Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is the direct sequel to developer Treyarch’s Black Ops 2 from 2012. In the 3 years between releases a lot has happened with the Call of Duty franchise. Infinity Ward, fellow developer of the sibling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series imploded, Sledgehammer Games then came on board co-developing Modern Warfare 3 and eventually going on to develop Advanced Warfare propelling the series into the future and a science fiction setting. What does this mean for Black Ops 3? As ever, Treyarch have thrown content upon content into the game, giving it extreme value for money. Its campaign is a departure in its execution, multiplayer is as frenetic as ever, zombie’s returns in all its glory and there are a few extra additions to surprise the player with.
The campaign is substantial by Call of Duty standards, and runs just over six hours. It deals with what happens to humans when robotics are left unchecked, and paints a rather scary picture of a possible future. Here we come across several of the new innovations to the franchise. At the beginning you are asked to create a character, you can choose your gender for the first time in the series history, and also choose from several different faces to give your character minimal customization. It’s not on the level of Bloodborne, but it is a nice touch that adds to the level of investment usually not present in the games campaign. From here you start your standard run-and-gun mission, running through a level and dispatching a lot of bad guys trying to get to the end of the level. At the end of the level you find yourself in circumstances that leave you in a state that requires the character to upgrade his (or her) body with robotics, setting the player up for the rest of the story. While previous Black Ops games have dealt with drugs, brainwashing, MK-Ultra and trippy hallucinations, Black Ops 3 deals with what happens when the human mind is integrated with the direct neural interface that controls the robotics, achieving a similar effect.
On the gameplay side of things once you get past the initial stages, you are set up in a hub world. Here you can choose your load out, select the next mission from several different choices and play around with the new cyber cores. These cyber cores regulate what powers the player has going into the next mission. They are divided into three types, control, martial and chaos. Control focuses on hacking, whether it be enemy robots and drones or turrets and computers. Martial supercharges the player melee combat, giving additional powers that help the player get up close and personal in a fight and rip apart the enemy. Chaos deals with what the game terms ‘psychological warfare,’ turning and using the enemies gear against them. While this gives more depth and thought to the missions the choice is incredibly important because the player usually won’t have enough points to level up all three cores, and once you’ve chosen your core you’re locked in for that mission.
The same applies to weapons. Weapons in Black Ops 3 are registered to a single individual and can only be used by that one person. Choice is paramount. My preferred core was Martial as it was equipped with abilities that dealt with both robotic and human enemies evenly. That being said, the issue of being locked into a specific loadout is easily addressed if you have friends to play with. Campaign can be played co-operatively with up to three other friends, meaning that each of you can play a different role depending on the cyber core chosen. In a lot of instances co-op felt like it was the preferred option, as the levels are rather large and long and it can become monotonous fighting waves of enemies by yourself. Once the campaign is finished a zombie’s version of the campaign is unlocked. It’s a fun, quirky take on the main story but in end isn’t as well fleshed out as it could have been.
Multiplayer is where Black Ops 3 really shines. From the onset the player will recognise change. You are asked to pick a specialist to play as, each specialist is different in that they have one unique power and weapon that you must choose from. It is these unique powers and weapons that make each specialist different, otherwise they play exactly the same. One is a crack shot archer, the other can get a speed boost while another can equip a shock rifle. It never feels uneven because everyone has access to some type of power in the game. The Pick-10 system is back and for the better. The Pick-10 system allots the player ten points from which they can assign different weapon attachments, grenades, perks and so on. This, complemented with the powers of the specialists, gives a very even handed feel to multiplayer.
On top of this there is a whole new level of manoeuvrability that adds to the chaos of the already frantic multiplayer. The thruster pack is now restricted, usually to two jumps or a combination of power slide and jump before it needs to recharge. What you get instead is the ability to fire your weapon whenever you want. You can fire it power sliding, you can fire it jumping, you can fire it running, whether on the ground or along the walls. That’s right, Black Ops 3 now allows the player to run along walls. Standard game modes return such as team deathmatch, capture the flag and domination as well as some fan favourites such as kill confirmed and uplink but the noted absences of moshpit is a shame. While Call of Duty multiplayer has become known for twelve year olds screaming obscenities through a mic at people, the multiplayer is balanced and fine tuned to the point where it is easily addictive. Multiplayer in Black Ops 3 just feels right, it takes the ideas that were present in Advanced Warfare and pushes them to the extreme.
Zombies is back as well, and in much better form than what passed for the game mode in Advanced Warfare. This time the players take the roles of four citizens from Morg city. The characters are played by Ron Perlman, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough and Jeff Goldblum and the actors do an excellent job of bringing them to life in the way that they interact with each other and the world around them. There is a complete levelling system, which works much better than it did in Black Ops 2, as well as the ability to upgrade guns that you’ll find on the wall and pick your perk load out. In the small, confined streets of Morg city it is easy to get corned and beaten down by Zombies, but a good team who works together can chop through them and get to the higher levels.
Also making a return is Dead Ops Arcade, which is hidden somewhere within the campaign. It plays much the same as the original but, like everything in Black Ops 3, ups the ante. It’s bigger and longer, adding new pick-ups and weapons to help battle the new Cosmic Silverback. Another addition to the package is the Free Run mode. This allows the player to run through speed trials using the new manoeuvrability system of the game. It also acts as a good training simulator for the multiplayer, helping you to practise those tricky moves.
All in all, Black Ops 3 is an incredible Call of Duty game and may just be the best yet. It distances itself from previous entries with the risks it takes and it pays off. The three year gap between games from Treyarch has worked in their favour. They have crafted an engaging campaign with its playability, the multiplayer is tight as ever and zombies is returned to its former glory. This is definitely worth the bang for the buck. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got to shoot some zombies.