Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 | Review
The Good
  • + Well-balanced scorestreaks and guns
  • + Brilliantly designed maps keeps each match entertaining
  • + Co-op within the campaign definitely made it more enjoyable
The Bad
  • - Sometimes lobbies can be hard to find and the game states there are 13 players when the limit is only 12
  • - Repetitive and tiresome campaign story, not thrilling in the slightest
  • - No fun game mechanics that can usually only be seen in campaign missions
80%"Great"

Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…

Start Replay: “Shooty Shooty”

Once again the splendidly gaming-a-plenty month of November has arrived, and this year brings us the release of Treyarch’s next Call Of Duty, Black Ops III. Back in August I had the opportunity to play the beta which showcased a sneak peek of the multiplayer, but let’s address the campaign first.

 

Campaign

When Call of Duty rolls around, I routinely smash out the campaign before anything else; I’ve always found them to be thrilling, gripping and, above all, fun. Except this year.

Boasting the series’ first four-player cooperative campaign, I completed the entirety of my playtime alongside my friend, Josh. Though a little more enjoyable this extra level of participation didn’t help the story, since it lacked an engaging plot and was void of new and fascinating game mechanics. I struggled to pay attention to what my character was meant to be doing or what their intentions were. Sitting here writing the review I’m still unsure of what precisely happened during the repetitive and lacklustre set of levels.

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Packaging those levels is a story surrounding human augmentation, which takes place in the near-future. As a soldier who suffered extreme injuries in a mission, your character has had both arms amputated and replaced with robotic upgrades. Joining these enhancements is a Direct Neural Interface that’s implanted into the back of your skull; the DNI allows you to hack into a wide range of electronic equipment, including people.

If you’re reading this and thinking SPOILERS, then don’t worry; I neither have the mental capacity nor the patience to write about this in-depth. The campaign was a haphazard mess of shooting, explosions, annoyingly large robot tanks, shooting, explosions and shooting. If the scenery wasn’t on fire or collapsing then your game probably bugged out.

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In a similar fashion to its predecessor, Black Ops II, this third iteration attempts to offer a certain level of customisation for the player, including custom weapon loadouts and aesthetic alterations. Akin to multiplayer there is a levelling up system which awards you with fabrication kits; these act as unlock tokens for better gear in your classes. Collecting cyber cores enabled me to further upgrade and perform some pretty cool moves on the battlefield.

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There are 3 types; Control, Martial and Chaos, and under each type are 7 different ‘moves’. Control is all about hijacking the enemy robots’ systems and turning them against themselves or blowing them up remotely. Martial is based around melee combat and traversing around the field; enhanced movement speed, takedowns and invisibility to name but a few. Last but not least, Chaos, this is used to throw panic and confusion into the enemy’s ranks. This could be by releasing a swarm of nano-bots to blind them or tricking the enemy sensors into thinking there were threats other than yourself. These perks were fun, and often times extremely useful, which made the campaign only slightly more bearable.

After finishing the campaign on any difficulty you gain access to the Nightmare mode, this is essentially the same campaign missions but with Zombies as the enemy instead of humans or robots. There’s a well-polished monologue over the top but this doesn’t fit all too well as the characters mouths are still moving to the speech from the original campaign missions.

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My biggest gripe with Treyarch’s newest game is the lack of differentiation between each mission. As previously stated, it’s simply a whole bunch of shooting stuff and blowing other stuff up. Where is the stealth?! Roll back to the days of Modern Warfare 2 when you had to infiltrate a base completely undetected, THAT was fun.

And yes I know, it’s a different developer, but it’s still Call Of Duty; and Treyarch had stealth based missions in Black Ops I and II. It got a bit tiring having to maniacally shoot at anything that moved all the time, it would’ve been nice to slow things down a bit. With that being said there was one stealthy segment in the game, but it lasted all of 10 minutes and didn’t fill the ever growing hunger for sneakier, more tactical gameplay.

All in all I was incredibly disappointed with this year’s Call Of Duty campaign. It was a confusing, messy and downright boring mix of bangs and booms.

 

Multiplayer

Treyarch’s single-player for Black Ops III may have been lacking, but the multiplayer certainly does not. I thought my taste of the beta was good but the full package, it’s on a whole ‘nother level!

Multiplayer makes use of the same Create-a-Class mechanics as the previous Black Ops, whereby you have 10 points to use up; each point equates to a weapon, attachment, lethal, tactical, perk or wildcard. This means that you don’t necessarily have to stick to the usual class designs. Instead of opting for a primary and secondary with 3 perks, you could just have a primary weapon and 5 perks. It allows for much more flexible class options for use in all sorts of different scenarios, whether that be a stealthy class or maximum firepower.

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I personally love the 10 point class system as I tend to only use my primary weapon. I never use lethal or tactical grenades which means I have spare points left for extra perks. As you level up you earn unlock tokens and also unlock access to more equipment to use in your classes. You must spend an unlock token to be able to use this new equipment, pretty obvious really.

The biggest addition to this year’s Call Of Duty is the introduction of Specialists; these are characters that all have different unique skills. Each character has 2 skills; one offensive and the other more defensive. For example, the first specialist in the list, Ruin, has an aggressive skill called Gravity Spikes. When activated Ruin leaps forward and slams the spikes into the ground, killing anyone in close proximity, particularly effective in objective-based game modes. His other skill, Overdrive, allows him to run at a massively increased speed when activated. Every skill either has a time limit or a one-time use, the specialist ability then recharges over time. You can decrease this time by completing objectives or killing the enemy team. The Specialists are a really fantastic new game mechanic that result in the players having to be more aware of their surroundings. Some Specialists can seem a little overpowered but they do have their setbacks, although when used in the right hands, can be devastating.

