Jeff Markiewicz On November 25, 2015 at 11:13 am

Call of Duty Black Ops III LogoLast generation was defined and dominated by a single franchise, Call of Duty. No other franchise really came close to generating more hype and anticipation than this one. Before Call of Duty 4, the franchise was a competent shooter that met moderate success on the PC. After this, the franchise was the defining shooter on consoles. Ever since then, there has been another entry in the series every year and the series has grown to be so big that it takes several different developers to keep it going. The premiere developer in that bunch is now Treyarch. This developer has been around for nearly two decades but lately, they have been developing some of the best Call of Duty has to offer. Going against them is an ongoing franchise fatigue. Yearly releases with the same formula is driving players to grow tired of what they use to love. The ship hasn’t capsized yet, but it’s headed for some troubled waters soon if the ship cannot be righted. Last year, Advanced Warfare gave the franchise a breath of fresh air. Can Treyarch continue the fight with Black Ops III?

The story starts 40 years after the events of Black Ops II. The world is suffering the effects of global warming. Weather events are getting more severe. Droughts and lessening natural resources are putting stresses on every aspect of life. Countries now have defensive measures to prevent what happened at the end of the last game. The game starts with you, and your partner, infiltrating a facility holding the Egyptian Prime Minister. Egypt is uprising against an oppressive regime called the Nile River Coalition and hopes to regain their freedom. The Prime Minister is the face of that fight and you need to rescue him. Along the way, things do not go according to plan and you’re severely injured. Luckily, another team on the ground rescues rushes you to life-saving surgery. Despite their best efforts, the only way to save your life was to give you cybernetics and because you impressed, you’re brought into the Winslow Accord Black Cyber Ops program. After getting trained to use your new cybernetic abilities, you have five successful years of operations with your new group with no incident. Then suddenly, without warning, four of your team members go rogue and cannot be found. You and your partner search to uncover where they went, why they went, and take care of the ensuing situation.

Overall, the campaign is fantastic. Year-in-year-out Call of Duty delivers a compelling and highly enjoyable campaign and this one is no different. While it doesn’t directly continue the storyline from the first two titles in this franchise offshoot, it is probably for the best. Black Ops II suffered a bit from trying to reintroduce its characters as well as introducing more. Here, there is a defined set of characters and a well-contained story. You don’t need to know what happened before in this universe and the prior game is only mentioned briefly. The cybernetic abilities feel a lot more grounded and useful than what was found in Advanced Warfare. And the campaign features complete, four player co-op throughout its entirety. Overall, if you’re getting this for the campaign, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. Its biggest downfall may be contained in its final seconds, which you’ll only understand if you have a good eye or you’ll have to find the reason online.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III is quite similar to its predecessors in regard to its gameplay. It is a first-person shooter. The campaign is largely driven by scripted events and cutscenes. The multiplayer pits you against others. The game does have some new additions, the first of which are some new maneuvers. Players can now double-jump, slide, and wall-run. These features, while not completely new, are quite empowering in terms of moving around and dominating the battlefield. The greatest downfall of it is also a huge upside, its balanced. The downside is that some maps do not properly convey if you can go there or not. The upside is that it’s not overpowered. Another new feature is cyber cores. In the single player, you can choose between control, martial, and chaos tracks. Each of these tracks offer a lot of different and powerful abilities. Specialists in multiplayer offer a similar functionality but they are limited to a single ability. Overall, the new features, while not critical to the experience are big pluses.

The downsides of the gameplay are mostly the same as always. In single player there are times it feels like you’re just fighting wave after wave of enemies until you proceed to a certain point. This is only heightened by the fact that the replacements always tend to take up the same exact cover positions. Then there are issues that mess with the flow of the story. After each of the story missions, there is an after action report. Then between missions, you’re taken to a safe house to modify loadouts and unlock new abilities. There is no real good solution to modifying loadouts but it would be nice to have a complete solid story mode without the interruptions and fluff. Lastly, the multiplayer can still be brutal. After a certain point, a winning team can just steamroll to victory via perks. Overall, at its heart, it is Call of Duty. The gripes listed are here are quite minor and the new additions and features far outweigh the downsides.

If you’ve ever played a recent Call of Duty, you largely know what to expect when it comes to the online functionality. The modes are largely the same and the gameplay is largely the same but the game does pack some nice new changes. The first one is that your cybernetic enhancements allow for additional types of movement throughout the levels, namely double-jump, wall-running, and sliding. While Advanced Warfare had some of these, they also changed the flow of the game. The Exosuits made the levels a lot more vertical and broke the traditional gameplay. The new maneuvers in Black Ops III are much more grounded with the biggest caveat being you can’t jump on everything. Unfortunately, it’s not always conveyed what you can and cannot jump on so trial and error will cause some initial frustration. The next thing you’ll notice is that in addition to the perks and customizable loadouts, you can now select a specialist. Specialists will set your player character for the match and more importantly give you an additional ability. Some abilities are straight damage dealers and others will give you an edge on the battlefield. They are essentially another perk but they are a perk you will consistently get a couple times each match.

