November 16, 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Review

Call of Duty Black Ops 3 is the third game in the Black Ops series and the second to reach trilogy status and after many years the team at Treyarch have really stepped up this year and delivered one of the best Call of Duty experiences in a while.

The game has many modes for you to choose from, but for now let’s start with the single player campaign. I say single player, but the entire campaign is designed to be played with 3 friends, either via a local link or online, should you wish to go it alone, you can do that as well. Just note that if you do start a single player campaign, if you want friends from anywhere in the world to join you, you will need to start again. The story is pretty straight forward, new guy meets super soldiers, events happen and becomes one, many years later original super soldiers turn and you have to hunt them down, while there is a little more to the story, I don’t wish to spoilt it for you. There are small ties to the other games in the series, character mentions and what-not, but that is about it, if you have never played either of the other games you won’t be left behind here.

What makes the story more interesting this time around is that you are able to choose your avatar, no longer are you filling the shoes, or boots of same random person, you can choose your gender and then select from a range of appearances. This helps enforce that it is you in the cutscenes, speaking to characters and generally experiencing the events as they unfold. You won’t find any detailed customisation here in terms of the avatar looks, but what is on show does cover the bases, so you should find something you click with. When you are watching your character in cutscenes, they do look right as well, the heads don’t appear to be stuck on to a random body, it does work really well. Alongside the ability to choose your appearance, you can also choose your loadout between each mission, doing this provides some tactical choice as you won’t know which ability or weapon is going to come in handy.

Selecting the disruption combat core ability, means you can send enemy robots into a self-destructive state, where as selecting the speed core, will grant you moments of increased speed. Selecting your core can really change up how battles go for you, for me, I stuck with the disruption core as it was the most effective way at taking down airborne drones. What is strange is that you are given so much choice in the single player campaign this time around, in appearance and how you approach things, but the game still insists on tethering you to an AI companion, whom without you won’t be able to progress.

There is something wrong with being able to make it to your destination and then having to wait for the AI player to catch up, heck there was even a time when I needed robots to break down the giant steel door and after a few seconds, two of them just appeared in front of me and kicked the door down. The hand holding serves a point, I can understand why they do it, but with so much choice elsewhere, it just seems out of place now. Once you have finished the campaign you will also unlock a variant on it where the enemies have been replaced by zombies, giving you another option should you wish to play through it again.

The Zombie mode also makes a comeback with Treyarch once again proving why they are the best at it, this time the events take place in the 1940’s with people plucked from their everyday lives, due to their less than stellar morals. If you have played the zombie mode before, you will know what to expect here, it does not vary to much from the established formula, which is a nice thing as it is perhaps the most unaltered element in the game. While you can do it solo, this is much more fun when playing with other people, so getting some friends together to blast some zombies is the way to do it.

Multiplayer is the one area that got perhaps the biggest update, with the core component of moving around overhauled to the point where it takes some time to get used to it. The usual suspects are back, Team Deathmatch, Domination and such, but with the new movement mechanics at play, they feel fresh again, which is something that needed to happen. The movement options are now critical to surviving in the game, as you can now sprint without worrying about losing speed at the most inopportune time, wall running is present and you can scale the map with surprising speed. When you combine that with the unlimited sprint, getting around can be a breeze, but don’t forget the enemy can do the same thing. The boost jump returns from last year’s Advance Warfare, but it is slightly different, as in that game it was more like a double jump, now you can actually tap it to keep yourself in the air even longer, if you want to.

What makes the new movement options far superior to those of the previous games is that you never lose the option to aim your weapon, which means that if you are wall running and you see an enemy you are not just a sitting duck. You can aim and shoot back, if you are sprinting across the ground and see an enemy come around the corner, then you can slide into cover, all the while taking aim at your opponent. The system can’t be underestimated, because it always works, being able to wall run and then jump from it and track your target the entire time is such a sublime feeling, even more so when you score that kill.  What also helps make things different is the specialist roles, you can choose from a few when you first start out, but as you level up you will unlock more. The specialist role is basically a way to grant one power-up and one ability, one that only that class can use, these can range from Gravity Spikes, that allow you to jump in the air and slam into the ground, causing a shockwave of damage to the enemies within its range. There is also the H.I.V.E weapon that shoots out nano drones that will track towards the nearest enemy and destroy them, while the weapons are cool, there is also the ability, which can give you a critical boost just when you need it. With 12 maps packed on the disc, 13 if you pre-ordered, wildcards, 9 Specialist classes and a host of weapon kit options, the multiplayer is perhaps the most rounded and accessible of the series.

The oddest part of the game sadly comes from its presentation, there are times when the game looks amazing, descending down a giant whole into an abandoned CIA black site was one such time, the combination of ruined futuristic building and nature mixing together made for one heck of a site, I actually got some vibes of Crysis 3 looking at the foliage. There are also times sadly where things don’t look quite as nice, the enemy designs once again repeat like nothing else, even the soldiers you fight alongside from time to time repeat far too often. The player avatar looks great, as does the main cast of characters you interact with, the secondaries not so much, with most of the faces looking like they were sculpted out of moulding clay. The environments are varied enough that you won’t bore of them, but you are never doing much of anything else except shooting so it is hard to take them in properly.

On the audio side, things are much neater, with the voice dialogue coming across as genuine, even when characters are having breaks due to the ongoing struggles, they never feel cheesy. The guns sound convincing, even with their futuristic vibe, but the biggest thumbs up have to go towards the robots, while they may not look all that large when you are playing the game, the sounds of them as they bash around the world, stomping in synchronicity is really great, even more so when you realise they are usually coming to kill you. The music hits the right notes for Call of Duty, when the grand set pieces are happening, the music is appropriate to what you are seeing and when you are lurking about, trying to remain undetected, it also remains in the background. Between missions you can even go to your station in the safe houses and play tracks from the game, should you find one that takes your fancy.

Call of Duty Black Ops 3 is a really stellar leap forward for the series, it has redefined the multiplayer with its and impressive specialist system constant motion. The story campaign feels restrictive which is at odds with all the choice you have for yourself and zombies provides a great distraction when you want to retro things up.

Thanks to Activision for supplying the game for review. Please note that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game do not contain a single player campaign.

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