Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Developed by Treyarch
Published by Activision
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
One of the annual traditions gamers’ could count on for the past several years has been an assurance that a new Call of Duty game will be released. Activision has continued the trend into the new generation of consoles as developer Treyarch has revealed its latest military simulator, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Treyarch has the difficult goal of keeping the franchise fresh while also keeping core players satisfied, and their solution is to make this the biggest Call of Duty ever. With such a large scope comes inevitable casualties, thus Black Ops 3 is perfectly competent, but a master of nothing.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 continues the ambition of its developer, with an emphasis on cooperative play in the main game’s campaign, as well as, adding new features to multiplayer combat. For the first time, players can choose whether or not to play through the main campaign as either a man or a woman and actually have a little bit of choice on the look of the character. However, for all the changes in the series, the gameplay still falls back on familiar tropes.
Filled to the brim with cut scenes, that are thankfully easy to skip over, the story depicts a future world where cybernetics are a way of life and information is the greatest asset. Along for the ride are a few recognizable actors such as former Law & Order: SVU star Chistopher Meloni and former Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff. The story wants the gravitas of a Philip K. Dick novel, but within the structure of a military shooter it fails to make much impact. Perhaps adding to the disjointed story, Black Ops III gives players the opportunity to play the missions in whatever order they would like. Once all the missions have been completed, the game tries to wrap all the different threads together. The only clear reason this play style exists is for cooperative play.
Throughout the campaign, players can jump in-and-out of various missions with their friends. In addition, load-outs of the characters can be customized before each mission. This leads to significant issues within the balance of the game. It is trying to cater to an experience with an enormous variable of options, but just fails to be much fun. Add in some evil robots that feel more like bullet sponges and the whole campaign feels like a missed opportunity. It is important to note that players who pick up the game for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will only have the multiplayer portion of the game, since the campaign was too much to include in the package for previous generation consoles.
This is unsurprising, as many players won’t even bother with the campaign and are more concerned with the latest multiplayer additions. Black Ops III contains all the classic multiplayer types that fans are familiar with plus a splattering of many more. To make the multiplayer more nuanced, Treyarch has added some abilities that look lifted right from Titanfall. Players can run along walls, double jump high into the air, and power slide to cover. Unfortunately, many of these new options for traversal contain a deadly delay, leaving most players who use these techniques as sitting ducks against the opposition.
The famous progression system that was introduced many Call of Duty games ago is still ever present, allowing the committed to unlock weapons and over power the playing field. There are now character classes as well and each class has a pair of special abilities that can be unlocked through kill streaks, similar to how perks have worked in previous titles. The biggest issue with this lies in just how competitive Call of Duty can be. Outside of top tier players who give a lot of commitment to the franchise year-in and year-out, most of the time in competitive Call of Duty multiplayer is basically running and re-spawning. There’s little opportunity to amass a significant kill streak and fully utilize the new combat features.
There are even more modes in the Black Ops 3 package. A fully integrated zombie multiplayer mode feels like something out of a different game, with significant nods to franchises like Bioshock. Also included is an overhead zombie shooter, called Dead Ops, which features its own lengthy campaign. Frankly, there’s an awful lot of game here to dig into, but much of it feels recycled and mediocre, instead of demonstrating value and striving to bring new players into the aging franchise.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will certainly have its fans. Treyarch has created another chapter in their take of the Call of Duty franchise and those familiar with the series will find a solid, competent multiplayer shooter. The biggest issue is just how safe it all feels. Instead of feeling like a massive collective effort from a studio whose sole job is create one the biggest and most successful products on earth, it feels as though they are just going through the motions. Maybe that is to be expected from a yearly franchise, whose ambition has long been forgotten. It’s just a shame that for all that it offers, it is mostly forgettable and does nothing to bring new players to the game.