Editor’s Note, Nov. 15, 2018: The following review is posted for archival purposes only. It is shown in its original form, and may not meet our current editorial standards.
Platform Played: PS4 (Disc Version)
Time Played: 12 Hours
This time around, Call of Duty takes a few steps back in the right direction.
For me, Call of Duty has always been the quintessential online shooter experience. The series has mastered the genre in which it resides, and it has made for some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a multiplayer shooter. But for the past few years, Call of Duty seemed to have lost its way, with the disaster that was Ghosts and the game-changing additions (that I very much liked) put in Advanced Warfare by Sledgehammer Games. And while I enjoyed Advanced Warfare, for the past two years, Call of Duty just hasn’t felt much like Call of Duty.
With the latest iteration of the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, developer Treyarch decided to take a few steps back from the previous game. The ability to “dash” left and right or forward and backward is gone; now the only thing you can do with your jet pack is double jump and wall run. This makes the game feel much more grounded, and it plays more like an older Call of Duty than Advanced Warfare did. This will no doubt please players who yearned for a more “classic feeling” Call of Duty after Advanced Warfare, but will also appeal to the folks who liked the movement changes. As for myself, I really enjoyed the exo-suit in Advanced Warfare and didn’t care too much for the new system at first, but after playing the game for the past few days I’ve not only come to enjoy the new movements quite a bit, but I’ve also realized that they are a significant improvement over Advanced Warfare’s system.
One of the biggest problems with Advanced warfare was how difficult it was to judge where enemy players might come from, because they could jump and dash around things; they could have literally come from anywhere relative to your position. It was chaotic, and while it made the game feel much more fast paced and action packed, it was often very frustrating. While flanking is still very much a thing in Black Ops III (as it has been in every other Call of Duty, ever), the more ground-based movement makes for a more balanced game and a less frustrating experience for players.
Apart than the movement, Black Ops III makes a few other changes in multiplayer. The “Pick-10” class system from Black Ops II is back, allowing players 10 slots for guns, weapon attachments, perks, grenades, and wildcards. Scorestreaks are once again universal, instead of attached to classes, which is why there are 3 less slots available than in Advanced Warfare. I personally favor Advanced Warfare’s class system over Black Ops III, not only because you get more slots but also because I like to be able to change my scorestreaks on the fly in game, which is impossible in Black Ops III. Weapon unlocks work the same way as in Black Ops II, each weapon has it’s own level system and as you level up you unlock more attachments for the weapon; you can prestige your weapon up to two times like in Black Ops II as well.
Black Ops III also introduces “specialists,” which are special classes that each have two abilities, one being offensive and one being defensive. Your specialist ability charges throughout a match, either by getting kills, playing the objective, or just letting time pass. The specialists are cool, and they are fun to use, but ultimately they just don’t add that much to the game, since they aren’t incredibly powerful (most of the time) and you only get them about 2 or 3 times in a match. I would have liked to have seen a more useful or more powerful specialist.
Perhaps one of the most surprising changes in Black Ops III is that knifing is not a guaranteed one hit kill anymore, going against every other Call of Duty made to date. Instead knifing is a two hit kill from the front, and a one hit kill from the back. While this deters “panic-knifing” and frustrating deaths, it’s also equally frustrating when you yourself are the one knifing and, instead of killing people, you are dying because you forgot that knifing isn’t a guaranteed kill anymore. Obviously this doesn’t affect the gameplay greatly, it’s just a minor change that will take some getting used to. And if you really want a one hit kill knife, you still have to option to equip the combat knife as a secondary.
Other than those few changes Black Ops III is still a Call of Duty game, and it plays like a Call of Duty game. You kill fast and die fast, different guns don’t really feel that different, you capture objectives, and you earn scorestreaks. If you’ve always enjoyed Call of Duty, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you’ve felt like Call of Duty has been lacking for a few years, you actually may want to try this one out; Treyarch seems to have found a good balance between the twitchy, aerobatic movements and the ground-based, classic Call of Duty movements. If you hate Call of Duty, you’ll probably hate this one too. Overall, for me, this has been the most fun I’ve had in Call of Duty since Black Ops II, and while it may not be perfect, it certainly does better than the previous two games.