I guess you could consider me the resident Call of Duty player among the Game Awry crew. I've owned every release since Modern Warfare, and I got my start while bombing around the original CoD on PC back in the day. The franchise has become a staple of gaming, despite it’s polarizing reaction from critics and fans. With each new CoD, they try to maintain the delicate balance between satisfying hardcore fans while still trying to innovate and interest new waves of gamers. So, as always, I was extremely interested in seeing what the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 entry had to offer.
I played the beta on both PS4 and Xbox One to get the fullest intake. Being in beta, I understand not everything would be final, but it is indeed our last glance at the product before it hits shelves in November. Personally, I wanted a big re-tool for Black Ops 3. I didn't love the last Black Ops, and I absolutely hated Advanced Warfare. Essentially, I was looking for a cleansing of the palate. I wanted to see something different that didn't sing of a simple shooter clone. Luckily, that's what was delivered with Black Ops 3 beta.
Before jumping into specifics, I have to reveal the disclaimer that I had much more playtime with the PS4 version of the beta, simply because I experienced numerous connectivity issues with the Xbox version. The servers were bare and the matchmaking was stilted, which was a problem I didn't experience at all on PS4. Hopefully this isn't reflective of a problem for CoD on Xbox at release, but I just chalked it up to high volumes of traffic on a beta test. Some hiccups are definitely expected. Conversely, it must be noted that my experience with the PS4 version ran smoothly with little to no connectivity issues. There were chunks of lag, but I always afford room for that based simply on my internet connection.
The overall combat and flow of Black Ops 3 is extraordinary. The guns fired smoothly and the hit mapping was excellent. My character nimbly moved through environments, hopping obstacles and wall-running with ease. The jump pack also provided just enough mobility boost to keep things interesting. These are the mechanics and elements that I had been craving in Advanced Warfare. Even the sniping seemed tweaked appropriately, which is always a point of contention for the Call of Duty franchise. I had very few instances where I felt I wasn't hitting exactly where I was aiming.
The weapons and loadout system in Black Ops 3 is a throwback to Black Ops 2. The player is afforded ten equipment slots to use any way they see fit. Weapons, attachments, grenades, and perks all count towards the loadout total, offering the opportunity to create many unique ways to play. There isn't much change in this area, but it's a system that works really well so I appreciate the recognition to keep this quality element of the game. During my time playing, I created many types of loadouts to keep things interesting and it added elements of freshness to gameplay.
The maps and environments are quite good in the beta version of Black Ops 3. My one critique would be that the maps seem a bit small. For whatever reason, this seems to be a trend for the CoD franchise. I understand that there is a desire to keep the playing field level among close-range fighters and long-range combat, but I actually found it difficult to find sniping locations in certain maps. It seems the Infinity Ward releases are the only games in the franchise to rely on expansive maps. Despite my reservations about map size, I found the maps I did play to be fun and diverse, with plenty of opportunities to use the unique physics of the jump pack and wall-running.
During my playtime, I stuck mostly to deathmatch modes, although I tried a bit of everything and the game types seem to be standard fare for a Call of Duty game. There were bomb defusal and land grab to go along with free-for-all and team deathmatches. It will be interesting to see how the game types play on the full expanse of maps, as well as how maps are divided for ranked games and e-sports playlists. The objectives all functioned properly, though, so I have no doubt the full game will operate smoothly.
The biggest change that I could gather from Black Ops 3 is the specialist system. With this new addition, players choose a certain specialist that offers either a special weapon or perk-type power. Each specialist was well-crafted, and I enjoyed my time playing as almost every variation offered. This element of the game offers further diversity to how a player can manage their combat preferences. It also allows for some variation to bring an ever-changing facet to gameplay.
I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Black Ops 3 beta, which is much more than I expected. I don't often have high hopes for Treyarch projects, but this beta really impressed me. For the first time since Ghosts, I can admit I'm fully excited for the new Call of Duty to come out. This multiplayer sample was great, and it didn't even touch on the campaign or much-anticipated zombies mode that is a standard for Treyarch CoD games. I know that a beta can differ vastly from a final release, but my experience with Black Ops 3 was reassuring and I'm looking forward to picking up my copy in November.