The old adage of death and taxes being the only two constants in life has recently evolved to reflect a more modern interpretation. Nowadays, life’s true constants are Marvel movies and “Call of Duty” games. It’s almost a certainty that if the world were to end in the summer of 2027, we’d still see a new installment in the popular FPS franchise that fall. Activision’s long standing business model has been to dominate the marketplace by launching a new title in their acclaimed series on an annual basis. This year’s addition to the vast catalog of games is “Black Ops 3”.
Since the CoD franchise has become a genre of its own, veterans of the series gauge the success of the games by comparing them to their predecessors. Among the more revered entries is Treyarch’s 2012 release of “Black Ops 2”. The popularity of the “Black Ops” games has earned Treyarch a reputation as one of the premiere developers under the CoD moniker. Even fans that have grown fatigued by the annual release schedule have starting taking notice of the hype surrounding “Black Ops 3”. To further fuel the anticipation Activision has allowed gamers that plopped down their dough on early pre-orders to participate in the Multiplayer Beta.
The Beta, which runs from the August 19th-23rd, lets you choose from nine available classes known as “Specialists”. The Specialists are selected alongside loadouts with each one featuring a unique weapon and ability. Four classes are available at Level 1 and the rest will need to be unlocked using tokens as players progress. Players will also have to unlock the weaponry and special maneuvers associated with each Specialist. Once unlocked, you can assign either the weapon or ability, but not both simultaneously. Utilizing the special attribute can only occur after the onscreen gauge reaches full capacity. Filling the meter takes roughly five minutes but the process can be expedited substantially as players score points.
In addition to Specialists, “Black Ops 3” does a great job of introducing fresh gameplay elements while building on those established by its predecessor. Last year’s “Modern Warfare” introduced Exo Suits, which allowed players to fly in limited bursts, thereby creating a three dimensional combat space. “Black Ops 3” builds on those mechanics with the inclusion of jetpacks. Not only do the jetpacks bring back the vertical combat element, but they also allow players to execute maneuvers such as “powerslides” and the ability to run on walls. The decision to revamp the means by which players traverse the maps was to promote faster, more multidimensional gameplay.
Aside from the aforementioned changes, the rest of the Multiplayer experience is fairly true to what you’d expect from the franchise. The inclusion of jetpack speeds up the gameplay significantly, but still feels at home in the already fast paced world of CoD. The rest of the controls are as tight as ever and make “Black Ops 3” the best feeling FPS shooter on current generation consoles. The maps, while not terribly original, are detailed, beautiful, and well-suited for the new fast-paced style of gameplay. The level design certainly keeps the vertical maneuverability in mind and features several areas only accessible via the jetpacks. And with your foes now having the ability to ambush you by raining down death from above, players should expect to get Gravity Spiked…a lot.
So far “Black Ops 3” is shaping up to be a fine shooter and a great, albeit gorier, addition to series, but will it be enough to reinvigorate the franchise? The new traversal mechanics seamlessly fit in with the already frantic universe and do bring a welcomed change of pace. However, the introduction of the Specialists is certainly where the game takes its biggest risk. A risk that might not pay off for the developers at Treyarch. Making substantial changes to such a formulaic series can be a double-edged sword. Instituting new elements is necessary in breathing life into a stagnant franchise, but it has to be done without alienating the hardcore fans. For the first time in years veterans will have to adjust their play styles to incorporate new elements that could have a drastic impact on the matches. Fortunately, CoD fans have been pretty complacent with the majority of subtle changes that have been instilled in previous iterations. Only time will tell how the community responds when the game finally releases on November 3rd.
Since I consider everyone of my readers to be a friend, I’m giving away my extra “friend” tokens for the PS4 Multiplayer Beta. So if you haven’t already pre-ordered “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” and would like to join me in the Beta, grab one of the codes below. Besides, who wouldn’t want to spend the next few days getting fragged by tweens that are hopped up on high fructose corn syrup and shrieking insults into static filled headsets?
Tokens are first-come, first-served. See you on the field!