Review: Call of Duty – Black Ops III
Another year, another November, and of course another Call of Duty. After the complicated relationship with Infinity Ward, which led to the foundation of Respawn Entertainment (producers of Titanfall with EA), Call of Duty goes through a yearly rotation between Sledgehammer, with Advanced Warfare and Treyarch this year with Black Ops. Deemed as the messiah of the Call of Duty franchise, Treyarch have the tough job of reviving this franchise, bringing their prize zombie mode in the game, and to show off that they are the pedigree of the saga, much like they did with Call of Duty 4 back in the days, with Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
The story of Call of Duty: Black Ops III fits into the continuity of its predecessors – Advance Warfare – and begins forty years after the events of Black Ops II. In the middle of the XXI century, and while the world is still dominated by armed drones and all kinds of anti-aircraft defense system, Call of Duty: Black Ops III opens up with a hostage and rescue mission in a military base. Under the orders of squad leader Hendricks, our hero (or heroine since the game now lets you choose your gender), you will have to save a minister detained in militia jails, being tortured for intels. And it is in the midst of this environment that appears another group of soldiers working for the CIA and led by a certain Taylor. Taking advantage of various mechanical and body modifications, these soldiers demonstrate increased superhuman fighting abilities and allows the mission to advance smoothly. Unfortunately, this advantage does not benefit the protagonist who, in full extraction phase, is cut off from its allies and ended up being beaten by an overzealous robot, losing both arms and left to die.
Saved at the last moment by Taylor, the hero will go through clinical enhancement to mainly survive his injuries, but get ready to adorn a range of body enhancements, and eventually learning to use them in a series of simulations throughout the first chapter. Without revealing more about the adventure, I must admit that this campaign proves to be a real disappointment, both in its development as its gameplay. The story has an extremely slow start, and plays too much on the topic of other soldiers and hallucinations that increase due to your enhancements. Thanks to the various chips and embedded software, our main protagonist will have to hack into other the other characters in order to unravel the plot. If the subject of post-traumatic shock and soldiers who lose all common sense is a topic close to the heart to Treyarch, the staging borrows here too much from the film industry (Inception mainly) and while trying to make sense, the story is lost in its own adventures, unable to propose a main antagonist or even create a really clear long-term goal.
the story is lost in its own adventures
If I must obviously welcome the willingness of developers to come out of the shackles of traditional war hero / American soldier, the story is set in extremely conventional phases (basic infiltration, guerrilla warfare against an urban militia …), sometimes leaving players stunned, mainly by the degree of complexity of this unnecessary adventure. I just don’t get it, and it doesn’t make any sense.
If the story is a failure, the game offers some interesting parts; cutscenes rendered using the game engine show off the excellent work on animations and a more global graphic quality. Sets are full of details, lighting effect is pretty good and made to reach 60 fps even on consoles, rendering the experience perfectly smooth. However, Call of Duty: Black Ops III is sometimes rough and cinematics sometimes run at 30 fps, while decked out with a blur effect that hurts the eye, a few framerate drops here and there, the shadows of a definition sometimes dubious about the characters or textures struggling to load properly, displaying some elements too late.
Gameplay wise, the campaign was made in a way that pushes for cooperative play, accommodating up to four grunts, which should make this experience more fun in really boring levels. Many of the levels are fairly set like open arenas under construction, with an architecture that allows travel in all directions. A good point in coop ‘, but a real ordeal for a lone wolf, as you will most of the time be the only target of enemy shots and bombs. Like every other Call of Duty, enemy AI seems to totally ignore your bot allies, focusing entirely on you.
Nevertheless, a fun addition to this game was the introduction of the safehouse, as a hub between missions bringing a fresh breeze to the title. It’s make possible to arrange your teammates tactics before leaving for an operation, regroup, visit the armory, play around with customization options and even try VR missions. Finally, I welcome the decisions taken by Treyarch to unify the experience between the different modes, where players will find a unified interface whether on the campaign, the zombie mode and even multiplayer mode, allowing to create something much more coherent.
If the campaign mode does not leave a strong impression for me, it’s with the multiplayer mode that I finally find enjoyable gaming experience. No real surprise since it takes the gameplay basics introduced by Call of Duty 4, merged experience still fluid and dynamic. However Treyarch offers a novelty with the jetpack, which now works with a small reservoir and the ability of characters to wall-run, Titanfall style. If the level design offers good playgrounds, I only regret the ubiquity of invisible walls drastically limiting the space and at no time offering clues to indicate that the player will be blocked. Beyond this small disappointment, and couple of server hiccups, it is still as fun to play as it used to be in the orginal Black Ops, even if I regret a lack of renewal in depth. You find multiple classes to personalize with a point system, while providing more flexibility for different configurations, but it is regrettable to still face the same mechanical experience to unlock weapons and equipment. While Battlefield Hardline recently changed the situation, to acquire guns in any order you want, Call of Duty: Black Ops III imposes these XP gain to unlock gear. After more than eight years using the same structure and provide more or less the same weapon archetypes, it becomes almost too regular for players to repeat the process year after year, even if weapon names change.
The title nevertheless offers other modes, with some welcomed ones. The Arena Mode offers something pretty cool since it includes a draft system, usually found in the likes of MOBA title before getting into the fight. Designed by the creators of e-sports as an evolution of League Play, Arena also assign a rank to its participants in order to balance the parties, while relying on wins to avoid the phenomenon of reverse boosting, to prevent certain down levels of intentionally losing party. If the system has the merit of proposing something quite interesting, the draft phases often proves far too long and you finally spend most of your time in the menus, waiting for the guys on your team, or the opposite one to make their choice.
Finally, how can I talk about Call of Duty: Black Ops with mentioning the Zombie Mode? Back in full throttle and currently offering a story entitled Shadow of Evil, it is filled with a cast of choice: Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough and Ron Perlman have lent their faces and voices to the four unfortunate prisoners of the City of Morg, an American fictional town set in the forties whose mixture design is both art deco and art nouveau. There’s an excellent work made to set the mood, and Morg City offers a very pleasant game area with a level design that works quite well, although we would have appreciated a little less of cramped areas. Heroes now have Gobblegums, a sort of candy dispensers in order to take advantage of new passive abilities and are also possible to transform into a demonic beast, using small altars scattered on the map. That beast mode, makes you fight with tentacles, and guarantee some relief when faced by large group; but I only regret the lack of information about the controls of this monster.
Morg also comes with its share of secrets to discover and ask adventurers to collect various relic to reach as usual new hidden areas. However, the lack of dedicated servers (unlike the rest of the multiplayer mode) turns mostly this experience into a series of rollback and teleportation, making it more than random multiplayer experience. It will be imperative to play with a group of friends including a host with a powerful connection, otherwise it will be difficult to play in Shadow of Evil.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable copy of the game provided by Activision. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (without a campaign mode), PlayStation 4 and PC. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• The most complete Call of Duty experience
• Quite flattering graphic wise
• A Multiplayers mode that wors
• Hardcore Mode still on top
• Awesomely designed Zombie mode
• Finally a unified interface
• Visual customization of weapons
• A story that doesn't make any sense
• Totally failed solo campaign
• The same mechanical XP system
• No dedicated servers for zombie mode
• The invisible walls on multiplayer maps
• The unbearable waiting times in lobbies