So the time has come around again, guns are a blazin, bombs are droppin and zombies are walkin. That's right, it's Black Ops III - the third installment of the incredibly popular FPS. Since Black Ops II, COD: Ghosts and COD: Advanced Warfare have kept us on ice and now, three years after Black Ops II, Black Ops III is finally sitting in our consoles. However, was it really worth the wait? Have Treyarch leveled up or dropped a rank?
The Campaign mode has never been the Call of Duty's calling. Its story typically felt dry and unispiring, riddled with monotonous gameplay, even despite the help of Kevin Spacey in Sledgehammer's Advanced Warfare. However, Black Ops III strives to go above and beyond to create a more exciting and engaging Campaign mode.
The most striking feature of the Campaign mode is the new co-op mode, in which you and a comrade share to split screen and tackle the story mode together. Split screen has always been good fun in previous instillments, through Zombies mode and Spec Ops, so co-op in the Campaign mode feels long overdue. Unfortunately, whilst this mode does tick the boxes of joint play, Black Ops III fails to go the extra mile. The co-op mode fails to engage players together. It simply feels like you're playing along side your friend instead of playing with them. Enemies simply double-up in co-op instead and side missions where cooperation is needed is not incorporated.
Furthermore, Treyarch have failed to take into account the fact that if you split the screen, you have to make the on screen text bigger. The ability to select which upgrades you want is rendered impossible as the appropriate text is unreadable. Additionally, the split screen cut-scenes are completely unnecessary.
Nevertheless, the single player campaign mode is much more thought out. Indeed, the campaign finally feels like an independently fun mode, instead of a mandatory necessity. Set in 2065, 40 years after Black Ops II, Black Ops III's world is ubiquitously filled with technology and gadgets. As a result, the player is exposed to an armoury of new wave technology. The new 'Cybernetics Core' loadouts gives players power ups including hacking abilities and nano swarms.
Unfortunately, whilst the tech-heavy story mode is the campaign's most exciting new feature, it is also its downfall. The COD series has always prized itself on featuring human enemies, differentiating headshots and body shots, but Black Ops III's focus is on robotics. When fighting humans, bullets penetrate the flesh resulting in lethal damage, but they now ping off the metallic robots until they eventually frizzle out and wither. Whilst blowing up robots with explosives is quite satisfying, shooting them with an assault rifle is disappointingly unsatisfying.
Having said this, the general combat between human enemies and the player showcases Activision's intuitive COD game-engine. Assault rifles feel sharp, shotguns feel punchy and sniper rifles are piercing and Black Op III's expansive armory compliments the experience.
The online multiplayer is by far the series' best feature. With modes ranging from Team Deathmatch to Gun Game to the new Safeguard mode, Black Ops III hosts a versatile range of modes to keep your finger on the trigger.
The multiplayer mode also boasts a new character selection mode, in which players chose to play as specific characters. Each of these nine 'Specialists' has different qualities that support your gameplay in different aspects. Through this, players can tailor their playing styles by selecting their character and developing them through their own specific avenues. Each 'Specialist' possesses a power weapon or special ability, which can be deployed in game. The weapon or ability becomes available once the charging meter reaches full capacity - this process is accelerated based on the player's performance. This makes the gameplay even more engaging.
The maps available on the online multiplayer mode are also impressive. They aren't large enough to leave the player wondering around for too long but they aren't small enough to learn their layout quickly. On top of which, Black Ops III's graphics and level design take full advantage of the next-gen consoles' capabilities, resulting in beautiful sceneries and realistic textures.
The zombies mode has always been a COD fan's favorite. Set in a sleazy and jazzy 1940's, this new zombies mode feels refreshed, supported by a fairly interesting story that features voice acting from Jeff Goldblum and Ron Perlman. The same formula applies, shoot zombies, earn money, unlock doors, get armed, shoot more zombies. Fans of the franchise will certainly be pleased with this new rendition and newcomers will pick it up easily. The new 'Nightmare' mode, which allows players to replay the campaign mode through an undead apocalypse is a tasteful combination of both modes too.
A first for the COD series, Freerun stages players in a virtual assault course that sees the player vaulting across barriers, leaping across ledges, running along walls, shooting targets, and challenges them to do so as fast as they can. With four different courses of increasing difficulty, this mode will have players addictively competing with each other to better their times and more dangerously, competing with themselves.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is certainly an exciting installment to the incredibly successful franchise. This cyber driven rendition of the series upgrades the tech available to players and transcends the game into a new paradigm. Whilst shooting robots is repetitively dry, the gameplay is still engaging. Multiplayer serves as the best mode, even surpassing the rejuvenated Zombies mode. Although co-op campaign seems great in theory, in practice, it feels more like a side-by-side co-op and fails to embrace cooperative teamwork as well as its online multiplayer counterpart. All in all, Black Ops III is a must for fans of the series, but for those who prefer the more expansive levels found or vehicular warfare found in Battlefield, Black Ops III fails to convert.
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