(Gameplay clip shows PlayStation LifeStyle Managing Editor Mack Ashworth reaching a “Merciless” streak just yesterday)
There is nothing more difficult in the gaming industry than keeping a successful yearly series running smoothly. Call of Duty’s longevity as the top shooter in gaming is astounding, as every decision the series makes is critiqued by millions of fans. Thankfully, Activision has given each of its Call of Duty development teams a three year window to work on new titles. This has ensured that each game feels different from previous entries, and has kept the quality at a high level.
Just one year after Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which changed up the series in many significant ways, developer Treyarch is given the unenviable task of trying to top what many believe to be the best game in Call of Duty history. Thankfully, having played several hours of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta, I can say that Treyarch is definitely up to the task.
One of the most immediate new additions to the established multiplayer framework is that players now choose a character, called a Specialist, to play as. There were four Specialists unlocked from the get-go, each with their own weapon and ability that players can equip. For example, the Chuck Liddell look-alike Ruin could either choose from using Gravity Spikes, a special aerial attack that creates a small shockwave that kills enemy soldiers, or an ability called Overdrive that gave the player a quick speed burst.
The way Black Ops 3 handles multiplayer unlocks is through unlock tokens. It seems identical to the unlock system found in Black Ops 2, as you earn a new unlock token every time your character levels up. These tokens can be used to either purchase guns, or new abilities for your specialists. I ended up spending most of my unlock tokens on new abilities, as I liked the default gun enough to where it was far more interesting to check out each specialist.
After much experimentation, I found that my favorite character to play as was Prophet. This was due to his Tempest weapon which allowed me to fire an electricity-charged blast that would chain to all nearby enemies. The Tempest allowed me to take down any groups of enemies that were in the same area, and made for some nice scorestreaks.
I found each of the four default Specialists to be a blast to play with. There are also four separate unlockable Specialists in the multiplayer beta. These characters – Seraph, Nomad, Reaper, and Spectre – are unlocked as you gain levels in multiplayer.
The main addition found in Advanced Warfare was the added mobility to the player. The attached exoskeleton suits allowed players to double jump, boost multiple ways, and completely reinvented how Call of Duty was played. While it was divisive towards the fan base, I fell on the side of absolutely loving the changes. In Black Ops 3, Treyarch has made some fundamental changes to how players get around, but players are still more mobile than in past games.
Instead of double jumping or using set bursts, players have more control over how they move in Black Ops 3. This is thanks to a new boosting system that feels like the player has a jetpack attached to them. This allows for more prolonged boosting, and the boosts can be evenly distributed throughout a jump in order to travel a long distance.
The change in mobility compared to Advanced Warfare is that you just have more control over your movement while boosting. Instead of going straight in the air or directly horizontally, you can boost in a complete 360 movement. Additionally, you can boost into a slide which was a tactical way to move ahead quickly. It takes a while to get used to, but after playing several hours it became second nature.
Due to the new boosting system, the gameplay felt much faster. Players can now come from any angle, so you have to constantly be on the lookout for enemies. This leads to an intense, paranoia-driven game experience as someone can boost in from behind at any moment. The weapons all felt familiar to previous games, so the near-perfect gunplay is pretty much identical to how it has been in the past.
There were three different maps in the beta called Combine, Evac and Hunted. Combine was set in a desert area with a giant scientific laboratory to battle around. This was the smallest map in the beta, and offered up a lot of fun. I did find spawning to be an issue on this map, as I often got shot immediately after spawning. This isn’t a final build, but it certainly isn’t fun when you are dying before you even had a chance to draw a gun.
Evac and Hunted were larger maps, with a lot of vertical structures. These were great places to test out the new wall-running mechanic that is very similar to Titanfall. Players simply have to run towards a wall in order to run across it, this makes it easier to run past what would have previously been large gaps. Evac, which is a large war torn city, is basically made to show off the wall running and boost. It took the most advantage of the new mechanics, and was my favorite level in the beta.
Finally, Hunted was a mountainous area with a giant mansion in the middle. Inside the mansion is a pool which players can dive into. This leads into a giant waterfall, and was one of the highlights of the map. Since players can shoot underwater, this made for an interesting battle location. It was a great way to show how Black Ops 3 is allowing players to battle in more ways than ever before.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to check out any of the modes in the multiplayer beta aside from Team Deathmatch. This wasn’t due to me being stubborn, but rather 98% of users were in the default mode. This should change once the beta goes live for more people, though. Eventually, players will be able to check out Domination, Demolition, Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint, Capture the Flag, and Search and Destroy. These are all returning favorites and it looks like Black Ops 3 will have plenty of great modes on offer.
The biggest compliment I can give Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is that after years of playing entries in the series, all it took was a single multiplayer match to get me on-board again. The gunplay is top-notch, and the mobility feels different enough from Advanced Warfare to keep the gameplay feeling fresh. Treyarch is definitely on the right track to making a fantastic first-person shooter.