Over the past week a couple of our editors had the opportunity to jump into one of this holidays most anticipated games, Call of Duty: Black Ops III. As many of you already know this past week was the launch of the games multiplayer beta. Our editors sat down for the beta and jotted down their thoughts for your reading pleasure. So sit back, relax, and jump into our look at the multiplayer for Black Ops III.
My first thought jumping into the energetic world of BLOPS multiplayer was, "When did Call of Duty turn into Battlefield." I am one of those fringe weirdos who plays big budget first person shooters for the story simply because I am all thumbs when it comes to playing shootouts online against faster players whose twitch reflexes are in a zone much, much higher than my own. I have a tendency to take a peek into Call of Duty long enough by the frequent deaths and...vocal community intimidate me enough to step away. The point of all this is that I didn't spend much online time with previous Black Ops ventures so I don't really know at what point the series took inspiration from EA's shooter. By that I mean unlocking equipment for guns through leveling up and obtaining unique cosmetic options for said equipment and avatars.
That said, the biggest difference between the two games - for me - has been speed. Call of Duty's maps are smaller than Battlefield's grandiose theaters of war, so the time spent alive is noticeably shorter in the presence of skilled, high level players. Playing by Call of Duty's rules took some getting used to and I quickly learned to enjoy the faster pace. It helps that getting back into the game after being killed is incredibly fast and smooth. One feature I enjoyed was the ability to level up weapons. The default loadouts are pretty sparse at the start, but if you stick with one weapon over time, it'll accumulate experience that feeds into a leveling system that governs special unlocks for that gun, such as suppressors, sights, extended magazines, and other useful weapon boosts.
The new collection of character classes is the beta's standout feature. Without knowing the context of the game's story, I can't explain the colorful assortment of futuristic super soldiers. Drawing inspiration from Advanced Warfare, each player has special suits that let them perform double jumps, wall runs, power slides, and vaulting over high cover. None of this is actually explained and I was three games in before I figured out how to work the system (hint: double tap the jump button). Each character has their own familiar combat roles that come with unique special weapons. The specialist that really stands out is the Outrider, whose special weapon thumbs its nose at heavy artillery with a bow and arrow. An explosive bow and arrow. And I'll tell you now: it can be a real pain in the ass. The other specialists are pretty outrageous, even for a Call of Duty game. There's a cyborg that can use a Glitch skill to rewind time and the Ruin specialist has Warhammer-esque knives called "Gravity Spikes." Again, out of context these specialists represent the most eclectic tastes in a Call of Duty title. I'm sure it'll all make sense when the full game is released in November.
Like many of you who're reading this write up on Call of Duty: Black Ops III, some of my favorite Call of Duty games have been in the Black Ops line of games. I like what Treyarch have done with their games especially on the single player side of the house. However with each game in the Call of Duty franchise I've fallen further and further out of love with the multiplayer. It has always reminded me of growing up playing sports. When I started everyone seemed relatively close when it came to skills. But as I got older the gap between the good and the great began to widen.
When I jumped into my first couple rounds of Black Ops III I found myself consistently at the bottom. I missed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and didn't realize how important movement had become. Running on walls, jumping from point to point, and sliding under objects has become crucial to success. When I watched the far more skilled Call of Duty players taking me out they were using their environment to their advantage. Once I started to get the hang of some of the movement the maps started to open up for me. There were a lot of choices when it came to choosing different characters and load outs. As someone who hasn't been a big part of the multiplayer community it felt a little overwhelming and I just hope the game holds your hand a bit more. At the end of the day though this felt like a really tight and exciting game of Call of Duty. I loved the feel of the movement (once I got it down) and found the maps to be some of the more interesting Call of Duty maps I've played in. I will say that the twenty or so rounds of Black Ops III have gotten me far more interested in getting into this years game then I was prior to jumping in.
The last Call of Duty game I played actively was the first Black Ops, so I have missed the robotification of the series over it's past couple of entries. Watching from the sidelines, the juggernaut of the modern gaming scene has been on an impressive ride, but one can feel the weight of its own size beginning to collapse CoD onto itself.
At the onset, Black Ops 3's multiplayer felt fresh. Though still in beta, and suffering from a multitude of connection and lag issues depending on the map and time of day, it played as fast and loose with the idea of modern soldiering as I remember. Bringing in a host of new movement options, like boost jets for a higher, more floaty jump, as well as Titanfall-esque wall running, getting around the relatively tight maps is a thrill, and some how made it easier then ever for EVERYONE to blow my ass out of the sky. I considered it such an impressive feat to be such a liability in Deathmatches that I left that game mode behind, quickly finding a place for myself in the comfortable confines of modes like Domination, Uplink, and the newly released Escort.
Objectives aside, the addition of Specialists to the mix of player options, which amounts to picking a super power that charges during the match, served as a good shake up to the pick 10 system that still in play. There was a wide range of both offensive and defensive powers, and no shortage of folks running around with arrows that explode on impact, or guns that shoot arcing bolts of lightning through the air. I was quite happy to see a futuristic version of the remote control car from BO return, as well as the addition of a crazy machine gun toting drone that can either shadow your movements or break out on its own, allowing you to score kills from the air. I even got to summon one of those once, and though it stayed alive for only a few precious moments, it remains a highlight of my time with the Beta.
All in all, Black Ops 3 feels like a Call of Duty game. For those that like the series, I see nothing here that will keep them from enjoying countless more hours of slaying in their futures. For those that don't or simply find solace in other things, there is probably nothing new enough to bring you in.
Call of Duty has a tried and true formula that has worked for nearly a decade. A tight, fast paced, first person shooter experience is something you can bank on with every new installation to the series. The games are polished, largely bug free, and just plain work. In a time when online games rarely work at launch Call of Duty seems to never fail. With all of these pros come some cons.
There are some new iterations that I didn’t expect. There is more depth to the create-a-class system. This is because of a new feature that allows you to pick your “specialist”. You pick one, and can change it at any time (at the main lobby, not mid-game). The specialist trees are similar to something like a Medic vs. Engineer in Battlefield. It isn’t a class per-say, but each one can do something that others cannot. My personal choice allowed me to unlock a reflex bow. The abilities unlock on their own over time but also can unlock much quicker depending on your kills and score. The leveling system is the same as always and there are enough things going on to make you feel like your progressing quickly. Everything you do seems to warrant some XP, which is great to keep players moving. The controls felt like your typical Call of Duty experience, which is great because they have always handled well.
All of the fun aside I still don’t know if there is enough added to warrant a $60 purchase. I could see myself picking it up at some point but there is just too much on the horizon. From my brief experience it seems like Black Ops 3 will be the fresh coat of paint on a series that was growing stale.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.