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Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Hands-On With The Enhanced Mobility And Specialists
by Brian Shea on Apr 26, 2015 at 07:05 AM
Platform PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher Activision
Developer Treyarch
Release
Rating Mature

With Black Ops III, Treyarch is changing a lot about the Call of Duty formula. On the campaign side of things, the developer is embracing four-player co-op, more open spaces, and near-future technology for its missions. The developer is also promising lots of customization options throughout. While I had the opportunity to see much of these new features in action during a studio visit to Treyarch last week, I also got my hands on the competitive multiplayer.

Here are several ways in which Treyarch is changing the game for Black Ops III.

Specialist Warfare

As much as the campaign is being shaken up in this entry, the competitive multiplayer is changing even more. In addition to the traditional Pick 10 class customization, you now play as one of nine specific characters, called Specialists, instead of as a generic soldier. 

Specialist Backgrounds

Check out what each of the four announced Specialists bring to the table. Ruin An infantry soldier from a tough neighborhood who volunteered for cybernetic limb replacements despite not having an injury necessitating it. Seraph An enforcer for the 54I crime syndicate who is known for her discipline in combat. Outrider A product of the Brazilian favelas, where she earned a place in the ranks of the Brazilian Special Forces. Reaper A combat robot prototype from a canceled government R&D project.

With battle cries and one-liners being spit out on the battlefield after kills, it's clear that one of the main goals of this addition is to inject more personality into the online multiplayer experience. That's not all these Specialists are good for, however, as each one gives players the option of either taking a power weapon or a special ability into battle.

The power weapons and abilities have the potential to be game-changers. Rather than being able to access your weapon or ability at-will, a continually charging meter dictates when you can use it. The meter charges more quickly based on player performance, but typically takes between two and four minutes to fully charge for weapons, while only taking around two minutes to fill up for abilities. Picking which way you want to go prior to entering battle is a very important strategy.

The four Specialists revealed so far feature unique weapons that range from Ruin’s Gravity Spikes, which sends out a shockwave to kill nearby enemies, to Reaper’s Scythe, a mini-gun that emerges from his robotic arm to deal massive damage. My favorites, however, are Outrider’s Sparrow, a compound bow with explosive bolts (similar to the Torque Bow from the Gears of War series), and Seraph’s Annihilator, a super-powerful revolver that can take out multiple enemies with one shot if they happen to be lined up. Each time the meter charges your power weapon, the result is satisfying.

The abilities are more passive in nature, but I ended up choosing them more often than the weapons because of their faster recharge times and the greater variety of tactical options. Ruin’s Overdrive, which gives him a speed boost for a short period of time, comes in handy in objective-based modes like Capture the Flag. Outrider’s Vision Pulse gives shows you if enemies are lurking around corners and through walls nearby. 

The abilities I kept selecting were Reaper’s Glitch and Seraph’s Combat Focus. Glitch teleports you back to your location a few seconds prior, giving you an edge if you hear enemies sneaking up on you or if you turn the corner to find multiple opponents aiming down their sights. Combat Focus is effective in racking up scorestreaks, as it adds a multiplier to your score for a short period of time. This was particularly helpful for me, since I’m not the best at avoiding death long enough to amass a truly awesome scorestreak.

Taking to the Gunsmith

While the new Specialists and the pre-existing Pick 10 and scorestreak customizations allow you to cater to your exact style of play, the new Gunsmith feature gives you a real chance tailor the look of your weapons. Once you set the attachments in the Pick 10 system, you can choose how you want them to look, as well as apply different custom paintjobs and camo patterns to the sides of your weapon. Using this feature, I added a simple emblem to the sides of my gun and changed the extended mag to look different from the person playing next to me. It seems like it could be a pretty powerful editing tool for those who really want to make their weapons seem unique.

While the new Specialists and the pre-existing Pick 10 and scorestreak customizations allow you to cater to your exact style of play, the new Gunsmith feature gives you a real chance tailor the look of your weapons. Once you set the attachments in the Pick 10 system, you can choose how you want them to look, as well as apply different custom paintjobs and camo patterns to the sides of your weapon. Using this feature, I added a simple emblem to the sides of my gun and changed the extended mag to look different from the person playing next to me. It seems like it could be a pretty powerful editing tool for those who really want to make their weapons seem unique.

On the next page, Brian gives his thoughts on the new movement mechanics.

Upward Mobility

Prior to jumping into my first match, Treyarch briefed me on the new movement and traversal options available in Black Ops III. In addition to installing smoother transitions to ledges, the developer has given soldiers the ability to wall-run, power slide, and boost jump. Players can also take the battle underwater with the ability to swim and shoot while submerged.

The boost jumps function similarly to the Exo jumps in Advanced Warfare, and feels like a natural evolution. The Exo jumps deliver sharper angles and straight lines versus the curves and drifts of Black Ops III’s movements. 

The fluid traversal mechanics remind me of Titanfall. While the movement system created by the original Call of Duty developers at Respawn is smoother, Black Ops III feels good. Even the swimming, which I was skeptical about, felt natural in not only moving through the underwater portions, but while firing at other soldiers and boost jumping back onto land.

One particular sequence saw me running along a wall, jumping to another to run on, landing in a sprint, power sliding around the corner, and grabbing a double-kill on two enemies who were shooting at one of my teammates. Treyarch has made it a point to make the movement abilities chain together smoothly, and in that regard, it has been very successful.

Dissecting the Maps

The current build has three maps available: Combine, Hunted, and Stronghold. Combine features a big open area in the middle with tight corridors surrounding it, as well as a great wall-run sequence that shows off the new movement mechanics. The open area in the middle of Combine is going to be one of those areas great for modes like Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch. Players tended to congregate there, making the action extremely fast-paced. The tight interiors and the dangerous wall-run sequence also makes it a great map for more objective-based modes like Capture the Flag.

Hunted also has a great sequence for wall-running as well as a few buildings that harken back to Treyarch’s World at War map designs. With an underwater pathway allowing for surprise attacks on one of the most popular areas, this is a map designed to showcase how well the new fits in with the old.

Stronghold is probably the most complex map I played, as it brings together asymmetrical and vertical designs in a single, branching map. Cover abounds in the wide-open outdoor sections, while the tight corridors and moderately open rooms indoors have you relying more on your own movement and reflexes to succeed. I most enjoyed Stronghold with modes like Domination and Hardpoint.

The Convergence of Separate Paths

While Black Ops III is still several months from release, Treyarch’s work to this point impressed me. I can already tell I’ll be pouring many hours into the competitive multiplayer, but I’m still concerned it may be going down too similar a path as Advanced Warfare. With Ghosts taking place in the near future, Advanced Warfare taking place in the slightly more distant future, and Black Ops III taking place in a similar time, the series has lost its diversity of settings. World at War, Black Ops, and Modern Warfare delivered different narratives, settings, and gameplay, and while there are still various differentiating elements, the lines are becoming more blurred with each release.

That’s not to say that Treyarch is wrong for taking this route with Black Ops III, however. The additions feel significant and game changing while seeming to remain faithful to what fans already love about the Black Ops series. The future of the Black Ops universe may be chaotic and dangerous, but November 6 is looks exciting from where I’m standing. You can check out a rundown of the new features here.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III

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PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
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