|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: November 6, 2015|
|Players: Single-player, multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Patrick Tretina
*Editor’s Note: Any references to the campaign are in regards to the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions of Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Neither the PS3 nor Xbox 360 includes a story mode.
It seems these days most adult gamers are chasing down that illustrious great white buffalo of nostalgic ecstasy in hopes of recapturing the days of their youth. It’s almost like finding buried treasure - when it's finally discovered, it sends a rush of emotions that recaptures the very first time you got bitten by the video game bug. For me, the Call of Duty series has always been a title that brings back a rush of old school memories and sends me right back to my college days of epic showdowns on a bunk late 90’s projector. After all the hype, all the promised improvements, and all the craziness that has transpired over Black Ops 3, the title seems to pull on those strings of yesteryear - It builds off the previous successes of Ghosts and Advanced Warfare for an entirely new offering that’s both refreshing and meticulously refined.
Now that my sappy, Robert Frost-like intro is out of the way, we can get down to the meat and bones of why Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 delivers. My initial reaction to the game was surprisingly positive. I was skeptical that the newest edition could provide anything new or dynamic, especially after all of these years. Clearly, I was wrong. Everything from the new character creation and progression model to the deep and compelling campaign plot, and even the fully flushed out Zombies mode, are a welcomed surprise. Thankfully, Black Ops 3 doesn’t stop there - the polished game modes and character elements are perfectly complemented with a stunning set of visuals. The maps, weapons, and character details are spot-on and combine refined gameplay with a next-gen aesthetic boost that really hits the mark.
The sights and sounds of a next-gen first person shooter are on full display in Black Ops 3. The map designs look fantastic across every game mode and the cutscenes featured in the campaign blend flawlessly with the actual gameplay - the game doesn’t skip a beat when cutscenes break in and are only noticeable by the “press X to skip” that appears at the bottom right of the screen. The sounds of guns discharging are beautiful and unique to each weapon class and caliber. I nearly melt into my couch when I pull out my side arm and bust a few rounds at charging enemies – it's nearly identical to the real thing. Black Ops 3’s weapon effects are by far the best sounding in a first person shooter I’ve ever experienced.
The game’s overall direction has somewhat shifted from a matchmaking multiplayer-heavy focus to a more campaign-centric one. Treyarch decided to keep what it does best in the multiplayer offering while focusing more of its efforts on a beefed-up story mode that now includes an extended storyline, character progression system, and the new ability to choose a player's sex and ethnicity. No longer will my fellow gamers who happen to be girls need to lay waste with a sweaty, bearded, male character - they can now take on the world of Black Ops 3 with a sweaty female protagonist, minus the beard of course.
The new campaign offering comes loaded with five unique difficulty levels to complement the game’s four-player co-op support option. Recruit, Regular, Hardened, Veteran, and Realistic difficulties are all at the player’s disposal to customize their destructive experience. The brand new Realistic difficulty setting is insanely hard to navigate and completely changes the way gamers work through the story mode - yep, one shot and you’re dead. Relying on teammates, both human and AI, is key to surviving the gauntlet of Realistic difficulty.
The customizable player features within the campaign are also flawlessly integrated into the storyline as gamers learn to utilize the wealth of futuristic gadgets and upgradable perks on the fly. No more boring tutorials or mock obstacle courses - learning the new system puts players right into the thick of things. The enhanced mobility features are much more powerful than I initially thought and have to be experienced first-hand in order to understand their destructive nature. The new jump boost is pretty stellar and feels a little bit like a heavier version of Destiny’s while the array of new capabilities like slide-thrusts, data hacks, and even running on walls are rather impressive as well.
Enemy AI has also seen a much-needed boost from previous Call of Duty versions in that they all come with unique abilities and levels of aggression. Some enemies will use the security of cover while others will bum rush you like they’re Jason wielding a massive dagger. Warlords, a much more powerful enemy, will also populate at what seems like every corner and will suck you dry of just about everything you’ve got. The implementation of these massively powerful enemies is a nice touch but can sometimes skew the progression and disrupt the fluidity of the missions. Nevertheless, the AI has gotten much smarter and provides a more interesting experience.
The multiplayer offering is nearly identical to Black Ops 3’s predecessor with the exception of brand new maps, upgraded player abilities, and a wealth of new weapons. This might seem like a negative to some, but why change something that isn’t broken? Everything that is experienced within the new campaign mode, in terms of player customization and player progression, is featured within multiplayer. Those looking for a completely revamped multiplayer mode will be disappointed, but there are some nice bright spots.