Every year I tell myself I’m not going to get Call of Duty on release day and every year I end up caving. I thought the Exo-suits in Advanced Warfare were going to ruin the game and it was only until I caved to my friends peer pressure and purchase the game myself did I find out how wrong I was. It was that revelation that I went into Black Ops III with a little more of an open mind. I still thought running on walls was taking Call of Duty in the wrong direction, but once again, I was completely wrong. I’m man enough to admit that my fears of Black Ops III were completely misplaced and this iteration of one of the most popular games doesn’t disappoint. It’s not my favorite Call of Duty, but it’s definitely up there.
Many people skip Call of Duty’s campaigns and go straight to the multiplayer. Normally I advise against this because the campaigns are a lot of fun. They have over-the-top stories with explosive missions that will give the best action movie a run for its money. I play through them multiple times and always have an enjoyable experience.
It’s why I was so let down with Black Ops III’s campaign. Its convoluted story, uninteresting characters, and repetitive mission structure made me seriously struggle to finish it. There is an argument that you don’t need to have a good story or characters in a Call of Duty campaign, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be interested in what’s happening. I constantly groaned, laughed, and pulled out my phone at almost every cut scene. The story tried so hard to be deep and complex, but it never actually went anywhere interesting. It’s by far my least favorite campaign in the entire Call of Duty series.
I had characters lecture me on why I was doing wrong and how they were going to help the world…as they caused innocent civilians to be set on fire. My partner liked to constantly disobey orders so he could do what he thought was right, but then also spurt out lines like, “let’s do what we do best. Kill people.” Black Ops has always wanted to explore the morally gray world, but at the same time, it can never let you forget how badass everyone is. It also had a handful of disturbing scenes that started to feel forced into the story instead of being a supportive piece of storytelling.
Really what let me down was how repetitive the missions felt. Yes, Call of Duty has always been run here, shoot that. What it hasn’t been is making you face off against the same situation in each level. There are definitely some very interesting and fun levels, but the way Black Ops III tries to increase the difficulty or intensity is more annoying than anything. You’ll fight a large group of enemies and then a futuristic tank will be dropped into the area for you to destroy. That wasn’t tough enough? Next time, they’ll drop a tank and send flying drones at you. Still not enough? How about a tank, drones, and a smaller mech that looks like an AT-ST.
Get my point? I always hate when a game makes me fight the same boss more than once without good reason. I fought the same type of tank with the same strategy numerous times in the campaign. It was never hard either. It only took more time to accomplish because something else was thrown at me in a failed effort to increase the difficulty. Having the same boss and then adding in endless soldiers isn’t creative or difficult. It’s a repetitive bore.
It may sound like I am being too judgmental with a Call of Duty campaign, but I really do enjoy them. So to me it’s a big letdown when I found myself feeling uninterested by the fourth mission and groaning throughout the entire last mission since it felt like it was never going to end. It’s not all bad though. The ability to have four-player co-op is a lot of fun. Again, balancing the difficulty just means more soldiers are thrown at you which isn’t the most creative or fun way of doing it. It’s also why I assume the levels are so similar in structure and missing any huge moments. They are designed to appeal to a co-op aspect by being a large playable box that’s filled with enemies over and over again. That being said, blasting away waves of enemies with your friends will always be fun.
You can also have certain abilities because you are a cyborg believe it or not. I will admit the Jedi-like powers you can pick from does give it a nice refresher from the previous campaign. You get to choose between various abilities that can power down robots, distract enemies, or even override an A.I.’s programming to fight for you instead. Having a diversified team in the co-op makes for a very team orientated fun time. It keeps it fresh to change your powers around or maybe try a level over with a new power to see the difference. That is, if you ever want to reply one of the missions.
Mutliplayer: meat and bones of all Call of Duty titles. The thing that has made people throw controllers at the screen, yell racist remarks, drop their greatest “yo mama” jokes, and blame their internet for their terrible skill for almost a decade now. Each new title has its own twists to make it stand apart from its predecessor. I’ve played enough Call of Duty’s to be able to tell from shooting a gun what studio is behind it. Over the years, I have learned to love Treyarch especially because of their amazing map design.
I claimed Ghosts had the worst map designs in any Call of Duty to date. Big open spaces, long unbalanced levels, cluttered arenas, vertically a mess, and too many sight-lines all over the place catered to campers to easily. Treyarch sticks to a very simple premise but one that works for sure. All their maps are three-lanes. It honestly makes for the best gameplay. There’s some diversity of course, but on principle they don’t stray far from that idea. Trust me, it has always worked in the past and I think it’s safe to say it will work best in the future as well.
