Ah, the fall season!
A time where we can break out our turtle neck sweaters and enjoy the plethora of pumpkin spice concoctions in controversial themed cups from our local Starbuck overlords while exchanging smack talk with juveniles over team-speak. Yes, its Call of Duty Season! And this year, Treyarch has bestowed upon us another title in the series annual line-up with Black Ops III. Time to dust off those camo-themed peripherals and get on with the gettin’ some!
Despite how you may feel about a series with more sequels than the Rocky, Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and their red-headed step child of a sibling, Sledgehammer games, have done a fairly decent job of pushing the envelope of multiple story arcs while managing to keep an aging series fresh. Its in this respect that BO3 does NOT disappoint. It may not bestow the shock and awe of previous series titles or tickle our gluttonous retinas with eye candy goodness, however, in respect to being a worthy title to the line-up, it does its job with spades!
Having been a fan of the series since the first title blew onto PCs in 2003, I’ve played every mainstream Windows release (with the exception of Adv. Warfare) with varying degrees of interest. Regardless, I never walked away without feeling entertained. They’re like Schwarzenegger movies. You know its going to be a short cheesy romp with over the top visuals and a dialog consisting mostly of one-liners, but you know damn well you’re secretly going to enjoy it on some primordial level. Such has been the case with the last few CoDs I’ve laid my greasy mitts on. I found them satisfying, but none of them were particularly noteworthy. Enter Black Ops III.
I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I realize the series has moved toward a dystopian future setting, so there were no surprises there. Generally I really don’t care for the tactical cyborg genre, feeling as though too many gadgets and gizmos ruin the recipe. That’s where I was wrong! BO3 serves up your standard mix of drones, robots, and cybernetics, and it does it well! Also, it unashamedly borrows the functional (emphasis on “fun”) elements from series like Titanfall and Deus Ex while retaining the romantically grim facade which is the signature of the Call of Duty Franchise. There were times I actually had to remember I was playing a CoD title.
In Single Player, the action begins immediately. It takes only moments from the time you start the campaign until your first round rips through its target. No prolonged dialogs. No extended training sessions. You’re a veteran, and you’re treated as such. As the slaying moves from pedestrian soldier to blood fueled automaton, you garner a glimpse what your future holds. Although the opening segment somehow feels less epic than its older counterparts, the excitement builds as it ultimately climaxes with your gruesome transition from GI Joe to 6 million dollar man (or about 50 million in 2065 Benjamins.)
Enter the Matrix.
Your training as All-American Cyborg begins in coma as your team mates (including Jason Statham B-Stringer Christopher Meloni, and the lovely yet brutal Katee Sackhoff) can communicate with you telepathically via implant. Super Powers DO require practice after all, and who has the time to deal with that in real life? Its here where the scope of your abilities become apparent with wall running, robotic possession, and various atomic wrestling maneuvers at your disposal (all of which sadly lack the melodic accompaniment of the late 90s sensational electro pop duo, the Propellerheads.) Switching abilities and customizing your character is seamless. Also, being able to drop a techno filled fist bomb on the baddies is immensely satisfying!
In between missions you segue to the local safe house where you can view your acquired trophies, change outfits, and select load outs/modules for your next mission. The breathing room is a welcome change in a series renowned for its endless action. Missions can be played in order, or repeated at your leisure to earn additional achievements or pick up missed items (and trust me, you’re going to miss a few the first time around).
Its the freedom of choice that makes this rendition of a CoD title appealing.
Planning out the best course of action to move through missions grants a tactical edge to a series which, in the past, lead you on via proverbial carrot. The customization options, though not exactly new, allow you to gear up for the task at hand. I’ve always despised the fact that my choice of fire arm has been left to the Developer Gods in previous iterations. If I want to bring a rocket launcher to a stealth mission, its my damn right to do so, and BO3 supports that decision!
The multiplayer mode makes use of your progress in single player, providing you with unlock-able goodies to use against the unwashed masses. Traditionally, I’ve shied away from CoD online play. Having moved from its moderately paced WW2 origins, the series has evolved into a spray and pray spectacular that is only eclipsed by the likes of zero gravity juggernauts such as Unreal Tournament. Translation: everything moves so fast I can’t hit S&%t. So, another plus to Black Ops 3! Although quickly paced, the controls feel tight and precise. I’m still no marksman, but having left my first match with a K/D ratio of 7/8 I felt I could still hold my head high (unlike those poor bastards with the 0/10+). The wall running really shines here adding a strategy angle that was adopted from the lackluster Titanfall. With multiple play modes and a fair amount of customization, the multiplayer segment is sure to keep you partying ’til the next rendition!
Last but not least, we have Zombies. I remember the sheer excitement of the first zombie game, having debuted with World at War. Zombies? In Call of Duty???!!!! It failed to disappoint, and over the years its I’ve looked forward to the various twists placed on the game mode, from the horror bad-assery of Romero vs Trejo, Gelson, Rooker, and Englund, to the Illuminati esque cadre of Kennedy, Castro, McNamara and Nixon. But this time Treyarch gave us something very special, ripped out of the cold dead fingers of Andrew Ryan himself. Set in the 30s you take the role of a down and out celebutante as they are thrust into a supernatural Lovecraftian cluster-f*ck to regain their souls as they plow through legions of the undead. It feels like a “lost levels” rendition of BioShock, and I love every aspect of it! From the super power enducing gum balls to the rain soaked alleyways of sin city, every detail has been crafted to perfection. All bias aside, It has been one of the best versions of zombies to date!
All in All Black Ops 3 is a worthy contender of your hard earned dollars. On top of the broad scope of the single player campaign paired with the limitless zombie and multiplayer modes, a little bird mentioned that mod support is possibly coming to the platform sometime next year. If that does come to fruition, I can only imagine the possibilities of what the CoD community will cook up! Call of Duty Black Ops 3 gets a 91 out of 100. Treyarch has called it a labor of love, and for once, it shows.