Disclaimer: The following preview is based on a beta version of the game and may not be reflective of the final product.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is the latest iteration in the Call of Duty franchise. Black Ops 3, developed by Treyarch recently underwent an open beta, in which players on all systems, including PC, were given a chance to test the new multiplayer, three years in the making.
No Call of Duty would be any good without guns. Weaponry in Black Ops 3 is a mixture of old and new, from Call of Duty classics such as the MP7, to the brand new Razorback, a mid range sub-machine gun. The guns feel and play very similarly to Black Ops 2, and while, to me, the guns felt like they had little weight, they did seem to project a large dose of power.
Weapon attachments in Black Ops 3 are again very similar to the previous games. Various different scopes have been added, along with different barrel types (such as suppressors) and different magazine types (such as “extended mag”, giving the player more ammunition).
Anybody familiar with the Black Ops 2 gunplay will feel right at home with the follow-up’s shooting mechanics. As always there are a large variety of weapons, from assault rifles to sniper rifles. During my time with the beta, I mainly used SMGs, my preferred play style, but I was also fond of the way the assault rifle handled. My least favourite of all the weapon types was the snipers. I found that the scope times were too long for quick reaction shots, but the rifles were too inaccurate without scoping. Coupled with this, the way the maps were designed and built focuses mainly focus on frenetic firefights, with none of the popular beta maps having long lines of sight where a sniper would benefit the player.
The one map which did provide long-range views proved useless for snipers due to the new ability to swim in multiplayer. Some maps contain underwater pathways for players to outflank their opponent, which adds an interesting new mechanic to the formula. While not a groundbreaking feature, it does add different ways to travel across the map, reducing possible chokepoints on maps for campers to occupy. In my experience with the beta, I didn’t encounter a single camper in the game, in stark contrast with Black Ops 2 where in almost every match there was at least one. To Treyarch’s credit, the new maps have done well to combat the camping problem of previous games.
The maps were built in conjunction with other new movement systems. Along with the aforementioned ability to swim, wall-running once again makes it return to the franchise, after it was introduced in Advanced Warfare, 2014’s Call of Duty instalment. While the the maps show an obvious attempt to encourage wall-running, it did have some cons. While a good tool for flanking opponents and being able to access part of the maps that would be previously unreachable, some of the locations they used for the placement of runnable walls were above death drops. While wall-running was easy, it was possible to fall to your death with little ability to pull out if things went wrong. While deadly falls are a legitimate element of level design, making them a major focus for transport in a first-person shooter is a questionable design decision.
The main new feature for the Black Ops 3 multiplayer is the addition of specialists. Each player chooses a specialist to play in each map, all of which have certain abilities. Similar to score streaks, the specialist’s ability is earned through gaining kills and completing objectives, although they are much easier to gain as the score continues through death, resulting in everybody getting at least one opportunity to play as their specialist.
I chose to play as Outrider, an archer style character, whose special weapon is a bow that fires explosive arrows. These gave me the chance to experiment with powerful alternative weapons, without costing unlock tokens and class slots. The addition of specialists made the game much more enjoyable, reducing some of the imbalance of the old kill streaks which reset on death.
The score streaks are gained from either killing other players or completing objectives. The streaks are very similar to those in Black Ops 2 but with more of a futuristic twist. For example, the old C4-laden remote-controlled car the RC-XD, is now the HC-XD, which now hovers. Unlike the specialist streaks, score streak points do not carry over after death. The score streaks vary in the points they require, but also in the effect they have. For example, the UAV is relatively cheap, and shows the enemies’ rough positions on the map. The Mothership, by contrast, is very expensive, but can be used to gain countless kills, due to its turrets raining death on any unfortunate player who dared to venture outside.
The Create a Class system once again makes its return and again, follows a very similar model to the one used in Black Ops 2. The player is given 10 points to spend on weapons, equipment and perks (small stat bonuses, such as improved reload speed). There is little to mention, other than it is fundamentally the same as Treyarch’s previous systems. The 10 point system works better than other styles, where the player was locked into certain types of equipment for different slots. It allows the player to gain more weapon attachments at the expense of a grenade, for example. Wildcards also make a return, allowing the player to “bend the rules” such as taking two primary weapons in place of a secondary weapon.
The graphics in Black Ops 3 follow a similar style to Treyarch’s previous games, which look very impressive when used in conjunction with graphical effects such as ambient occlusion. The blizzard effects on the map “Stronghold” looked very impressive – but a word of warning to any PC users. Check the refresh rate the game is set to. Mine defaulted to 50Hz, which resulted in the blizzards and particle effects looking decidedly poor. Even when the game was on “medium” the graphics looked worthy of a “next-generation” (if we’re still calling it that) game. Overall, the art style was impressive, and while on the topic of options, I was impressed in the sound settings. The game contains multiple sound settings, including “headphones” and “extra bass”, which were nice to have.
Overall, Black Ops 3 is shaping up to be a solid Call of Duty game. It provided enjoyment, but aside from a few tweaks, such as weapons and maps, the game is fundamentally the same as it always has been. This probably won’t surprise many readers, as there has been little alteration to the “Call of Duty formula” since Modern Warfare. If you have been a long time fan of the series, then I would recommend this game, however if you are expecting an entirely innovative experience then you may be left disappointed.