Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 might seem like just another annual installation of the popular brand, but there’s something different this time around.
Black Ops 2 made some big strides over the original in the series. Now, Black Ops 3 has taken those improvements and honed them even more, making the game feel crisp and full throughout all three game modes.
This is an all-around game, unlike some earlier installments in the brand. Players who buy the game for just one mode would really miss out if they didn’t give anything else a shot this time around. Let’s dive into what makes Black Ops 3 the best in the Call of Duty series in a long time.
Players control a character who befalls an unfortunate accident: getting his or her limbs ripped off at the hands of a robotic enemy at the end of the game’s first tutorial mission. There’s a lot to learning what the character is capable of, but the campaign mode takes its time to walk players through what they can do and how to do it over more than an hour of gameplay.
That kind of lengthy walkthrough can also feel…well, lengthy. There’s a lot that the character can do, but most of it comes down to knowing what kind of special they have equipped and pressing the corresponding buttons to launch it. While the tutorial stages have an interesting story to them, it kind of feels forced to have the get-to-know-your-character phase built into them.
Activision and Treyarch brought the thunder in this version of zombies, which is fairly unforgiving to new players.
Waves one through three? Totally manageable, even for players who aren’t familiar with the series. Once wave four hits, though, it’s a totally different situation and the stages feel like episodes of The Walking Dead on fast forward.
There’s a new perk system in Zombies called GobbleGum. GobbleGum can be purchased for 500 points and will give the player one of five options that will improve their abilities, such as invisibility to zombies for a certain amount of time. The machines are placed throughout the maps and can become depleted, so choose wisely when to use them.
Let’s face it: most people aren’t buying any Call of Duty games for the campaign mode, and while Zombies has become a great party mode, multiplayer is still by and far the top reason people continue to buy into this series year after year.
Black Ops 3 certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The maps vary in size and all follow the three-lane rule that’s so popular in games like Dota and StarCraft.
The specialists add an interesting twist to multiplayer, as now players aren’t just seeking points to unleash their kill streaks each life but are slowly building toward their specialist ability as well. These abilities range from land mines a player can jump and slam into the ground to kill everyone in the nearby area to a flamethrower that takes just a second to light an enemy on fire.
One of the best multiplayer features is playing the Nuketown mode, which gives players the option to vote on three different game modes all played on the popular Nuketown map. Though it’s fun, the size of the map can be pretty maddening on something like Domination, which seems to be picked whenever it’s an option. Should you capture the B position on your own, give yourself a pat on the back.
Call of Duty games aren’t out there to be the prettiest games or show off the capabilities of any console or graphics card to the fullest extent. That said, the game isn’t ugly by any stretch of the word.
Some of the animations for the specialist abilities, like the Prophet’s Glitch. If someone playing the Prophet runs into a bad situation, they can trigger the Glitch, which basically serves as a rewind button to put them in a previous position while disappearing from the area with a transition effect.
There’s also the Reaper’s Psychosis, which creates clones that glow and run forward shooting at enemies, causing confusion as to which Reaper is the real one.
The explosions are impressive. The dying sequences, not so much. There’s the typically barrel roll death that’s always been there and the typical headshot animation, where the player falls straight back. It’s clear realistic physics when it comes to death are not the top priority.
The voice acting is actually pretty great in BO3, especially for anyone that’s familiar with Law and Order: SVU. Christopher Meloni, who played detective Elliot Stabler on the show for more than 200 episodes, plays John Taylor who serves to teach your character the ropes after gaining bionic capabilities. Jeff Goldblum and Heather Graham also make appearances.
Outside of the quality of acting, it’s a little disappointing to hear how much profanity continues to make it into these games. Yes, these games are rated mature, but kids get their hands on these games all the time. The f-bombs and similar language feels forced at times, especially at the beginning or end of multiplayer matches. Capturing an intense moment in war is one thing but throwing in profanity just for the heck of it feels unnecessary.
It’s pretty clear that all Call of Duty games have some sort of replay value, but this is definitely one of the most re-playable.
Supply Drops are back from Advanced Warfare, but are now purchased with cryptokeys that are earned through play. Ten cryptokeys buys a drop with three items and includes a slight chance for a rare item. Thirty cryptokeys guarantees a rare item in the three items.
Included in the drops are taunts and brags for the specialists at the post-game screen, camo for weapons and exclusive calling cards.
The easiest way to earn cryptokeys and XP is to continuously try new load outs. Prestiging favorite weapons is still an option, but in order to rack up points the fastest switching between guns is the best way to keep racking up the points.
The other obvious point about replay is DLC. Call of Duty games always have a ton of DLC and the first pack, Awakening, has already been announced. This will add four more multiplayer maps and another zombies map.
Reviewed by Matthew Waters
This review also appears on PS4 Style.