Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Overview

Well that time of the year has come around again just like clockwork. A new Call of Duty game has hit the shelves and people have gone wild. Unfortunately this time around the madness is directed at the online servers. Many people, including most of the AGE staff ran into online connection issues on day 2 and day 3. It was often impossible to get connected to the servers and if you did manage to get connected you could never find a game to join. There were a couple of work around fixes that got the job done, such as rebooting your router to reconnect with a better NAT connection. If that didn't work though, most were left playing with themselves.

I had some issues like that, but luckily for me I got the work around to work each time and from there on in the server connection was among the best I've ever had. So in kicking off the campaign (on Hardened) it's very easy to say that the game play has been changed more than any Call of Duty game has ever dared to change it. Mostly the four player co-op makes for a completely different feel in game. The levels feel larger and semi-open world to a small degree and that enemies (Terminator style robots) feel like mini bosses that you might come up against in games such as Destiny. Playing alone however feels a little lonely which I guess goes with the territory but Black Ops 3 definitely lends itself to being a co-operative experience.

The themes are also definitely well respected within the new R18+ category with high impact gore which will leave a blood thirsty maniac cringing at the on screen theatrics. The delivery of this "gore" is handled well and I never got a sense of "they did that just to gross people out". All of the graphic scenes felt like they were well thought out like in a decent gritty movie like 8mm (Nicholas Cage) or Saving Private Ryan (Tom Hanks). Included in these themes are scenes of suicide and the torture of POW's (prisoner of war).

The narrative is delivered in a serious tone with a hint of playful humour. The story, although it is a little bit simple at first, it has a good bit of meat for the sandwich layers. You play as a soldier who is essentially given a new chance at life with new body parts (arms and legs) which are of course super powerful and replace the need for an Exo suit. You don't wear the Exo anymore, you are the Exo. Your job is to prevent a train from being destroyed which would set back development of important equipment for many many years. There's a bit of a twist that I worded myself around there. See if you can see it for yourself.

With your new found limbs, you are introduced to a Matrix like system called the Direct Neural Interface, or DNI for short. The DNI is a chip embedded into your head which connects you to just about everything. Think Skynet, think The Matrix, think The Vex from Destiny. This system augments your world around you and can also create complete worlds in place of reality. This explains your training simulators and how you can overlay helpful data while in combat. For example, you can activate a data overlay which will help locate enemies, kill zones or hot spots on the battlefield and also help with grenade throws by showing a predicted trajectory.

This stuff is just touching the surface of the game play aspects, as there are also many different abilities that you can pull off during the campaign play. The multiplayer aspect is probably what a lot of fans are looking forward to and strangely enough, it was what I wanted most too. I don't usually invest much time online in COD games but after playing the BETA for Blops3 I changed my tune. The multiplayer in Blops3 just feels a lot more right than the previous games. The movement with the bursts of jet pack feels more controlled than the Exo's of Advanced Warfare and the map design feels a lot more accommodating to the movement designs including wall running. Each game that I play feels well balanced. I know it's early days as of this writing but I haven't felt overwhelmed by overpowered opponents as yet. It gives me hope that regardless of your level in online multiplayer, if you have the skills you will be able to kill anyone and have a decent game.

The new feature of the Specialist categories has also added a neat touch to the game. Each Specialist has their own special ability that will both be tricky to use, but will be devastating if used correctly. I found this to be well balanced and never overpowered for too long. You can only use your Specialist ability when the meter fills up, and you can speed this process up by getting kills. For me, an average skilled player, I often get to use my Specialist ability about two times in a 10 minute game. The 9 Specialist classes are as listed below:

• Callsign: Ruin
o Real Name: Donnie Walsh
o Bio: Raised in a military family in a tough neighbourhood, he is fearless and headstrong, an infantry soldier through and through. He uses his unique abilities to rush into battle and surprise the enemy with sheer force.
o Weapon: Gravity Spikes – creates a devastating area of effect shockwave in the surrounding area.
o Ability: Overdrive – Initiates a burst of speed that accelerates all movement for a short period of time.

• Callsign: Seraph
o Real Name: Zhen Zhen
o Bio: Militant enforcer of the 54I crime syndicate’s rule of law. She is known for her focused and unflinching combat discipline, striking fear within the ranks of the cartel.
o Weapon: Annihilator – massive high-calibre revolver with penetration rounds.
o Ability: Combat Focus – triggers a bonus multiplier to score earned towards Scorestreaks for a period of time.

• Callsign: Outrider
o Real Name: Alessandra Castillo
o Bio: Developed keen observation skills growing up in the streets of the Favela, traversing the rooftops to watch the action of the city below, and this earned her a place in the ranks of the Brazilian Special Forces. She outsmarts enemies by finding them before they have a chance to know what hit them.
o Weapon: Sparrow – compound Bow w/explosive bolts and variable range.
o Ability: Vision Pulse – pings the surrounding area and tags the location of all enemies within range for a period of time.