The downside is this can lead to two issues. Some people will camp and never move from a lane with long sight-lines and it can also cause your team to be spawned camped. It has happened to me a few times and Black Ops III does a bad job at switching the spawn point to a new area. This also has to do with how awful Call of Duty has always been with evening the teams. Your team has to be playing really terribly for it to get to this point. For the most part, the maps work great, constantly direct you into the other team, and are fun to move about in.
I was also afraid the maps would be designed to force you to wall-run and in doing so come off too gimmicky. I was wrong. You don’t have to wall-run at all if you don’t want to, but trust me, it’s surprisingly fun. The movement of the characters is more fluid than ever and you’ll be dashing through levels as fast as your robot legs can carry you.
The newest feature to this multiplayer is the ability to choose a specialist which grants you an ability to use in the middle of your match. These abilities range from big guns that make people go boom or seeing the enemy team through the walls. This is a great new addition because it allows everyone (i.e. newbs) to get something like a scorestreak without having the skill to compete in a very competitive multiplayer. There were times I was having a crappy run until I got my specialist ability and was able to make a nice comeback. They’re great for objective based matches as well. A well timed specialist ability can swing the tide of the game or make that final play to win the game. They diversify the gameplay without being too common so you won’t be killed by a specialist ability every thirty seconds.
The Pick-10 system is present as well and for those that don’t know this allows you to customize your loadout in any way as long as you only have 10 items. I normally drop my tactical grenades and secondary weapon to gain extra perks. Someone else might dump everything into their primary gun attachments. It allows for the ultimate customization so you can really fine tune your loadout for the right game type. Honestly, every Call of Duty should use this system at this point.
Aside from the new specialists it is pretty much the same Call of Duty multiplayer you have come to expect. Small changes, but still typical COD at its core. The gameplay and movement are getting faster every year as Call of Duty gets closer and closer to being a twitch-shooter. This may turn some away from purchasing since it doesn’t vary in any major way. That’s up to you, but what I can say is how great the combat feels and how much fun it is to play.
Many of the same game modes make their return, but there is one new one. Teams take turns escorting a robot across the map. A player needs to stand near the robot to make it move. The robot can be shot causing it to shut down and take a few seconds to reboot. It’s a simple premise but a lot of fun and it’s one of my favorite game modes now. The desperate standoffs as the robot is mere feet away from its destination is some of the most intense multiplayer I’ve experienced in Call of Duty. Don’t just go to Team Death Match and never leave. It’s worth your time to try out this new mode.
The main problems I’m having with the multiplayer is mostly connection issues. The first weekend after release it’s understandable to have some problems. But even weeks later I’m still having problems joining games when I’m in a party. Often times I’ll get left behind or my friend will. We’ve also somehow managed to join two different games while being in the party. I’ve only been able to join one Zombies session online. Normally it crashes and kicks me out. I hope (and expect) these problems will be fixed soon.
Lastly, and what many will place first, is the zombies mode. The largest, most vicious, and definitely strangest zombies to date. Within seconds of playing, I drank from some fountain and turned into a giant tentacle monster. I broke a box and was given an artifact. After a few rounds I learned I could grapple as this beast and discovered a sacrificing table. What does any of this mean?! I have no clue. I’m trying to hold off looking up the answers so I can discover it myself, but I may throw in the towel soon.
Aside from the strangeness this zombies may be my new favorite in the series. It is hard. By round five, things start to get very deadly if you aren’t careful. There is a huge area to explore and many secrets to uncover. You can also eat bubble gum (cleverly named Gobble Gum) to receive some perks or nice specials. It’s a new feature that is a nice touch without reinventing the much-loved zombie structure. Along those lines, I’m happy to report that Double-Tap Rootbeer is back and all the quirkiness that made the original zombies so much fun.
There aren’t just zombies either, but I won’t spoil anything. I’ve only made it to round twelve so far, but I keep playing a few games every night. It’s as addicting as ever, and I know many people only buy Call of Duty for its zombies mode. This iteration is definitely worth the money as it feels enormous in itself. The only problem is a majority of the time I’ve tried to play online I can’t get into a game. I hope that gets patched soon enough and then everything will be okay.
Black Ops III is exactly what you think it is: Call of Duty. You can pretty much expect what you’ll be getting, but it’s nice to know it’s a step forward and not backward. Not every Call of Duty is great, but I can say Black Ops III is one of the good ones. It may have my least favorite campaign in the entire series, but it’s one of my favorite multiplayers. The zombies mode is large and confusing, but I can’t help being addicted to it. I won’t claim this is my favorite Call of Duty in the series, but I am having an absolute blast playing it.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 4 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops III developed by Treyarch and published by Activision.
- Specialists Fun Addition to Multiplayer
- Multiplayer is as Fun as Ever
- Biggest and Most Intense Zombies Yet
- Story Tries Hard and Fails
- Campaign Missions Structure Boring
- Minor Online Server and Party Issues