Yesterday marked the end of the multiplayer-beta for the massively anticipated game, Call of Duty: Black Ops III on Playstation 4. With just over 2 months left before the game’s launch on November 6th, the time has come for gamers everywhere to put Treyarch’s latest work to the test. I have to confess, I haven’t owned a Call of Duty game or even been all that interested in one since Modern Warfare 2 in 2010. That said, I’ve had an itchy trigger finger as of late and the game’s previews have left me impressed by its new additions. I spent a good chunk of my weekend flexing my augmentations and dodging nanobots while testing out Black Ops III and while it still needs polish, I was left wanting more. Here are a few of my thoughts on how the game is shaping up…
Has the Call of Duty formula finally evolved?
The most prominent reason for my hiatus from the COD franchise was that there just didn’t seem to be much growth between each iteration to garner much interest. Future-tech may have been introduced with Advanced Warfare, but Black Ops III beefs things up by putting body augmentations and class customization at the forefront of its gameplay. You can customize just about every aspect of 9 different “specialist” classes. Want to stack 6 perks and become a superhuman or deck out your main weapon with accessories? You can, but prepare for it to be at the cost of your grenades, or maybe even your secondary weapon. BLOPS3 allows for an insane amount of customization that allows players to tailor-make their class to fit their playstyle. It’s a system that could add incredible depth to teams’ strategies in multiplayer if Treyarch can manage to balance everything. For the record: I found myself ditching all of my grenades in exchange for a fully fitted assault rifle and an extra perk.
The maps were possibly my favorite part of the beta.
Solid gameplay is nice but ultimately useless if the maps aren’t worthy of showcasing it. Luckily this wasn’t the case with the BLOPS3 beta. It may have only featured 3 maps, but each of them had a variety of set pieces that allowed for a wide range of styles of play. It may just be my relative lack of experience with recent COD games, but the maps felt larger than previous iterations. I particularly enjoyed the map hunted, which takes place in an African resort/camp of some kind and provided ample areas for both close-quarter and long range combat. It could have been the fact that I only played team deathmatch, but the maps of BLOPS3 seems to use very few choke points. There are a TON of alleys cutting from one area to another; likely as a result of being designed around the game’s parkour-like movement. It helped keep round moving and really cut down on camping. Staying in one spot often meant you’d have a team of baddies flanking you before you had a chance to rack up any kills. It all adds up to matches that feel more akin to arena shooters of the past like Unreal Tournament or Quake than traditional COD games, and I for one fully support the transition.
The sound design is incredibly satisfying.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Call of Duty games have always had stellar sound design to compliment their on-screen spectacles. BLOPS3 is no exception. After coming back to the series after so long I was repeatedly pleased with just how satisfying the games sound effects are. Every gun sounds unique and carries with it a hefty pop. Levels come to life with ambient noises that help ground the world as a real place, and you can hear gun battles echoing throughout each map to signal you to the turmoil that surrounds you. Obviously I’m hyping up this aspect of the beta, but take a moment in the middle of a match to close your eyes and take it all in and you’ll see why BLOPS3 deserves it.
Technical issues are small, but noticeable and frustrating.
The beta wasn’t entirely perfect however, far from it. During my time with BLOPS3 I noticed several technical flaws that put a damper on my experience. The most egregious of these flaws was loose hitboxes. I often found my shots connecting with the air around my target and registering as hits. It’s a problem that has plagued past COD games and online shooters in general. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it can certainly make for a frustrating experience when you notice it more often than you should. This little problem was often extrapolated by lag spikes during matches. That could easily be an issue with my own internet setup, but most of the time I experienced these spikes the connection indicators on the scoreboard showed there shouldn’t have been any issues. These kinds of problems are exactly what a beta is meant to fix however, so I’m opting to be patient and hope that Treyarch tightens up their code by the time the game launches in November.
I do believe I am back on the Call of Duty bandwagon and I want more.
I barely scratched the surface of the Black Ops III beta, but I saw more than enough to get me interested in Treyarch latest entry into the series. The gameplay is up to the standards of the COD franchise and it seems the the feature-rich additions to the game provide the necessary improvements to consider this a sizable evolution to the COD formula. There are still a few kinks to work out, but if Treyarch can put in the effort to pull it all together they have the necessary parts to create one of the best Call of Duty games we have ever seen, and I say that as a gamer who had previously sworn off the franchise entirely. If you missed the PS4 launch of the beta don’t fret, the Xbox 360 and PC tests have just launched. Try them out for yourself and tell me what you think of the game yourself.