For traditional competitive multiplayer, the next thing you’ll notice is a completely new mode. This mode is called Arena and should quickly become the favorite in tournaments. Basically, when you enter one of these games, each player will first have an option to either protect or ban any items or abilities from that match. This means if you have a favorite style of play and relies on a specific item, protect it. If you think something is overpowered, ban it. After everyone makes their selection, you can then you can edit your loadouts and perks to move adjust anything you want for different strategies. The game is smart enough to tell you if you have anything banned equipped. It’s very similar Dota 2 tournaments and other games like it. Overall, it’s a big step forward. With so many items and so many different abilities and perks, it’s hard to balance it all. This is one creative way for the community to potentially keep everything fair and force others to adopt new strategies.

The last big mode for multiplayer is a cooperative experience called Zombies. This is completely different from the campaign and other multiplayer offerings and can even be played alone. If you’ve played a lot of the recent Call of Duty titles, this is a mode that shouldn’t be new. Essentially, at its core, it’s a wave-based horde mode that has you fighting off ever increasingly difficult zombies and other creatures. Treyarch started it with World at War and it was an unexpected hit. Over time, it has been built up more and more. With the base Black Ops III, you will have access to a single map called Shadows of Evil. If you have the season pass, you’ll also get a remake of Der Riese from World at War. Each of these maps offer their own stories and their own special features. Overall, if you enjoyed Zombies before, this is even better. There are more things to do and new enemies to fight. It’s unfortunate that a map is already locked behind the season pass but Shadows of Evil should keep you occupied for some time to unlock all of its secrets.
The online features are comprehensive and impressive. Whether you’re a competitive player, cooperative player, or somewhere in-between, there is something here for you. There is even a mode that has you using your cybernetic abilities to navigate obstacle courses for the best time. The biggest disappointment though is one that encompasses the entire game. One of the main hallmarks of the Call of Duty franchise is the ability get into a match quicker than it takes other games to load the main menu. Unfortunately, logging into their Call of Duty service takes as long as it takes to get into a match. The total time to match is about on par for other shooters but a little disappointing for Call of Duty. The other issue is that suspend is essentially nonfunctional because it kicks you back to the main menu and has to reconnect to the service. This even affects single player and will kick you out of the game if it loses connection. In summation, I am sure their online service may be helping with hacks but it needs to speed up as well as not hinder single player and suspending the game.

Call of Duty got into a rut last generation. As every other game was advancing graphically, each iteration of the franchise started to look the same. This is not the same story anymore. Black Ops III looks amazing. The game wields an impressive amount of lighting, volumetric, and post-processing effects that culminate in nearly every scene looking great. And these techniques are leveraged nearly universally through the campaign, not just for specific sections. Then on top of this, you add all the action, explosions, and high frame rate you expect from Call of Duty, it makes for quite the spectacle. The characters are wonderfully modeled and you will definitely notice some familiar faces from various movies and television shows. The faces in cutscenes look great and are very expressive but in-game they could be a bit better. Levels are also commonly very dark and enemies blend a bit too easily in with surroundings but it’s mostly nullified by a specific vision mode the game offers. Overall though, Black Ops III looks absolutely amazing.

Binding the graphics to the world is the audio work and Black Ops III does a good job in this department. The Hollywood talent that lent their faces also all do their own audio work and for the most part they all do a good job. The soundtrack also does a good job but it lacks a consistent theme to bring it all together. There are some decent tracks but they rarely ascend greater than the context they are used. It also disappointingly has no linkage to the prior titles in the Black Ops franchise, which also suffered from the same issue. The remaining sound design is quite impressively done, as is a Call of Duty tradition. The explosions sound amazing as well as all the other environmental effects. The only issues are some guns sound weak and during pre-rendered cutscenes, the voice audio is annoyingly low. Overall, the game does a good job of sucking you into the game and immersing you in the action. The voice acting and soundtrack help but it’s the foundation that ties it all together.

Call of Duty may have had a down year several years ago but Advanced Warfare and now Black Ops III show that it is back and getting better every year. The new movement system and flat out fantastic campaign show that it still has plenty of life. The multiplayer is a blast and the campaign is fully cooperative with up to four of your friends. Zombies keeps getting better and this year the additional depth is great. It is unfortunate that one of the two zombie maps at launch is locked behind the season pass though. In addition to this, there is a bunch of other minor features like a freerun mode, nightmare mode, and a ton of customization options. The graphics look fantastic and the audio keeps everything going forward. This game is packed to the brim and it all shines. Treyarch poured a lot of love into this title and it shows. Whether you’re getting it for the campaign, multiplayer, or zombies, it’s hard to be disappointed. Call of Duty doesn’t slow down on this release and proves the formula can still deliver fantastic experiences.


The game is packed to the brim and it all shines. Whether you’re getting it for the campaign, multiplayer, or zombies, it’s hard to be disappointed.


Great use of lighting, volumetric, and post-processing effects make this an incredibly beautiful looking game.


The sound design foundation is as solid as ever. Soundtrack is good yet lacks a distinct sound or a consistent theme. Good voice acting with a star-rich cast. Cutscene voice audio levels too low.


Feature packed and experience rich. Call of Duty doesn’t slow down on this release and proves the formula can still deliver fantastic experiences.

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