This year, at E3, Activision gave us a chance to check out a multiplayer demo for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 . In the presentation we saw, we were told that Treyarch wanted to tighten the combat loop as much as possible. They wanted to remove as many barriers between traversing the map and shooting your gun as possible. They wanted you to get right back into the action, with little wait, and they wanted that very act of getting back into they action to be fun.
They wanted something fast.
They wanted something mobile.
They wanted something… like Titanfall .
I’m not saying Activision ripped Titanfall off or anything, but Black Ops 3 feels like Titanfall through and through. You have unlimited sprint just like Titanfall . You can wall run and wall plant, just like Titanfall . You have a jetpack which lets you double jump, just like Titanfall . You auto-mantle up walls when you approach them, just like Titanfall .
But this similarity to Titanfall isn’t a bad thing because a) Titanfall was loads of fun and b) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 seems committed to evolving and perfecting the formula.
For example, your jetpack is tied to a “thrust meter.” It not only lets you double jump, but also thrust forward, back, left, and right, like Advanced Warfare allowed you to. While moving in any of these directions, you will auto-mantle a ledge, even if you aren’t facing it, and while you do so, you can still point your gun forward and fire, making the game more mobile than ever before.
The existence of a thrust meter makes double jumping a lot more interesting. Think of it like the jet pack in Evolve . After you double jump, you can burn all your jetpack fuel for a large second jump or you can feather it, allowing you to hover slightly as you head toward the ground. All the while you can aim and shoot your gun, turning all movement into battle.
Diving into prone has been taken out of the game. Instead, you have this new maneuver called the power slide. It too uses thrust meter, and it allows you to slide, feet first, from any dash. While sliding, you can still point your gun forward and shoot. This allows you to keep a low profile while firing at the opponent at the same time. All movement actions can be chained together, so you can do things like, double jump over a ledge into a power slide, all while firing at the enemy.
It’s worth it to note that there are limits to these movements. You can’t dash circles around an enemy while firing at them. The movement doesn’t feel arcade-y, just fast. Once again, I’m going to have to draw this comparison: imagine Titanfall ‘s general speed and feel.
The other Titanfall aspect to the game is the new specialist system. Specialists are, essentially, character classes. While they all have access to the same guns, perks, ScoreStreaks, and the like, they gain access to different unique specialist abilities and weapons, which are absurdly powerful. Specialist weapons tend to be one hit kills, and specialist abilities do ludicrous things like teleport you to a previously saved location, light up all enemy soldiers in red on both your mini-map and in the actual game (essentially allowing you to “wallhack” legitimately), revive you fully once when you die, and other crazy things I’ll get into later.
These specialist abilities appear to be at the core of the game. But unlike ScoreStreaks, they aren’t fueled by kills. Instead, they are fueled by a timer that constantly ticks up, just like your Titan in Titanfall . Earning kills makes the timer tick up faster, again just like Titanfall . Your progress toward them sticks around, even if you die, say it with me now, just like Titanfall . This lets even newbies get a chance to feel powerful and godlike. Not to worry, though, classic ScoreStreaks are still available and are activated the way you would expect them to. But with all these ScoreStreaks, unique specialist weapons, perks, high tech tactical grenades, turrets, and more, you may find that there are few points in the game when you are relying on your normal guns.
We were allowed to play around with six specialists in the time we got to demo the game. Ruin , the first specialist, is a soldier with cybernetic limbs. He is the close range melee specialist. His special weapon is the gravity spike, which allows him to create an AOE attack that kills all enemies around him. His special ability is overdrive, a speed boost that makes him far faster than other characters, raising his speed to aforementioned arcade-y levels and allowing him to get in close for melee kills before the enemy can respond.
Seraph is the specialist for players who like to play traditional Call of Duty . Her special weapon is a one hit kill pistol that has the most bullet penetration in the entire game. Essentially, it can kill anyone through any wall or any armor. Her special ability multiples the score she earns toward ScoreStreaks, allowing her to become even more deadly even quicker. This is particularly insane when she is loaded up with high level ScoreStreaks that can wreak havoc on the entire board.
Outrider is the sniper specialist. Her special weapon is a bow because bows are just the in thing right now, I guess. As usual, this weapon one hit kills opponents, however, if you draw the bow to its full tensile strength, it will fire an explosive bolt that kills enemies in the area as well. Her special ability, vision, is the aforementioned legitimate wall hack that lets her see all enemies regardless of terrain or even scrambled UAV’s and smoke bombs.
Reaper is the heavy infantry specialist, and he is also a death robot, which is awesome. His special weapon is the scythe, an arm that turns into a quick revving gatling gun. His special ability is psychosis, which creates three decoy versions of Reaper that play like you do. These decoys cannot do damage and die in one hit, but they are usually enough distraction to tell where the enemy is, which allows the real killbot to do his thing. You know… killing.
Prophet can best be described as a “mage” type specialist. Bear with me here, it will make sense in a minute. His special weapon is the tempest, a lightning gun. The tempest kills in one hit and has all the properties of everyone’s favorite spell: chain lightning. That is to say, when you shoot one enemy with the gun, the lightning immediately bounces to and kills any other enemy that is near him. Not only that, but fresh kills with the Tempest writhe on the ground having electrically induced seizures. If another enemy walks near them during this time, the residual lighting in the corpse’s body will jump out and kill them. It’s particularly devastating.
Prophet’s other magelike ability is glitch. This allows him to set a glitch point anywhere he likes on the map. Then, when glitch is active, he can one way teleport to this glitch point whenever he likes, even in the middle of combat. This allows for hasty retreats, quick travel to a hardpoint, or better yet, tricks where you run away from a solider, lay your glitch point, and then teleport behind them as they chase you in order to score the kill.
The final specialist is Nomad, a survival and trap specialist. Nomad’s special weapon lays out nano pods that can stick to any surface. If the enemy gets close to these pods they burst open, and a nano swarm immediately seeks out the enemy and kills them. Expect plenty of “not the bees” jokes. His special ability is rejack, which brings you back from death at full health once.
One thing that is certainly not like Titanfall is the loadout system, which has once again expanded. This time, Activision is letting us screw with guns in a whole new way through what they call Gunsmith. Essentially, any gun can have up to five attachments on it, and none of these attachments are mutually exclusive, allowing you to build the exact fantasy gun that you want. You can then paint the gun on three different sides, attach different camos and textures to it, and personalize it however you like. You then save and name your gun, and your stats for the gun will be saved to that particular model. And because there are so many different varieties of gun and attachment, you can share your custom built gun models through social media so other players can give them a try.
Along with the insanely flexible gunsmithing system, you will still be able to choose perks, ScoreStreaks, and even “wildcards” which, like Titanfall , are one shot burn cards that give you bonuses. The only problem with this system is that specialist abilities are so central to the game that they dwarf the effectiveness of perks and other loadout options. No one really cares if your footsteps are silent when you can use a wall hack.
Overall, I really enjoyed Black Ops 3 . It felt a lot like previous Black Ops titles, just faster. I guess I would describe it as a sort of fantasy shooter. It takes the Call of Duty system we know and love and introduces things like lightning guns and teleports, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We have played the military shooter a million times over. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 keeps the formula feeling fresh by essentially exaggerating it in all the right ways. I can’t wait to see more from this game in the future.