Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Black Ops has proven to be the highlight game in the Call of Duty franchise. Black Ops 2 was one of the most played game up until the release of 3, and for that reason many people were excited. Black Ops 3 brings with it a slight twist to gameplay, but continues the long road of zombies and excellent multiplayer. There are areas that need improvement, but overall what we got is a solid Call of Duty title.
Black Ops 3 is actually the first Call of Duty title that needs to take it’s time teaching you something new. In single player you can play with a variety of different perks with your character due to the futuristic setting which allows you to do things like make grenades explode on an enemies belt, take over turrets/drones, and several other random moves that feel more like powers than anything. Doing stuff such as this relies on an energy level so you need to use it wisely. Though the game doesn't constantly let you utilize these aspects, it is still a fun new concept.
Of course the main perk to the gameplay is wall running and darting around thanks to a story inspired change in your soldier. Unlike Advanced Warfare these moves are a bit more limiting which is fantastic. Instead of shooting up into the air, you instead get little bursts to maybe help reach a ledge or get to a wall. Wall running is very fun and works smoothly by simply leaping into a wall and watching your character adjust. There are times when wall running kicks in and you don't want it to, but overall there were never any serious issues. The game even has a wall running experience for the fun of it.
The bad news for gameplay is that it was built for a coop experience and normally when that happens it means playing alone is rather dull. This game is no exception. I normally play COD on hard and this game doesn’t feel very hard at all and instead feels rather stale. AI is mostly afraid to get near you, and most maps are geared towards multiple people moving forward. So when you play alone things get toned down one notch too far. It still picks up mid game and gets better, but it felt like a grind to get that far alone. Playing with others makes it a bit more fun, but the game still lacks any real strategy to cooperate with each other. Instead the game tosses more enemies at you to make things "more challenging," but playing alongside a friend is always more fun that doing it alone.
Speaking of the story I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. They did improve on the COD formula by making the game a little more refined to you as the player. It has a lot of impact and the story does a good job of explaining why everything works the way it does (even a cool twist to explain why your character has powers). What it does a good job of is toning down the “massive” ideas to a more linear area, and then slowly opens up to bigger battles. This is an improvement on past games because normally COD is just one big ambush after another and it gets old fast. Instead Black Ops 3 feels like it is at least attempting to tell a cohesive story. Yet at the same time the game is filled with action movie cliché’s you’d expect to see in the franchise which leads to dull dialogue and bland moments in-between. Plus there are still ambush areas and crazy action movie inspired moments, and to me it's just old at this point. It's time for COD to find something new to explore, and Black Ops 3 tries to go there. Yet it feels like someone said "too far" and dragged it back into cliche hell.
(It is worth noting that at least COD has finally put gore into a game and BO3 actually feels like a mature experience.)
Yet the whole reason most of us pick up Call of Duty is to play online and even that has been mostly revamped again for a new Black Ops experience. Once you boot into multiplayer you are told to pick an operator and the screen is filled with a bunch to choose from. Each operator looks different and has different perks to them. These perks are earned while playing matches and act like a bonus “killstreak,” but instead they accumulate over time. You can pick offensive or defensive approaches, and it seems offensive approaches have a slight edge due to being more rewarding. Offensive perks normally include bows, grenade launchers, or some type of perk to take down enemies like a ground pound. Defensive ones can include decoys, shields, or the ability to see through walls and similar things to help you and your team gain a slight edge.
At first you are given 4 characters to choose from with more opening up as you progress online. Some of the later characters are neat looking, plus their perks are rather OP in nature. Personally I didn’t both much with them because I found one class I enjoy the most and stuck with it. Meanwhile I spent my time in classic Call of Duty nature unlocking weapons, attachments, and the typical stuff you expect in a COD tree. That being said I felt that they did a good job of mixing up unlocks for later levels to keep you going. Instead of getting very popular items early in the game, they moved them to later levels. I think I finally got a good loadout when I reached level 43, and by that time you are already almost at prestige. I think it’s great. By no means are new players hurt because the beginning classes are fine, but getting fan favorite stuff later in the tier makes you want to keep playing.
