November of every year is when you can count on Activision or Treyarch to roll out another Call of Duty. Including the sub-par Vita title, Call of Duty Black Ops III is the fourth entry in the series. With the first two being so successfull, all the stops had to be pulled out on this one to make it a great improvement over Ghosts and Advanced Warfare. After spending these last few years wondering how Activision is still taking my money, Black Ops III has given me an answer to that question.
This is probably the biggest Call of Duty yet. The usual formula we expect from the campaign mode has an all new look. Everybody’s favorite zombie mode is bigger and better than ever. A class system has breathed new life into the online multiplayer we all know and love. There is something here for everyone. I think its safe to say that Treyarch has done it again.
The game begins as you and your partner Jacob Hendricks have taken on a rescue mission in Ethiopia with assistance from Commander John Taylor and his team of cyber-augmented soldiers. Just as you are about to complete your mission, you are badly wounded and near death. The only way you can be saved is through the same kind of enhancements that Taylor’s unit is equipped with. You receive the enhancements along with a D.N.I. (Direct Neural Interface) which helps control the cybernetics and is useful in hacking computers and machines. Hendricks also makes the decision to undergo the procedure, voluntarily.
Five years later you and Hendricks are working for the CIA and are eventually assigned to the investigation of a CIA black site which was believed to have been attacked by the 54 Immortals, a notorious terrorist group. Your team comes to believe that it is actually Taylor and his team who are responsible. Hendricks strives to find out what is really going on due to his history with the commander. Things are definitely not what they seem. Twists and turns await as your team go deeper into the rabbit hole.
Spiritual Content: The zombie mode contains many references to curses and rituals.
Violence: Some graphic scenes contain things such as dismemberment. Throughout the game you will be shooting enemies, causing blood to spatter. Most of this graphic content can actually turned off.
Language: There are swear words of every kind, and they are frequent throughout the campaign, let alone multiplayer.
Drug/Alcohol Use: One instance where your character and a few others are drinking and smoking cigars.
Positive Content: A major theme the Black Ops series always seems to carry is how dangerous technology can be. We live in a world that is ran on technology, and it is becoming more advanced each day.
Black Ops III offers a variety of modes to play, so lets break down the key features in each category.
Campaign: When starting the campaign, you’ll get to choose the look and gender for your character; the customization here is very minimal but this is a first for a Call of Duty game and makes you, the player, the main character of the story. Before starting a mission you are directed to a hub area where you can customize your loadout and equip your cybercore abilities. Here, you can check out the briefing screen which will give you details such the range of weaponry you might want to take with you. There is even a training simulator where you can test out your weapons and abilities.
You’ll still be following your partner a bit during missions, but when a firefight breaks out you are given more freedom. During these skirmishes you will find yourself in an open area, this gives you the chance to handle things with whatever tactics you choose and makes room for three more friends to join you cooperatively via PSN. The Cybercore abilities really come into play here, whether you choose to cloak yourself and flank the enemy or lock up their weapons and charge right through is totally up to you. A few vehicle segments are probably the most guided setpiece moments in the game, but unlike previous titles these are far and few between. The only downside I found here was that I didn’t really care about the characters, there were none as memorable as Woods or any from the Modern Warfare series. Although the twisted story makes up for that, being one I will never forget.
Competitive Multiplayer: For many, the online multiplayer is the only reason they even pick up a Call of Duty game. You’ll find the standard pick ten loadout system back again, but there is no shortage of major changes in this mode, either. One of those major changes is the inclusion of a class system. There are eight or so specialists to choose from; each has two different abilities that can turn the tide of battle. One of my personal favorites is Prophet’s glitch ability that rewinds your path by a few feet. This saved me from situations that wouldn’t have ended in my favor.
Last year Advanced Warfare introduced a new type of mobility with the exo-suit that made me feel like more of a walking tank than anything. With the introduction of augmentations, that sort of mobility has been improved upon. Your character is much more agile now, sliding and leaping over ledges is smoother. Running on walls is the newest addition in this aspect. If you are skilled enough, it is even possible to get a kill while wall-running. Just in case you need to get familiar with all of these options, there happens to be a “Free Run” mode that puts you in an obstacle course. Your friends’ best times will also be displayed when selecting a course so that you can attempt to beat them.
Zombies: I’m going to be honest and say that I personally never cared very much for the zombie modes since it was introduced in World at War, there is definitely something here that keeps players coming back every time. This is yet another mode where there is no shortage of changes and with more to come. Shadows of Evil is the first that we get to experience. When starting a match for the first time, you are met with an intro video which introduces the characters of the story who are not exactly model citizens (one of them happens to voiced by Jeff Goldblum).
The setting comes in the style of a noir film and takes place in Morgue City, the biggest map to ever be featured in the series, and you’ll be using currency to unlock gates and pathways that lead to different parts of it. The progression system also makes its way to zombies with some unique unlockables. The first is Gobblegums; these are gum balls that offer different perks and bonuses that can be useful in combating zombie hordes. The second of these are weapon kits; equipping a weapon kit simply changes the look of the guns you will pick up along the way. With a large map to explore and plenty of things to unlock, it is guaranteed that fans will keep coming back for more.
When it comes to audio and graphics, Treyarch goes above and beyond. The voice acting is also something that continues to be done well here. I did find some of the gunfire to sound a little weak, but by no means am I educated in guns, and these in particular do not actually exist. One thing I found very unique is how seamless it is to switch game types. There are no load times in between and you can actually stay with your party if you decide to go from the multiplayer to campaign or vice versa. How tough or easy it is to do that sort of thing can sometimes break a game, and other titles can learn something from Black Ops III in this area. The overall presentation remains to be top notch this year.
My question going into this year’s title was “Why does Activision keep taking my money?” I have come to the conclusion that it is the addictive gameplay in the Call of Duty series. With things being changed and improved on every year, one thing remains the same, and that is the shooting mechanics. Every year we know what we are getting into; the controls remain the same and Call of Duty is easy to pick up and play. We know our friends are going to buy it, the game is already enjoyable in the first place but is one thousand times better with friends. As a result, simply playing a few matches can easily turn into a few hours. Treyarch has really outdone themselves this year. Infinity Ward is next in the development cycle and its going to be hard to top Call of Duty Black Ops III.
The Bottom Line
Treyarch Knocks another one out of the park. The fast faced gameplay brings a fresh new element to this annual title. The zombie mode is bigger than ever. Plus, the new direction they have taken with the campaign mode is a warm welcome.