After some exclusivity on the PS4 and not being able to find my beta code, I finally got my hands on the Multiplayer Beta for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 on the Xbox One (Well, after countless attempts to get into a match and usually being sent back to the main menu of the Xbox after it crashed. It is a beta, after all). After playing for about three to four hours, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what this game is going to be.
Let’s start out with the fact that this feels like a different Call of Duty. Not THAT different, mind you, but it certainly borrows from other franchises a bit to differentiate itself from the Black Ops games (and the Call of Duty series as a whole) from the past. Back are the jet-packs from Advanced Warfare (see: Titanfall), and they have been tweaked a bit to make them a little more user-friendly, while keeping from getting too over-powered.
The exploding body parts are new too (think Wolfenstein or Soldier of Fortune). If a grenade explodes near your leg and kills you, guess what shows up on the kill-cam? Just your leg blowing off. If you get tagged with a bolt from a crossbow, your body explodes into a thousand little bits of flesh. It’s much more graphic than the series has ever been (at least in multiplayer) and seems like an appropriate step in a new art direction. It gives Black Ops 3 a very arcade-like feel, which is a nice departure from the “trying to be a simulation but still totally a crazy video game” nature these games took in the past. When you get shocked to death by a crazy lightning gun, it’s not as much of a departure from this game’s reality as it would have been in, say, Ghosts or Modern Warfare.
The maps continue to be a mixed bag. Really, this is going to be the case for any multiplayer shooter. You are going to like maps that cater to your play-style (for me, a much slower, methodical pace that leads to rifle kills from a distance) and hate maps that don’t. My favorite map in the Beta is an African Safari Park. It’s a neat, new aesthetic for a game like this and has two strategic choke points that lead to some intense battles.
Also new are specific character classes with special abilities and items based on how you play the game. What I used for my few hours with the game was Battery, which provided a kinetic shield (which basically deflects all bullets for short bursts of time) and a giant rocket launcher. You can use any guns and perks you want with any class, but the class specific abilities and items will add another layer of depth to an already varied experience. I want to spend some time with all the classes before the Beta runs up, but that really comes down to being able to connect to matches.
The game itself plays very similarly to Call of Duties past. The guns feel like they have a little more weight to them (always a good thing). There is also a clear difference between sub-machine guns and assault rifles, something that was missing in Ghosts/Advanced Warfare. Sniper rifles are appropriately powerful when you make a good shot.
All-in-all, it seems like Black Ops will continue to be the go-to sub-series for anyone who isn’t a die-hard (read: sucker) that buys the game every year. If it’s been a few years since the last time you booted up a Call of Duty game (probably Black Ops 2), this might just be the year you get hooked all over again.