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Scorestreaks have become a lot more balanced in Black Ops III. As the name suggests they are based off of your score and not your kills. The norm with Call Of Duty would be 3 kills for a UAV, but with it being based off of your score it actually takes 5 kills. This is true if you only get kills and don’t complete any objectives, but if you play a game mode such as Domination, securing a flag will greatly add to your current scorestreak. The usual ones are in the list: UAV, Sentry, Lightning Strike, but they’ve made changes to a few of the higher level rewards.

Remember the Orbital VSAT from Black Ops II? This was essentially a jacked up version of the UAV but also allowed you to see the direction the enemy was facing. Along with this was no refresh time, so what you saw on the mini-map was a real time indication of where the enemy were. This was often viewed as little too good as it couldn’t be shot down. The equivalent in Black Ops III is called the H.A.T.R and offers the same benefits, but you can now shoot it down. This is just one example of how Treyarch are listening to the community in order to make a much better, more enjoyable and well-rounded game.

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The maps are also pretty top-notch, I’ll admit, there are one or two that I still dislike, but not to the extent of other Call Of Duty maps. Each map is designed with the new thruster system in mind, which has carried over from 2014’s Advance Warfare but adds wall running as well. There are sections on each map that allow you to make use of the wall running in order to flank enemies. This can be a huge tactical advantage in any game mode; a short jump and run can land you directly behind the enemy and with a few shots they’re all dead. Combine this with a silenced weapon and the remaining enemy players left alive won’t know what’s going on.

There are few other additions to note in Black Ops III; the Black Market, the Arena, Freerun and, of course, zombies. The Black Market is the successor to supply drops in Advanced Warfare, instead of randomly receiving them you have to earn Cryptokeys. These keys are earned by completing public matches. It doesn’t matter how well or bad or you do, you gain progression towards the next key after every match.

If you play a full game from start to finish then that equates to 1 Cryptokey, if you join part way through then you’ll only progress a little bit to the next key. The keys are then used to purchase either a Common or Rare Supply Drop; the former costing 10 keys whilst the latter costs 30. Each drop contains 3 items and the difference between the two is that the Rare Supply Drop guarantees a rare item. The Common Supply Drop can still contain rare items but it’s completely random.

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What you receive in each drop is purely cosmetic; calling cards, camos for your weapon, variations of attachments or personalisation options for your Specialist characters. The supply drops in Advanced Warfare eventually made the game unbalanced, some players had variations of guns that were just ridiculously better than the bog standard version. These drops simply offer a few cool items to use in your classes or display in matches as calling cards. A nice touch that won’t ruin the game.

The Arena is the pro scene; a place to team up with your friends in tactical 4v4 matches. You have access to everything in the game no matter what level you are and any achievements or XP earned will take effect on your public match character. The game pits you against other players of the same level so in theory it should always be a fair fight. I personally haven’t touched on the Arena yet, Josh and I have been too consumed with getting a high prestige, but if it’s anything like Black Ops II then it’ll be a blast.

In Freerun you can experience a thorough tutorial for learning to use the thruster mechanics and teaches you ways to use it in the battlefield that previously would’ve been a mystery. There are 4 courses ranging from beginner to expert. They’re good fun but don’t offer any rewards for completing them.

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Zombies returns once again and in full force! Featuring a brand new map and the return of a fan favourite. The new map, Shadows Of Evil, is set in a 40s style location, Morg City, and is based around 4 people that have committed nefarious deeds; as such they have been ‘marked’ and must face off against the horde. Morg City is a dank and dark place featuring a theatre district, jazz clubs and a suspension railway. Zombies now includes its own XP progression system which increases the re-playability. The fan favourite is the classic map from World At War/Black Ops, Der Riese. This map features the 3 teleporters, the Pack-a-Punch machine and the usual Perk-a-Cola machines. Josh and I have only spent a small amount of time fighting the undead, it’s rather difficult when there’s only two of you, but I’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.

There are a couple of additional features in the new map, Gobble Gum and The Beast. Within the map are Gobble Gum machines which churn out a piece of bubble-gum containing a buff or ability. Before the match players can customise which 5 Gobble Gums they want to have available from the machines. As you level up you gain access to better Gobble Gums. The Beast is activated by walking up to specific chalices and holding down the action button, this then transforms you into a tentacled creature. Whilst playing as this creature you are able to grapple onto points located on buildings, this method of travel lets you access hidden parts of the map, unlocking new items. You are completely immune to damage whilst in Beast form but it only lasts a short amount of time.

Over the whole day of playtime that I’ve put into Black Ops III I haven’t come across many issues. Sometimes my connection would play up a bit but I’m fairly certain that’s down to the internet speeds I get out here in the ‘countryside’.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute I’ve played. The weapons are all great fun and have their own advantages and disadvantages. The maps are well designed and offer sneaky tactical plays to help you win the game. This is definitely the best online multiplayer that I’ve seen in a game, not just in Call Of Duty. I’m super impressed with it all and it totally makes up for the incredibly disappointing campaign.

 

 

Conclusion

All-in-all, this year’s iteration of Call Of Duty has been one of the best. Yes, the campaign was dull, repetitive and frustrating but the pure brilliance of the multiplayer aspect made it so much better. I can see myself putting a hell of a lot more hours, days even, into this game and really making the most out of it.

 

 

*Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 was provided to Start Replay on PlayStation 4 by Activision and Xbox One by Xbox

About The Author

Tom Daden
Content Editor

Tom has been an avid gamer since his early years as a wee toddler. Being introduced to the N64 and then moving onto the Gameboy, Tom still has a love for all things Nintendo, especially Pokémon. His fellow colleagues look up to him for being a fantastic role model, a beautiful man and, above all, a master Pokémon trainer.

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