Published on November 19th, 2015 | by Sean Warhurst
Call of Duty: Black Ops III PS4 Review
Summary: If you love the series you’ve already picked this up anyway...
Fishing for COD!
Like an unfortunate reoccurring case of Herpes, you can count on a new Call of Duty title to rear its head each year. The preceding analogy may give the impression that, like apparently half of the entire internet, I’m not a big fan of the series and dismiss it as being for “bros” who can’t wrap their minds around more complex gaming fare, but that’s not entirely true.
The truth is that no, I’m not a massive fan but I do respect the series for maintaining a fairly consistent level of quality throughout the years and the strong multiplayer community stands as a testament to this.
Personally I’ve not played an instalment since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to having quite a lot of fun with the game. Prior to that I’d only played the first World War II based title, so my experience with the series as a whole is extremely lacking.
Jumping in to Call of Duty: Black Ops III then was a daunting prospect, particularly in regards to the multiplayer component; severely outclassed and unfamiliar with many of the changes to the formula, I feared that it’d be relatively impenetrable to a newcomer such as myself.
My first realisation upon booting up the game was that this was a wholly different experience to that of Modern Warfare, with the futuristic technological leanings more reminiscent of the Deus Ex series than the aforementioned game.
I first delved into the campaign mode, partly because I wanted to get to grips with the new mechanics and abilities on offer and partly because I dreaded going in to the multiplayer unprepared.
The story starts off relatively straightforward but soon descends into a gleefully incoherent mess that somehow still manages to entertain; the final few stages are absolutely insane, literally, as the unnamed protagonist struggles to discern between reality and hallucinations that can be either attributed to his spinal implant chip (The DNI, short for Direct Neural Interface, that grants the protagonist special abilities such as being able to directly link up with computer systems) or simply to losing his ever tenuous grip on reality. You can approach the missions in a linear fashion or choose each one at your discretion, though I played through from beginning to end in order to experience the story as Treyarch intended.
Players take control of this unnamed soldier as he joins a covert mission in 2065 to free a foreign minister. Although the mission is a success, our hero is beset upon by robotic enemies, losing most of his limbs in the process before being rescued by Commander John Taylor (Wet Hot American Summer’s Christopher Meloni), a cybernetically enhanced operative who takes you under his wing and helps guide you through the subsequent adjustment period as you similarly have most of your mangled body replaced with artificial materials.
After coming to terms with your new body and the augmented reality overlay afforded by the DNI, which allows you to see the heat signatures of enemies as well as icons highlighting weapon types and a grid that marks areas where you’re most likely to receive damage, you embark on a mission to Singapore years later only to discover that Taylor has apparently gone rogue, mutilating a group of organised crime members and test subjects ostensibly to retrieve information that’ll lead him to the enigmatic location known as the “Frozen Forest”.
Using your enhanced combat abilities as well as skills like boost jumping and wall-running you embark on a quest to locate your former friend and discover the truth behind his uncharacteristic betrayal. The plot touches upon metaphysical concepts such as whether offering ourselves up to technology causes us to lose our humanity and, even worse, our free will, but long-time fans can rest assured that the usual gaudy action scenes and precision combat is still present, so it’s not all chin stroking stuff.
Still, the story actually raises a few valid concerns about the direction our increasingly technologically reliant society might be heading in and is a welcome change from the more straightforward plots in previous instalments (I read up on all of the entries I haven’t played prior to reviewing this, so I feel qualified to make such a statement).
But let’s take a look at the real draw of the game – The multiplayer.
Firstly, the campaign can be tackled with up to three other players and it feels like the game has been designed around this, with certain bullet-sponge enemies being much more manageable when working as a team rather than going it alone. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get through it solo but playing with others is easily the best way to play through the story.
Zombie mode is back again and this time it has its own storyline, pitting four murderous characters against ever increasing hordes of the undead and super annoying flying beasts. Featuring the vocal talents of Jeff Goldblum, amongst others, this component offers up all the fun of your usual horde mode, with gobblegum machines used to dispense perks and stat upgrades and special abilities such as taking control of a Cthulhu-esque creature shaking up the formula a little. Once you play through the main campaign you can unlock “Nightmare” mode, which allows you to replay the game with the levels now populated by Zombies, so in essence you get two zombified bangs for your buck.
Competitive multiplayer is more of the same, with team deathmatch and free-for-all seemingly the only two modes people actually play. The gunplay is as refined as ever and the addition of boost jumps and wall-running adds a new dimension to the combat. Most of the levels are designed to account for the increased verticality and, despite my initial misgivings, racking up a respectable score isn’t as difficult as one may think.
You can customise your loadout and rewards gained by attaining killstreaks, as well as take advantage of the new ‘Specialist classes; these allow you to unleash special attacks, such as unleashing a shockwave, adding holographic clones to confuse enemies or glitching back to a previous position, once a certain amount of time has passed during each match, adding a further degree of strategy to what can be a rather mindless, if incredibly fun, reflex shooter experience.
Graphics and Audio
The voice acting can be a little over the top and bombastic at times, and the main protagonist in the campaign just doesn’t sound like a hardened super soldier, but for the most part the cast do an admirable job with the admittedly silly and technical jargon laden script. Gunfire and explosions sound as robust as you’d hope and simple, ambient effects such as the crashing of waves and the whistle of the wind through a demolished building really help to create an atmosphere of realism.
The graphics, especially in the campaign mode, are sumptuous and a real treat for the eyes, with the visual spectacle levels cranked up to eleven as you witness explosive moments that give Hollywood blockbusters a real run for their money. Character models and animation are naturalistic and the environments are well designed and boast finely detailed textures… On current gen consoles, anyway. The efforts for both PS3 and Xbox 360 are absolutely shocking and it’s obvious that the lion’s share of the budget went to the current gen releases, which is just fine with me but is a bitg of a slap in the face to the user base that may have not yet upgraded.
I used to hear that Treyarch’s efforts with the Call of Duty series were inferior to that of Infinity Ward, and that may have been true in the past, but here Treyarch has really put their stamp on the game and created what is, in a nutshell, the game that made me come back to the series after such a lengthy time away.
The futuristic direction of the franchise may have some fans lamenting the more grounded Modern Warfare series or even a return to the trenches of World War 2 but it seems like this focus on the marriage between technology and man is here to stay for the time being and personally I feel it gives the series a bit more of an identity amongst the glut of generic shooters available.
Is the game perfect? Of course not – There are balancing issues with the campaign and among the specialist classes, some weapons are simply useless and there are still a phalanx of 14 year olds on multiplayer who revel in detailing the many ways they’ve violated your mother, but after the apparently disappointing Advanced Warfare and Ghosts, many are hailing Call of Duty: Black Ops III as the new high watermark for the series.
Suffice to say, if you love the series you’ve already picked this up anyway, and if you’re on the fence or have spent considerable time away from the franchise, as I had, then rest assured that not only is the entry barrier fairly forgiving for newcomers but the game also offers up enough challenge for veterans and, above all, is immensely fun, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really get FPS games.
Primary Format – Games – Playstation 4
Game Genre – Shooter
Rating – R18+
Game Developer – Treyarch
Game Publisher – Activision
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst