What can be said about the Call of Duty franchise that hasn’t been said before? For better or for worse, the games don’t really evolve much. I enjoyed last year’s Advanced Warfare, I thought the campaign mode was fun and I enjoyed maneuvering with the EXO suits. It gave the game a sense of verticality that it was missing. Going into a Call of Duty game you already know what you’re going to get. So I expected a short, but fun, adrenaline filled campaign mode, great multiplayer and a decent zombie mode. Sadly, what I got out of the game was something much less. It’s disappointing how far the campaign mode strayed from what they created in Black Ops II which had had branching paths and multiple endings, and had a narrative that was captivating and intense. There’s a lot of content in Black Ops III, but it’s a case of quantity over quality.
I primarily enjoy playing single player games. So the first thing I did going into this new Call of Duty was just that. You start off by creating a character, choosing the gender and then a face. The problem is the majority of the faces all look the same. Not sure why they didn’t include a simple feature that allows you to pick a face and then a hairstyle or something along those lines. Being able to choose to play as a badass woman was cool though. But then I got referred to as “him” within the first few minutes of the game and that should give you an idea of how much attention went into campaign mode. It’s pretty lazy all around. The Call of Duty games aren’t known for their writing, but they have a reputation for being enjoyable. The campaign in Black Ops III was paced weirdly, the tutorial levels were too long and when major things happened, the game didn’t really do a good job at building any suspense or any sort of climax. Things just sort of happen. On top of that the narrative seems to be pieced together by borrowing basic themes and ideas from other games, like Deus Ex Human Revolution. Your character has a set of special abilities, some of them are cool like being able to control enemy robots or making enemies explode, but some of them are lame, like sending a swarm of cybernetic flies to distract human enemies. If you’ve played Bioshock, these should feel familiar, because they work kind of like Plasmids. When you finish a mission you’re sent back to your base where you’ll be able to walk around and interact with computers to upgrade your abilities, customize your character, look at the collectibles you’ve found or read more about the narrative, which is cool but I didn’t really care enough for the story to really spend my time there.
So what are some things that I liked in campaign mode? There were some fun firefights, some of the abilities you get are cool to use and the game ran incredibly smoothly. One other thing I really appreciated was the fact that you can play campaign mode in split-screen with a friend. It’s nice to see developers still include this especially when you have 343 Industries removing split screen from Halo 5, which I personally thought was a really dumb move since split-screen was such an important part of the Halo games. But I digress, that’s a different post for a different time. Finally, it was cool seeing Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) in the game, I hope she does more work related to this industry.
So it’s pretty known fact that most players will spend most of their time in multiplayer. Unlike the campaign mode, I enjoyed my time playing against other people. Multiplayer mode in Black Ops III is slightly different than its predecessors. The biggest change in multiplayer is that you now have to choose from a set of characters called “Specialists”. You start off with four to choose from and you unlock more as you level up (there’s 9 in total). Each Specialist has their own personality, look, their own set of abilities and a unique special weapon. It’s a shame that you can’t customize them much. You unlock different kinds of cosmetic equipment as you play with them, but it just takes too long to unlock anything. There also isn’t a large variety of armor either. Another slight change in multiplayer is that the game doesn’t automatically unlock weapons for you as you level up. Instead “unlock tokens” make a comeback. You gain experience and level up, and you’re awarded with unlock tokens that you can use to unlock new weapons. You still get rewarded for using a weapon consistently with attachments, like scopes or paint jobs. There’s also a good variety of maps (12 to be exact) and most importantly most of them are fun. Like I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed Advanced Warfare and I enjoyed the way you were able to move through the maps. I think they’ve improved on that in Black Ops III, but instead of Exo suits you’ll be using thrusters, which is a momentum based system, allowing you to jump more than once, wall run and slide across the ground. All in all, multiplayer is pretty solid.
Zombie mode is now fully fleshed out and has its own campaign mode called Shadows of Evil. You take control of one of four characters who are voiced by Hollywood celebrities like Jeff Goldblum and Ron Perlman. You’ll be navigating through the fictional Morg City slaughtering zombies while you try to stay alive. This mode is only cool if you’re playing it with other people, it’s not worth investing your time in if you don’t have friends to experience it with. You can go online and play with random players but it’s not as fun, especially if you can’t properly communicate with them.
At the end of the day it’s unlikely Black Ops III will win over any new fans. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the franchise then chances are you’re going to enjoy this and you’re going to welcome the new (albeit slight) changes to multiplayer. The question remains if the game has the longevity that the previous games had, especially since customization is extremely limited. Specialists are a cool addition, but I don’t believe they really change multiplayer enough. There’s a ton of content here, but there’s no real reason to go back to the campaign mode once it’s over and the zombie mode can be frustrating if you have no one to play with. I’m personally sticking with Destiny for my first-person needs because that game just has more things I enjoy. It’ll be curious to see what direction Call of Duty goes from here now that they’re futuristic. How far will they go? Or will they go back in time and bring back their World War II games? Or maybe they’ll play around with a time travel mechanic and develop a game that features World War II and futuristic stuff? Time will tell.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III was supplied by X-Cite. The game is available on PS3 (online only), Xbox 360 (online only), PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Post by Patrick