Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops III

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It’s almost fitting that Call of Duty: Black Ops III is the first in the franchise to be affiliated with PlayStation. Like Halo 5: Guardians on Xbox, both suffer from weird campaigns that are bolstered by compelling multiplayer action.

Oh, except Black Ops III also has zombies. And couch co-op.

The futuristic setting of Black Ops III explores the idea of man-versus-becoming-machine even more than in last year’s Advanced Warfare. After a couple horrific accidents – one, front and centre at E3 this year – you basically end up more machine than man. Sad, yes… but at least through the process, you gain access to neat, futuristic technology over 11 amazingly-confusing campaign missions. Like, I have no idea what actually happened confusing.

The new Direct Neural Interface chip implanted into your brain gives you access to on-screen hazard notifications, target tracking and more. Also, new to the mix are Cyber Cores – in the veins of Chaos, Martial or Control – each of which affect gameplay and help you to cater to your own unique play style. Theoretically, you should try to become familiar with the entire range, though I admittedly fell back upon my favourite two or three. You really can’t beat fireflies or immolation.

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Loadouts also cater to different play types, and you can fiddle with them whenever you hit an in-game safe house. Said safe houses also provide access to one of the Zombie modes in Black Ops III: Dead Ops Arcade II. It’s a top-down twin-stickish shooter that’ll occasionally drop back into first-person mode. It’s great fun and helps to break up the campaign – especially if you’re tackling it on a higher difficult setting.

Ah, difficulty settings. They’ve been changed up a bit, and essentially everything is now harder. Hardened is required to earn trophies or achievements now, so be prepared to step up your game if you’re a Normal player. Normal as in difficulty, not if you’re in the majority or something. No judgements here.

At any rate, campaign might be nothing more than a fun primer for multiplayer for some. That is, fun until you try out higher difficulties like the one-shot kill crazy Realistic mode. In single-player, it’s nigh impossible; I imagine you’d have a better go with dedicated medics in a proper four-player team.

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Don’t forget, last-gen versions of Black Ops III don’t have a campaign, so stick with current-gen. And put away your last-gen console just because you should have by now.

Zombies forms a central pillar of the Black Ops III experience. Playing as one of a multitude of famously-faced Morg City residents – including the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough and Ron Perlman – you’re tasked to perform standard mode fare. Running around a large map, fixing barriers, grabbing new weaponry and most importantly, building up that score. A great new addition is the idea of The Beast, a demonic transformation activated for a short period by sporadically placed blue torches. After throwing tentacles around for a while, it really makes you feel like you’re playing The Darkness rather than CoD. Zombies is fun enough, but I found myself more interested in Dead Ops Arcade II on the whole.

Multiplayer goes back to the familiar Pick 10 format (13? Really?) and features  myriad modes including Free-for-All, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, Capture the Flag, Demolition, Kill Confirmed, Gun Game, Uplink and Safeguard. The latter requires you to escort a robot from point A to point B, and can be quite fun… providing those you’re playing with stick to objectives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, classic, kill ‘em all modes generally end up the most satisfying.

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Traversal is one of the best parts about Black Ops III’s multiplayer, easily surpassing Titanfall as my wall-runner of choice. As you learn to move around vertically-inclined areas, almost Mirror’s Edge style, you’ll wonder why Call of Duty kept to the ground for so long. All this, combined with ability-specific Specialists make multiplayer a mode you’ll keep coming back to, if nothing else than to grab that next skill or Gunsmith part that’s just within reach.

Call of Duty is finally evolving, and it’s fitting that Treyarch seems to be leading the charge (don’t worry, Sledgehammer – you weren’t too far behind). What they’ve made available this year is a neat little package with a variety of modes that’ll cater to any first-person shooting enthusiast. It’s hard to go wrong with this one, folks.

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops III was reviewed using a promotional disc on PS4, as provided by the publisher.

 

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops III
8 out of 10

The good

  • Cyber cores and loadouts provide variety in campaign.
  • Zombies, in one form another, is great fun.
  • Multiplayer is amazing, as is wall-running.

The bad

  • I have no idea what happened in the campaign.
  • Tougher difficulties might be too tough.

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