actually pretty vulnerable and easy to dispatch, just like in any other Call of Duty game. It can be tempting to lone-wolf it, but unless you’re using your teammates as a distraction (which isn’t a bad idea, necessarily), you’re always better off with strength in numbers against opponents. Staying with your teammates gives you a better chance of staying alive for longer, at least until you hone your skills and get used to taking advantage of map construction and movement abilities to flank and outsmart enemy players. While you’re learning the ropes especially, try not to wander off; with teammates in tow, you have better chances of victory against opponents, and you’ll be able to potentially see better players in action, so you can learn from them and grow your own skills.

Control the Air

Black Ops 3 has a lot of fairly tight maps, and like in other Call of Duty games, two of the easiest scorestreaks to unlock are the UAV and counter-UAV. If you’ve got a rocket launcher as your secondary weapon, make a habit of trying to quickly identify these when enemies call them into battle, and shoot them down. You’ll score points, but more importantly, you’ll rob the enemy team of information about your location. Because of the way Black Ops 3 maps are designed, that can save you from running straight into players who are waiting for you, or getting flanked out when you least expect it. Just remember that, because of the size of maps, the time you spend searching the skies for a UAV leaves you extremely vulnerable — so be sure to carefully pick your chances, so you don’t make yourself an easy target.

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