A stuttering campaign, but the multiplayer sees the series at the top of its game
Game review: Call of Duty Black Ops III
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
IN terms of content, Treyarch have long proved themselves to be the most generous of the cycle of developers who take turns evolving one of gaming’s biggest selling series. Continuing a tradition which kicked off with 2008’s World at War, Black Ops III is no different, with the company intent on providing a variety of modes to counter the arguments of those who argue that the Call of Duty series is effectively a multiplayer shooter with a campaign tagged on.
It is a welcome ambition but the execution falls flat. The main story is the weakest component, with the franchise taking its boldest leap yet into a hellish imagined future, where warfare is waged not only by man, but a succession of overpowered robots and drones. The plot itself ventures into unusual territory, mulling over moral quandaries such as the use of biotechnology and artificial intelligence.
The campaign is linear with a convoluted narrative
It is a hackneyed and ultimately convoluted narrative, and although the ability to play co-operatively with four players shakes things up a little, the campaign - which is not included on last-gen versions - ultimately relies on the same kind of linear level design and outlandish set pieces that have come to define the series. It is, at least, longer than previous versions, with an extra - whisper it, secret - campaign tagged on to the end.
Zombies mode - a fun, challenging diversion to the usual fare - keeps the same gameplay mechanics, but transports the action to a bizarre setting. You play in a heavily stylised 1940s noir-infused town, where the gunshots ring out to a jazz soundtrack. It sounds far fetched but thanks to the nuances of the perk upgrade system, it remains as good fun as it always was with a group of friends.
The maps make for taut and exhilirating arenas in which to do battle
Where Black Ops III truly excels is in multiplayer. It is here that Treyarch demonstrate their skills, building on the expanded range of moves and abilities introduced in Advanced Warfare. The powers at your disposal, such as wall running, vaulting and whirling around in midair, add a new dimension to the familiar run and gun experience, but the most telling improvements are among the most simple. The maps are taut, exhilarating arenas which cater to all play styles, with Breach in particular among the best in years.
Black Ops 3, then, does not cure the familiar problems that have started to plague the series. The campaign does not quite click and the design remains more or less as it has always been. But where it counts, in multiplayer, it has produced a thrilling and entertaining joyride that will suck up days, if not weeks, of your gaming time over the Christmas period and beyond.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
While it may be tempting to go all guns blazing with one of the beefier weapons in multiplayer, the Kuda SMG is arguably the best in the game.
The variety of Specialists to choose from in multiplayer can be overwhelming, but Battery, with its hardy armour, is a good choice for newcomers.
Beast mode is a great way of clearing enemies in a zombies game, but you can be left vulnerable when you transform back to your mortal form.