• Callsign: Reaper
o Real Name: Experimental War Robot (EWR)
o Bio: Started as an expensive military R&D project to supplement Special Operations soldiers in the field, the EWR was a cutting-edge prototype combat robot, the most advanced in the world at the time. Budget overruns and embarrassing political incidents left the project all but a resource for scrap metal, except for the one prototype that remained.
o Weapon: Scythe – robotic arm transforms into a high power Mini-Gun.
o Ability: Psychosis – Infiltrate enemy DNI systems to simulate three decoy Reapers.

• Callsign: Prophet
o Real Name: David Wilkes
o Bio: Wilkes got his first set of cybernetic augmentations while serving in the British Engineering Corps. Five years and many upgrades later, he is the embodiment of cutting edge of human weaponry on the battlefield, using his superior technology to disrupt opponents’ tactics before moving in for the kill.
o Weapon: Tempest – Charge-shot weapon that fires an arc of electricity, shocking targets and chaining to all nearby enemies.
o Ability: Glitch – Flash back to a previous position with this system mod that hacks the battlefield simulation grid.

• Callsign: Nomad
o Real Name: Tavo Rojas
o Bio: Last surviving member of an elite Rapid Deployment Force unit specialized in jungle warfare, Rojas has gone off-grid using his survivalist training to stay alive. At home in the wild, he uses his skills to turn the environment against his foes.
o Weapon: H.I.V.E. – Deploys pod traps which release a deadly swarm of nano drones when triggered.
o Ability: Rejack – Recover from near death by injecting a nanoparticle serum into the bloodstream.

• Callsign: Spectre
o Real Name: Classified
o Bio: Next to nothing is known about the presumed wet-works specialist. The designation itself is a codename agreed upon by the various agencies that have pooled their intelligence on unsolved assassinations, inferring his or her existence based on either evidence found at the scene or from fragmentary reports given by shaken bystanders
o Weapon: Ripper – Mono-Edged twin blades before gracefully dissecting victims with lethal, surgical precision.
o Ability: Active Camo – Advanced meta-materials rapidly change their properties, guiding photons over their surfaces instead of reflecting them, rendering Spectre temporarily invisible.

• Callsign: Battery
o Real Name: Erin Baker
o Bio: The only daughter and youngest of five siblings, Erin Baker always had to fight to get her way. Following in a family tradition of over 100 years of military service, she watched her brothers enter the US Army one-by-one, before graduating high school and enrolling herself. Driven to excel by her ongoing rivalry with her older brothers, she volunteered for Airborne School, before crushing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.
o Weapon: War Machine – Grenade launcher that fires a timed-fused bouncing frag grenade, which explodes on contact with an enemy.
o Ability: Kinetic Armour – Electrically charged reactive armor that sublimates enemy bullets on contact, turning them into vapour, which dissipates harmlessly.

• Callsign: Firebreak
o Real Name: Krystof Hejek
o Bio: Prague-born, Firebreak is a battlefield problem solver; armed with a powerful arsenal of weaponry, he effectively resolves numerous issues over and over again using his favourite tool, fire. Whether it’s direct one-on-one confrontation or the strategic denial of areas, there’s no questioning Hejek’s utility, even if the results of his work can be hard to stomach.
o Weapon: Purifier – A flamethrower that projects a steady stream of heat, incinerating anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be engulfed by it.
o Ability: Heat Wave – Rapid-cycling heat syncs dump a stored thermal charge which stuns enemies near the user.

All of the popular game modes are still there. Included so far are the following:
  1. Team Deathmatch
  2. Domination
  3. Hardpoint
  4. Kill Confirmed
  5. Search and Destroy
  6. Capture The Flag
  7. Uplink
  8. Ground War
  9. Mercenary Moshpit
  10. Gun Game
  11. Free for All
  12. Safeguard

Zombies was fun for me in the original version back in World at War. I enjoyed the slow starts which gave you time to work out a strategy which was better than the time before and it also gave you some breathing room with entry points that were easy to keep an eye on until you moved on to further parts of the map. Black Ops 3 Zombies doesn't do this. You get thrown in the deep end from the word go. You spawn in a narrow alley way and the walking dead start piling in and they don't relent. It's still blood thirsty zombie killing but it will prove to be a little challenging for the causal Zombie player. 
Zombies has its own story line (as with previous versions) which is only really accessible if you complete a series of hidden actions which is referred to as "The Easter Egg". Zombies is set in a 1940s film noir-inspired world named Morg City. Shadows of Evil introduces players to four new characters – The Magician, The Femme-Fatale, The Cop and The Boxer – as well as a shadowy figure, who offers them a path to redemption. Shadows of Evil brings together a roster of Hollywood talent including Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day), Heather Graham (The Hangover 1-3, Californication), Neil McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Band of Brothers), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy) and Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1). It is fun to play in short doses but sadly it got old real quick for me due to the long load times after you die and try to start over. Unfortunately, you are required to go back to the lobby menu before you can hit retry.

For me, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 has delivered a strong story along with a great innovation with four player co-op game play. Most of the staples are there that we are all used to with the expected upgrades and changes. For me, this is the strongest instalment in the COD series since Modern Warfare 2 which is a bold statement to make, but nevertheless I am very impressed with it. There are some unfortunate issued with the PS4 version which is slowing being ironed out but easy work arounds are making it less of an issue.

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