Let’s talk about gameplay. Wall running and slight dash moves are also still ready for you online. In a way it was supposed to create a new dynamic to online battles, but I don’t feel that it does. Advanced Warfare did because a majority of maps dealt with being on rooftops and people shooting into the sky. In Black Ops 3 you are very much playing like a classic COD, but have the wall run perk here and there. There are some maps that are built great for it with blunt areas to wall run and get around, but other maps feel more like say Modern Warfare and are more linear. By no means is it like AW where people are constantly jumping around, and to me I’m okay with that.
The only issue I have online is that there is a serious spawn issue currently. The issue makes it so that players are constantly around you which leads to a lot of frustrating deaths by being shot from behind. There are also several moments when you can take out an enemy, then 3 more pop up. While you might be king and try to take em all down, it gets frustrating when your clip runs out and there is simply nothing you can do. Treyarch has also been tweaking the net code ever since release and hit markers have gone from excellent, to absolutely terrible, to where they are now which is fairly decent. It still struggles from time to time, and trying to hit anyone mid-dash is near impossible at times.
Other than that BO3 simply lacks a few features that become a bigger deal the more you think about them. I’d like to see league play return at some point, and with Activision heading full steam into eSports I’m surprised it’s missing at all.
There are other neat things to toy around with such as Gun Smith. In Gun Smith you can make a "custom gun" and then upload it for the community to use. Though doing this is basically just creating a class with a gun pre-built to your liking. So that means any attachments you add to it count as a slot in your class, meaning if you have too many then many people won't like the gun. Within Gun Smith is also paint shop which allows you to customize each weapon to your liking. You can get full skins, make custom paint, and utillize pre-made stickers. The area on some guns is rather small and you can't fully cusomize every aspect which I find strange, but it is still neat to have a custom gun on the battlefield.
Another small addition is a new trend that has popped up in several games now that I'm starting to find annoying. There is an area called the "black market" which is where you can spend coins you earn in the game. (It is very similar to Advance Warfares Supply Drops) By doing so you buy "packs" which are basically cards that unlock certain things for you. Some things within the game are held behind the black market such as character celebrations or certain customizations, which means it comes down to luck of the draw to actually unlock them. I personally found that annoying especially since several packs later I've yet to unlock any of them. Coins accumulate rather slow too so it's not like Halo where you can open several packs at once and then just earn the points back. It's rather painful opening a high end pack and getting absolutely nothing useful in it.
Normally a review would end there, but Black Ops 3 has even more to offer. Jeff Goldblum, Ron Perlman, Heather Graham, and Neal McDonough lead in the new zombie’s campaign that takes place in the 1940’s. All this time and Treyarch still finds a way to make zombies new and interesting, and Shadows of Evil doesn’t disappoint in any way. The new zombies world mixes a 1940’s style story with science fiction beautifully, and the gameplay matches it by putting you in a small town mixed with portals and some new monsters.
Personally I’ve never been really good in the zombies aspect, but for some reason this new mode feels a bit more challenging. During my first several tries I was trying to do the simplistic things like any other zombie mode, take out the easy ones and wait for harder later levels to start. Yet I kept getting swept by them, cornered, or overwhelmed by taking it so slow. Instead I learned to move quicker and try a little harder faster. Yet it still felt easy to get trapped or taken down, especially when playing alone.
There are several new things to explore too and opening new areas becomes even bigger of a strategy than before. There are multiple new powers to explore, new items to find and create, and even mysterious plants that could either help you or kill you. That combined with all the new enemies makes it a thrilling experience.
But wait, there is more!
We are not even done yet. After beating the main campaign a new game mode titled Nightmares opens up and it utilizes all the assets from the core campaign and bridges it with a slower more mysterious zombies mode. It was so thrilling to know that Treyarch had returned to what made finding zombies so awesome to begin with, randomly finding it after you beat the game. To me this slightly improves my main gripes from before. The campaign is no longer a cliché approach to shooters and instead becomes more interesting and fun since zombies are infecting everyone and the campaign adjusts itself to this new idea. Perhaps this secret unlock should have been the original story? Then again it does showcase why the story itself was so interesting and mostly well written.
Overall Black Ops 3 doesn’t do much to really change anything about Call of Duty, and it actually feels different than where Advance Warfare wanted to go. That being said it still plays amazingly well and it has that addictive nature to it like past Black Ops titles. The map design is smaller which is great, and besides the spawn issue online it is a fun experience. (Though that spawn issue will really frustrate you to no end.) I would say Black Ops 3 is a great example of how longer dev cycles benefit the franchise with better visuals and a ton of content packed into one game.