Call of Duty: Black Ops III
We've all heard the jokes (and many of us have told them). "Which character has appeared in every Call of Duty? That guy named 'Follow.'" I didn't promise the jokes were funny.
If you have grown tired of the stop-and-pop gameplay of Call of Duty's single player, Black Ops III could be a breath of fresh air. Treyarch has designed the game with multiplayer in mind, which has also opened up the campaign environments.
I went hands to test out the four-player cooperative campaign on with a small segment of a level halfway through the game, set in Cairo, Egypt. The action was everything you'd expect from Activision's flagship series. Our plan to extract a prisoner played by Tony Amendola (Stargate SG-1, The Mask of Zorro) goes spectacularly awry.
Our only recourse is to destroy the road incoming troops (including unmanned, bipedal robots) are using to advance on our position. To do that, we're going to need heavy explosives. C4 is so 2015 (and Black Ops III is set in 2065). Instead, we're going to use a spike launcher.
This heavy piece of what we assume is a repurposed piece of construction equipment fires an explosive shiv that can maim humans, annihilate automatons, and devastate concrete. In order to complete the mission, we need to find weak points in the road and get up close to insert a spike (and then run for cover before detonating it). Thankfully, we have a number of tricks at our disposal. Tactical mode (T-Mode, for short) allows you to link up with your squadmates to identify enemies outside of line-of-sight. It also paints the ground to let you know where you'll be in the line of fire.
Cybercores are unlockable, customizable augments that give players a chance to turn the tables on enemies. During the fight, I use one that can turn two robots at a time against enemy forces. Another turns a bipedal drone into a walking bomb that eliminates foes in explosive fashion.
The entire segment, which lasted about 20 minutes was free-flowing. We moved throughout the environment as a team, providing covering fire, and hitting the objectives as we pushed ahead. At no point did we see our old friend Follow. The battlefield was ours to do with as we pleased, giving us the chance to test out different tactics and gear.
Weapons, cores, and more can be customized at one of the game's safehouses. This allows players to tailor their experience to their own playstyle. It also creates moments in the game that are brief respites from the action. Players create custom characters that show up during the cutscenes. You have your choice of gender and appearance, expanding on the more egalitarian approach that has been incorporated into the series recently.
While this Call of Duty title takes things far into the future, with technology and weaponry we might not see in our lifetimes, it's still the same series at heart. I had no problem slipping right back into that frame of mind that marks early November each year.
I may not be very good at Call of Duty (as my teammates reviving me will attest), but I love playing through the Hollywood-style action each year. Black Ops is my personal favorite branch of the franchise (sorry Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer), and I'm looking forward to playing through the third installment with my friends this fall.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is due out on November 6 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PC.