Call of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops II are widely considered to be among the best Call of Duty titles ever released, so it makes sense that Activision and Treyarch would want to release Black Ops III. A third entry into the highly popular Black Ops franchise, Activision has opted to release a public beta to instill confidence, something they have not done since Call of Duty: World at War. I’ve gotten the chance to spend more than two weeks, on PS4 and Xbox One, with the beta and can say that Black Ops III is set to be a good game, but it won’t be the revolution the franchise sorely needs.
Probably the best thing that can be said of Black Ops III is that its gameplay feels just like Black Ops II. Seeing as how popular that title still is, that’s a good thing for numerous players. Time-to-kill, player weight and guns all have a similar feel to the last Black Ops title, making it easy for previous players to jump in. Likewise, the control scheme is the exact same as previous Call of Duty games. You’ll still use ADS, crouch, go prone, throw lethal and tactical grenades and arm yourself with a wide array of guns and perks.
Create-a-Class reverts to the Pick 10 system Treyarch designed for Black Ops II. Players can pick and choose a combination of ten weapons, attachments, perks,and wildcards to take into battle. There’s a wide array of assault rifles, submachine guns, light machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, launchers and special weapons. Though it’s hard to tell based on the beta, it feels like Black Ops III will have more than enough weapons, perks and equipment to keep players interested long after launch.
Of course Black Ops III does introduce some new mechanics that could be divisive, including jetpacks and parkour elements, which were previously seen in Titanfall and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The big difference between this game and those previous games is that these elements are extremely toned down. The jetpacks in Black Ops III will only take you high enough to reach a second story, and the dodge thrust mechanic from Advanced Warfare has been removed. The parkour elements are typically used for sliding around and wall-running, which can be performed on any wall. During my playtime, I did not encounter any problems with these mechanics and appreciate how toned down they are from Advanced Warfare. As this is a divisive issue in the community, however, some may want to wait to see if Treyarch will offer game modes without the jetpack.
Then there are the Specialists, unique classes with two abilities. Before you start multiplayer you will be prompted to select one, and then one of their two abilities. It’s best to think of Specialists like Destiny’s different classes and sub-classes. Each class has two different sub-classes, each with their own unique special. These specials can be offensive or defensive. For example, one Specialist can use a bow with arrow tips that explode; meanwhile another can encase herself in Kinetic Armor that protects her body. None of the available Specialists felt overpowered, but some of the abilities do feel useless, particularly those that require a player to get close to enemies. Only a few of them were available in the beta, so it will be interesting to see how the ones left out of the beta will impact the game’s balance.
While Black Ops III feels like Call of Duty and the new mechanics work are implemented well, there’s nothing here that is revolutionary. There’s nothing wrong with that, as Treyarch has crafted a fun game based on a formula that they know, but this is the same formula that Infinity Ward pioneered seven years ago with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare The parkour and Specialists are neat, but other games already did them.
This may just be a beta, but there are a few technical issues plaguing it. Luckily, Treyarch appears to be attentive and fixing as much as they can. For example, earlier this week the beta suffered from extreme player count balancing. It was pretty common to end up in some pretty lopsided matches, such as a 5vs2 match. Treyarch did fix this, and I hope we don’t see this in the final product.
There are those issues, and then there are issues that continue to plague the franchise. Spawning has, and continues to be a thorn in Call of Duty’s side, except it feels worse here. The addition of the jetpacks increases the speed of the game allowing players to quickly traverse the map and get from one side to the other. This allows skilled players to either A) easily flip a team’s spawn point or B) get easy spawn kills. Like I said, spawning problems aren’t new to the Call of Duty franchise, but they feel particularly painful in Black Ops III, and I don’t think Treyarch has a solution.
Then of course there’s the lag. Leg has been a serious issue since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and has only gotten worse since, especially since these games have gotten faster. Black Ops III does have lag, but it is nowhere near as bad Ghosts or Advanced Warfare. Treyarch has also included a nifty feature in the pause menu to track your ping. It’s a nice addition, but a solid fix for the lag would have been much more appreciated. Expect some cheap deaths from around the corner.
A new year always means a new Call of Duty, and with that comes the big question; should I get this year’s game? Treyarch has been on a roll, releasing Call of Duty titles that continuously improve upon their previous entry. Call of Duty: Black Ops III does have issues, though its hard to tell if these issues will carry over from the beta into the final product. The beta, however, does prove one thing: Black Ops III is fun, though not revolutionary.