The last Call of Duty game saw a futuristic take on its gameplay with Advanced Warfare. The latest version, Black Ops III, is offering an even more futuristic-vibe. Developer Treyarch is looking to offer a deeper experience for Call of Duty players, while maybe luring some new ones over from other games. With it being a yearly release, Activision has recently looked to change it up a bit. With Black Ops III, players are getting what might be the best single player campaign to date, and a customization options with its multiplayer to help keep things fresh all while keeping the core gameplay.
Kevin Spacey was added to Advanced Warfare’s campaign mode, and Hollywood still exists in Black Ops III. You will recognize faces and voices throughout the game. The single player campaign features long missions, along with co-op gameplay. You can do the missions in the campaign with up to four players, and can also take part in other activities such as knock-off, retro throwback games and training missions. Most importantly with the campaign mode, and new to the series, is the ability to upgrade perks and abilities. Yes, guns can be upgraded and customized, but these upgrade abilities are very futuristic as the entire game has more of a sci-fi military feel to it rather than just another war game. Cyber Cores are collected to add these modifications. Players will use telekinetic abilities and other weapons such as unleashing bees on your opponents. Opponents can be people or robots. The campaign still basically involves progressing through areas while mowing down opponents with teammates and hearing cheesy dialog along the way. It still offers a better experience than past versions, and is worth a try for people who may solely focus on the multiplayer portion of the games.
Customization is the name of the game for Treyarch and Activision in its multiplayer modes. Offering different game modes ranging from Deathmatch and Capture the Flag to Domination and Protection, there are a lot of ways to keep things fresh thanks to the customization. Black Ops III now features different classes that offer different abilities. You are given a handful to choose from at the beginning, and you will be able to unlock more as you level up. Each class, called Specialists, offer their own personality and unique abilities. One Specialist will have the choice of two abilities. These all range differently based on the Specialists’ personality. Unlocking the skill in game is similiar to achieving UAV and bomb attacks. You will have a limited time to use your ability.
Weapon customization is the other focus in the game’s entirety. Featuring may different type of weapons, attachments can be added and combined differently to help define your own gun. These include the statistics you are looking for, rather if you want range or accuracy or something else. On top of the modifications, camouflage can be unlocked while leveling up each individual gun. Leveling up the particular guns is how you unlock more modifications. In addition, players can skip the camouflage altogether and paint their guns with decals and custom designs. Finally, you can name your gun, and if you die in the battlefield, someone can pick it up and use it. The customizations and Specialists really add a new element to Black Ops III, and it helps complete a more futuristic, sci-fi feel.
The game is not without its issues, however. Matchmaking consistency simply does not exist in Black Ops 3. There is no reason someone below a level 10 should be matched up with people level 40 and above, and certainly not put on the team with the least people. I’m not sure what the algorithm is for matchmaking, and may just be connection and first come, first serve. However, with opponents having fully upgraded weapons and Specialists that you have not unlocked yet can lead to a lot of deaths if you are not the elite Call of Duty player. Map rotation may be based on voting, but the choices do not seem to vary that well. The game has also locked up a few times and caused the fan in the Xbox One to kick on. No other game I own has had this occur. Lastly, when attempting to join a co-op campaign, the game does not let you back out. I found myself having to exit the game if I am hosting and nobody joins. Also, getting everyone to start a campaign in a public game is a pain, and may be best suited for friends.
While offering the new customization options, the gameplay remains the same at its core. Running at 60 FPS, the gameplay is incredibly fast and reaction time is key, along with learning the maps. Veteran Call of Duty players will certainly feel right at home, and others that are familiar with the gameplay should know that the feel has not changed. You know have the choice to boost in the air and run along walls, which can make for some sneak attacks. It may take time to get into the groove of things if you are not a veteran, however the addiction factor remains with how quickly the games go by, and how quickly you level up. Add to that the choices to try out different combinations of guns and Specialists and the addiction factor is higher than ever.
In terms of graphics, Black Ops III is sufficient across the board. As mentioned above, the game retains its trademark 60 FPS action (although there seems to be some dips in the campaign mode). The player models, especially in the campaign mode, stand out the most. The multiplayer maps offer different terrains and while they may not be bland, they are necessarily vibrant and heavily detailed. The same can be said for the areas in the campaign mode. You will notice detailed textures, but other than the player models, nothing really sticks out visually.
The audio meets the standard of a Call of Duty game in Black Ops III. The voice recording is top notch, and the sound effects from the guns, explosions, and other environmental areas is, again, done well. The actors in the game really nailed it (even with their cheesy Hollywood dialogue). If the idea for the campaign mode is to make you feel that you are in an action movie, Treyarch achieved that. The menu music fits the vibe of a futuristic war.
Zombie Mode returns in Blacks Ops III, and it is the most complicated the series has seen. Shadows of Evil offers a unique take on the mode, as you are no longer mowing down waves of zombies and barracading windows. Yes, that is still part of it, but the mode now includes different monsters as you progress, and also pieces to collect for summons and other easter eggs. Gumballs are collected to give boosts as you still get points on the fly. Guns are still picked up in the field. The setting involved a 40’s noir-style, gangster environment complete with guns from that era. Now this environment was visually vibrant. As deep as this game mode is, it could probably be its own separate entity. I don’t know how many times the mode felt like Left 4 Dead. Zombie Mode is more than a change of pace in Black Ops III, it’s an entirely new experience.
With Black Ops III, you are getting some deeper options with the same addicting gameplay. People who pick up the yearly titles will still appreciate its core gameplay, even if the futuristic element seems more sci-fi than war. Honestly, other than getting the abilities with your Specialists and being able to run on walls, it still feels like Call of Duty. If you are the type of player that skips a couple years or only focuses on Treyarch’s installments of the game, this would be the one to pick up. The customization aspect is a very nice addition, and the campaign feels long enough and worth the time investment.
+ Campaign mode is unique, long, and features unlockable abilities to use in combat
+ Different Specialists and weapon customizations will keep you coming back
+ Keeps its core gameplay
– Broken matchmaking system
– Bugs including the occasional game freeze and the inability to back out of public campaign menu
– Cheesy dialogue
A copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops III for Xbox One and PS$ was provided for review.