I’ve spent so much time talking about the campaign, but it truly is just one part of an absolutely massive game. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is gigantic in scale, and playing it is like peeling back the layers of a large onion. The first layer comes in the form of an altered and zombified take on the campaign’s levels which goes by the name Nightmares. It’s actually longer than the main story mode, itself, and one of the developers told me that he expects it may take people upwards of fifteen hours to compete. What I played of Nightmares was pretty impressive, and I certainly look forward to playing more of it.
Nightmares mode isn’t the only Easter egg to be found on the disc though, and its peer could be considered a game in and of itself. I won’t spoil it for you, though, because I want to leave something unsaid and secret. Rest assured, though, that if you’ve been a longtime fan of the Black Ops games, you’ll find yourself impressed by what you’ll uncover when you dig around in the safe houses’ terminal.
Of course, being that this is a Treyarch game, one can also expect a separate Zombies mode. This particular one — titled Shadows of Evil — is set in the 1930s, and features interesting character archetypes in the form of the boxer, the magician, the femme-fatale and the former cop. The campy, film-noir inspired mode’s cast is rather interesting as well, incorporating the pipes of Jeff Goldblum, Ron Perlman, Heather Graham and Neil McDonough. They fit in well, too, given their unique voices and the cult appeal that comes with them.
To be completely honest, Call of Duty‘s Zombies modes have never done much for me. I respect them and those who play them religiously in groups of four, but despite trying, I’ve never been able to get into it. The hit detection is weird, and continues to be, and it’s just not my type of mode. Still, with that being said, I have a feeling that fans won’t be disappointed by Shadows of Evil, as it has an interesting setting and incorporates some new features like perk-giving gum and a powerful monster.
Last, but certainly not least, is multiplayer, which is the star of the show once again, and this is coming from someone who looks forward to these games for their campaigns. Call of Duty: Black Ops III has the most entertaining multiplayer I’ve played in quite a while, and my time with it has been the most fun I’ve had with the series in years. Ghosts had a boring campaign and decent but unspectacular multiplayer, whereas I enjoyed both facets of Advanced Warfare but never got hooked. With this game though, I can see myself playing quite a bit of the competitive modes.
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What’s most notable about the multiplayer — which supports eSports competitions and allows for related customization — is its specialists. These are the characters you possess when you enter the battlefield, but there’s more to them than just their looks and voices. In fact, each of the nine specialists (a list that is comprised of both genders and a robot) has his, her or its own specialties. Two of them, actually, because when you choose your specialist you get the choice of which of their skills you would like to make available to yourself. And, as you can expect, these are timed and limited bonuses, which unlock over time or after certain score plateaus are met.
Although I’ve called them skills and specialties, the reality of it all is that each specialist has one special weapon and one badass ability. For example, the bow-wielding Outrider (who’s easily my favourite) has a bow that shoots explosive arrows, but can also use her hunter’s senses to identify enemies’ locations on the battlefield. Conversely, Prophet has a gun that shoots arced electricity, and the ability to glitch back to a previous position without losing anything, whereas Reaper has a quad-barrelled minigun and the ability to create distracting clones of himself that can fool other players.
As mentioned, you can only select one specialist and one ability per match, so you’ll need to choose wisely. Only some of the specialists are unlocked from the get-go, too, so you’ll need to level-up a decent amount in order to make the full list available to you.
Even with the specialists, the core Call of Duty multiplayer gameplay that millions know and love is alive and well within Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It’s a blast, is chock full of replay value and is easily one of the series’ best offerings to date. The specialists make things better, and the fact that their abilities are timed perks keeps things balanced and helps to avoid frustration. There’s also a host of solid maps, which feature varied locales like abandoned military bases, a desolate hunting lodge, and an abandoned and decaying aquarium.
All of the maps have been designed to support the game’s new wall running mechanic, which really does add a new layer of depth to the experience. It fits, and doesn’t feel out of place, but if you don’t like it you’re free to avoid doing it. The nice thing is that you don’t lose the ability to shoot while running along a wall, nor do you lose it when you jump into a pool of water and swim, which is something that also comes up in the campaign once or twice. Both new mechanics may feel weird at first, but I fell in love with them pretty quickly.
Presentation-wise, Black Ops III is another blockbuster affair from Activision and company. Treyarch has done a good job of creating a game that is visceral, entertaining and immersive, and one that runs pretty damn well. Then again, we all expect insanely high production values from this series, and this most recent iteration is no different. I would be remiss if I said that I didn’t encounter a couple of glitches, but those appeared when I was playing the game at its review event, using a debug console.
All in all, Treyarch’s latest is an absolute home run, and the best Call of Duty game of this generation without a doubt. It’s a massive tour de force, which keeps unveiling new modes and ways to play as you peel back each of its layers. The amount of content found on the Call of Duty: Black Ops III disc is truly staggering, and the quality of that gameplay makes it a great value, especially if you’re a fan of the series or someone who only buys one or two games each year.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
With Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Treyarch has delivered a massive and feature rich shooter that offers nearly unparalleled value and replayability. It also happens to be the best Call of Duty game of this generation, and one of the best in general.