Long ago were the good old days of the Modern Warfare series that kept me awake every night for two-years trying to unlock all the weapon mastery titles, and since then I gradually developed a hatred for the Call of Duty (COD) series. The multiplayer maps became to claustrophobic, the game became incredibly fast paced, ruining weapon balance and of all the releases, the Black Ops franchise was the worst offender in my opinion. So when discussing what to write in a recent meeting I offered to naturally give Black Ops 3 a review saying “I’ll take a bullet for the team and play this Council Housed And Violent death sentence”, but after dedicating a good few hours to each mode I can now say I was actually surprised by Black Ops 3 and here is why.
If I am being honest and you are too, COD has never been known for unpredictable enthralling campaign stories, over the need to complete it so you can go straight to the multiplayer or polish some achievements for your respective platform. and I can confirm the story is still crap trying to fill you with intrigue, tension, and suspense with attempts to twist the plot, but ultimately felt forced, exaggerated, disengaging at times and classically predictable.
So leaving the poor story behind I will say the game looks incredibly pretty offering great graphics and fantastic motion capture work really giving realism to an overly unrealistic plot. On this topic it is also worth noting that the transitions between game play and cut scenes blended very nicely, although for me it occasionally led to noticeable game stutter which I am sure Treyarch will address in a future patch. Whilst playing the campaign I was also quite impressed by the use of augments within the game used to traverse like you were fresh out of the Titanfall academy, and kill like you were an unannounced iteration of a terminator just waiting to be unveiled by Skynet.
Mixing the combination of offensive and traversal techniques against multiple enemies made me feel like a bad ass allowing me to wall run whilst hip firing some fools, to then leaping off the wall and entering a large ground smash wrecking all in my way lending to how good the fluidity of this new mechanic is. I leave the campaign feeling the incorporation of new mechanics, optional wave survival/timed modes and co-op opportunities created a fun experience, but with another lacklustre story not a re-playable one.
Zombies mode since the first Black Ops has been the bread and butter of the series, and returns again with a new setting and characters voiced by Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough and Ron Perlman. First off the film-noir setting is fantastic and the Jazz/Swing background music is perfect for this setting and as a contrast to mowing down zombies in general. The 4 would be surviving characters are fighting off zombies with the strings being pulled by the shadow man voiced by Robert Picardo and is now the new narrator, lending to a story somewhat more interwoven and integral to the mode rather than stumbling on a situation without context as I always felt was the case with previous iterations of zombies.
Overall this game mode is still essentially two things: Incredibly hard and Incredibly fun, leading me to dying continuously but going back, because I had fun and want to learn all the secrets hidden waiting to be found.
The most important aspect of any COD is the multiplayer, as is easily where I have spent most of my time grinding that Kill/Death (K/D) ratio for the good of reviews. I suppose when looking at COD the multiplayer is more about perspective, for example I still feel the game is too fast paced and the maps too small but also understand this direction was to aid Major League Gaming (MLG).
What I will say is the multiplayer maps are always well designed and Treyarch has done a good job to incorporate opportunities to wall run, vault and slide to gain the advantage whilst not being necessary. However I personally feel I can only progress so far in a match before the spawn points reverse and I then get sandwiched between people in front and behind leading to a relatively cheap death, which in games like Destiny is made up for due to being able to take more punishment allowing you to back off or potentially counter kill which is a rare occurrence in Black Ops 3.
The pace of the multiplayer also makes score-streak awards impossibly hard to acquire due to being stupidly easy to kill and impossibly hard to continually flank without people getting around the back of your position, which forced me to camp in one place ironically earning me my best matches in terms of K/D and score streaks and infuriating fellow gamers for such a hated tactic. I think future COD games need to address this as swapping kill streaks for score-streaks can only work if I can actually obtain it in the first place, with a fix probably being creating a MLG playlist with current play and a regular playlist with increased health and lower score-streak requirements to encourage run and gun and counter killing over camping to desperately meet score-streak awards.
Customisation and progression are always fantastic with COD offering a good variety of guns, attachments, camouflage/paint jobs and even custom emblem building to be displayed on your weapon, all being unlocked by challenge and level conditions and having balance in terms of gun preference over gun performance unlike destiny which changes with every update.
Pick 10 makes a return which is as much a pain as it is a delight as it lends to the tactical aspect of COD with myself always opting for the invisible approach aka silencers and not being visible to anything, although with the amount on offer I wished they would slightly increase to pick 12 as you end up having to give everything away to have a slight advantage in one tactical area e.g. my secondary and all equipment for a silence load out.
In conclusion I went into Black Ops 3 expecting garbage and left it feeling actually quite impressed, which is especially an achievement considering I have always despised the Black Ops series. This game is not perfect and does have some issues but a lot of that is preference and can be adapted too with just more time being committed. A main point I must stress is that in a current climate where games like Battlefront give you scarce content and ask you for another £40 – £50 pound to get the ideal experience, Black Ops 3 just slaps you with value out of the box not only giving you the mentioned but also Dead Ops Arcade, Nightmare mode of the campaign, a design tool for emblem creation and gun painting and a slew of specialists in multiplayer with unique abilities to name a few. This game really does give you a ton for its price tag and is on par with destiny in terms of best first person shooters of this year, to which I now must apologise to a work colleague Dylan for initially giving him so much stick for wanting this game. Oh how wrong I was.
- Tons of content
- Fun and improved game modes
- Massive amount of possible customisation
- Fluid and solid mechanics
- Great sound and motion capture
- Very weak campaign story
- Multiplayer has game pacing issues
- Suffers from occasions game stuttering