|Dev: Treyarch, Beenox, Mercenary Technology|
|Release: November 6, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Not yet assigned a final ESRB|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
When I played Call of Duty: Black Ops III at E3, my first response was, “Wow, this feels a lot like Titanfall.” With the jetpacks, auto mantling, rocket sliding, and more, who could blame me? Now, after getting my hands on the Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer beta, I can confidently say that Call of Duty has found its identity once more, for better or worse.
While my time with the E3 build was spent happily wall-running and sliding around map after map, my time in the beta was spent getting shot in the face again, and again, and again. Treyarch has severely reduced your jetpack energy and made it harder to aim down sights from certain maneuvers. As a result, the jetpack party is no more, but that doesn’t mean these maneuvers aren’t important. Rather, a well-placed wall run or slide can allow you to avoid enemy fire and score a kill when you would otherwise be a sitting duck. Jetpacking is also a great way to deal with explosives lobbed your way. Simply hit your boosters and you’ll get out of the blast range.
This makes the whole game feel more surgical, which plays a lot closer to the Call of Duty: Black Ops identity. However, it doesn’t do what Treyarch said it was going to do at E3, which is reduce the time between spawning and getting to the action. Now, since you can’t have a jetpack party everywhere, the smart maneuver is to do what you did in other Call of Dutys and sprint only short distances before looking around you and making sure the coast is clear. This isn’t necessarily better or worse than the previous build, it’s just different, and perhaps a bit less inviting to newbies.
Actually, let’s talk about the game in relation to newbies. Call of Duty: Black Ops III made the fantastic choice to make specialist weapons and abilities attached to a timer instead of a killstreak. This gave newbies access to a very high powered ability, even if they couldn’t score a single kill. However, Treyarch has made some of these abilities last only 5 seconds, and if you get killed while using them, the timer has to build up from scratch. Considering that sometimes it takes an entire match just to build the timer if you haven’t been scoring kills, newbies don’t get to use this ability as much as they would like. I would have much rather seen the timer keep what’s left on it if you die while using the ability, so at the very least you don’t have to work your way up from scratch again. It’s so tremendously easy to waste these abilities and it doesn’t end up breaking down the barriers of entry that it said it would as a result.
The two new specialists are a lot of fun to play with. Battery is my favorite. Her special weapon is a bouncing grenade launcher, similar to the demoman from Team Fortress 2. Her special ability is key if you are a newbie, as it renders you invulnerable to bullets for about five seconds. You can still take headshots and die from explosive or environmental damage, however.
Spectre is modeled around a ninja. His weapon are two blades that score instant kills. His ability is active camo, which basically turns him invisible. To make another Team Fortress reference, he kind of plays like the spy, whenever he has an ability active, that is. I found him much harder to use, but still quite fun.
The personality that these specialists give Black Ops III is also a great addition to the game. You aren’t playing as generic soldiers anymore. Now you are playing as characters who banter with each other before and during each match. It feels a lot like the banter you would hear in Evolve or a similar game, and it makes multiplayer feel a lot less generic. Nothing really explains why one team could have a million clones of the same specialist, though. Handwave it away as future technology or something.
The sense of verticality that Black Ops III maps have is a real treat. Being able to use your jetpack to take shortcuts through the level is probably the best usage for it. Remember, using it out in the open will get you shot in the face, but it’s a great way to find good sniper hideouts or get a different vantage point on a control point. It’s not so much like Advanced Warfare, where the verticality played out in gunfights, rather, this plays out in traversal first and foremost. Gunplay still exists on one plane, but If you scale the map correctly you’ll get the drop on your opponent before he even notices.
One thing I didn’t like about the beta was the unlock system. While far more freeform than prior Call of Duty games, simply giving you an unlock token every level and telling you to unlock what you want, it still has the problem of locking certain guns and specialists behind level requirements. Attachments for guns are then further walled off until you level up each individual gun. This once again creates the problem of any new gun being by definition worse than your old guns as soon as it’s unlocked, so once again you have to grind it out in matches using nothing but ironsights and being a fraction of your prior power just to use a new gun. It’s incredibly tedious, but at least when you level up a gun you get player XP as well.
I do applaud Treyarch for the work they did on their default classes. These classes aren’t simply random underpowered classes cobbled together form level one gear. Rather, they are made up of some of the best guns in the game with a full compliment of attachments and perks. They have much more use beyond simply getting a newbie into the game. Heck, when I was getting tired of grinding I would switch back to a pre-made class just to get back into the game and improve my kill-death ratio. I’m a particular fan of the “look at what a newbie you are” class, which includes a submachine gun, a noob tube, c4, and tons of perks and attachments to compensate for how much you are going to sprint into the middle of a battle and die.
I had fun with my time in the Call of Duty: Black Ops III beta, but I still feel like the game is missing some of its potential. When I played it at E3, it felt like Treyarch took bold steps in a new direction which both shook up gameplay and made the game more accessible. Now, it feels like it’s the same old Call of Duty we've always played, with some jetpacks and neat new abilities. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but Call of Duty’s numbers have been shrinking over the past few releases. It’s clear that the fanbase wants something new and different, and it felt like Treyarch was just about to give it to us, and then backed off for fear of changing the formula too much. I hope they get more bold with their game design choices by the time the full version comes out.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: August 24, 2015