Treyarch (who make the quirkier Call of Duty titles) have delivered a loaded sci-fi barrel of laughs with Black Ops 3.
With the explosive campaign, boosted online and classic zombie mode, there is a lot here to keep you busy.
In other words, the people at Treyarch have looked at different sci-fi games and selected some cutting-edge parts to upgrade the CoD-machine with.
The campaign is set 40 years after the events of the previous Black Ops, in a world devastated by natural disasters, forcing humans to consolidate in massive cyber-cities.
You take on the role of a special operative, who after being dismembered by an evil Chappie, is mechanically rebuilt into a cyborg supersoldier.
Being a supersoldier means you can now jump onto a wall and dash along it before jumping back onto the ground or a parallel wall.
You can also thrust into the air for a short period (thanks, Destiny). This introduces a fun platform element to the game, an effort to dilute the repetitive run-and-gun drudgery seen in every Call of Duty for far too long now.
The protagonist is also jacked into the Direct Neural Interface, a kind of matrix which allows one to manipulate and communicate with machines as well as other humans connected to this system.
Players can now hijack instruments like turrets and drones to lay waste to dozens of enemies around.
There is, thankfully, a 4-player max co-op mode in the campaign, zombie mode and online multiplayer.
The usual corridor-shooting has been swapped for impressive and expansive stages that look a lot like the various planets’ designs in Destiny, such as the snowy industrial complex on Earth and the ruined city claimed by greenery on Venus.
The Destiny influence is so strong I actually wouldn’t be unreasonable calling Black Ops 3 a fun Destiny.
Stages, character model design, abilities, gameplay and overall look and feel have been emulated from the Bungie epic.
The campaign quickly became boring. The momentum-based movement system doesn’t help break the monotony of advancing through swarms of enemies, neither do your various cyber-abilities, which let you immolate robots (who are actually a lot of fun to shoot to pieces), release a hive of machine fireflies to burn humans and various other cyber-spells.
It’s just not enough, CoD campaigns are the reason why so many people have become desensitised to murder and war.
A realistic difficulty mode has been added to the campaign, in which one measly bullet will kill you.
The campaign has a few recognizable actors in it. With Christopher Meloni as Commander John Taylor, Rachel Kimsey as Rachel Kane, Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Hall, Tony Amendola as Dr. Yousef Salim and Sean Douglas as Jacob Hendricks.
There is an individual experience-based leveling system in all three modes – campaign, online and zombies – which gives you access to more weapons, perks, customisation, and upgrades.
This means three ladders to climb and a lot of hooks to keep you glued to the controller/mouse trying to augment each character as much as possible.
I haven’t properly played a Call of Duty game in several years, but the basic formula remains for the multiplayer.
The basic movement and procedure of a round feels pretty much the same, despite all of the handy augmentations.
A lot of bells and whistles have been added, mainly inspired by Destiny, from what I could gather.
The standard game modes remain, such as Team-Deathmatch and Free-For-All as well as the Pick 10 system from Black Ops II.
Don’t get me wrong, sameness isn’t always a bad thing; the multiplayer is highly enjoyable and smooth.
Despite many hard-core gamers discounting this franchise as a run of the mill, low-skill shooter for the masses, it is intrinsically a solid FPS.
Of course, a lot of work has been put into making multiplayer feel varied and evolved.
The whizzing acrobatics described earlier translate well to the multiplayer gameplay. Having short aerial-battles reminiscent of The Crucible in Destiny and running at each other along a wall all-guns-blazing is great.
Online there are various classes one can choose from called ‘Specialists’, each with their own back-story and abilities.
The 9 Specialists include characters such as a hooded archer that can shoot explosive arrows and scan the area around them, to a sniper that can shoot chain-lighting which bounces from foe to foe.
There are a few Specialists that can only be unlocked at higher levels.
A kill streak affords the usual map-scanning and artillery functionality, as well as a class-based special move that is unleashed using the top two shoulder buttons – just like in Destiny.
These range from slamming the ground causing an instakill shockwave (just like in Destiny), to scanning the area around to reveal enemies.
A swarm of killer robot bees can be unleashed on a victim and you can split yourself into several illusions.
As for Zombie mode, two stories have been introduced, Shadows of Evil and The Giant.
Shadows of Evil introduces a new tale and characters whilst The Giant continues the previous Black Ops’ zombie mode story with the same characters.
Zombie mode was a big part of my teenage life, so it’s nice to see the fundamentals have been left unchanged in this installment.
Zombies spill out of ruptured plank-defences as each round revolves around eliminating all undead pursuers.
New areas are unlocked by paying the toll at each gate, each newly-opened area exponentially increasing the chaos and number of attackers.
New touches include being able to temporarily transform into a tentacle-ridden monster that can easily crush surrounding enemies, gumballs which provide perks and again an experience-based system that allows you to purchase more guns and upgrades.
All-in-all, I was very impressed by how much quality entertainment has been brought to the table this time, despite the mundanity of the campaign.
Call of Duty tried hard this time with Black Ops 3 to address its cookie-cutter existence, and largely succeeded in a rather borrowed manner.