Hands-On Call of Duty: Black Ops III at E3 2015

Changes to the FPS Juggernaut Lead to Different Reactions in Campaign vs. Multiplayer

June 25, 2015 by

Checking out Call of Duty: Black Ops III this year at E3 encompassed a personal moment of truth after I described my burgeoning concerns for sequel fatigue and forgettability when the reveal trailer failed to impress me. Would this be the year that sealed my transition from dedicated fanboy to franchise deserter? After we sat down with Activision behind closed doors for an exclusive sneak peek and hands-on demo of the next installment of their prized mega-blockbuster FPS series, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. As a longtime fan of the cinematic CoD campaigns and their often shocking twists (especially when it’s Treyarch’s turn in Activision’s new three-year developer rotation cycle, as it is this year), I had been hoping that Call of Duty would greatly benefit from the introduction of a four-player co-op campaign, a feature that’s far from groundbreaking but potentially reinvigorating.

We were presented an extended cut of the campaign portion that had already been included at the end of Sony’s media briefing, but we can only hope that even this longer look wasn’t truly representative of the final product. Half of the four players’ cyber abilities were briefly showcased, but nothing was really spectacular or memorable besides the shabby voice acting.

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The Ruin kicking it into Overdrive.

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The Outrider dropping down on a Reaper.

We didn’t really know what was going on in the story, and sadly, we didn’t mind too much as we could barely make much sense of the screen cluttered with HUD crap, explosions, and enemies. Yawn… there goes another Chappie. Hey, is that ED-209’s cousin? Meh… maybe this would all be different if we were actually playing the game.

And that’s where our old friend Call of Duty, the one a majority of gamers first fell in love with and/or became addicted to, thrives. Multiplayer…. which we got to experience for ourselves for a couple matches. We didn’t get to play around with the new Gunsmith feature that allows for extensive weapons customization, but we did get a taste of CoD multiplayer’s biggest and best new addition to its already sound gameplay.

This would be the Specialists, which are nine new classes of supersoldiers, including females, with their own personalities, looks, and detailed backgrounds that shed some light into their playstyle. Sure, you’ve got your perks and scorestreak awards that you can choose to fit your own manner of wreaking havoc and whuppin’ ass, but Specialists take these to whole ‘nother level.

As you can imagine, Specialists have their own unique abilities and special weapons. Prophet has a devastating electricity gun that can expose campers and chain up frags, but his special Glitch ability to teleport back to a previous position (and out of harm’s way when used correctly) is just as sweet. Reaper is a robot whose arm turns into a mini-gun (as seen in some trailers) and who can deploy a trio of fake versions of itself. As the survivalist Nomad, I had the special ability to revive myself from near-certain death by injecting myself with a nanoparticle serum, and I used a special weapon called Hive, which set proximity traps full of deadly swarms of nano drones for easy kills.

So far Treyarch has only unveiled half of the nine remaining Specialists for a total of six, and we expect gamers to have a blast just trying each one before mastering what suits their style best. Some of the special weapons trigger eye-widening death sequences never before seen in CoD, and some of these weapons and abilities definitely sound cheap on paper (and look unfair in the trailer above), but you can rest assured that gameplay still felt balanced, fast-paced, and deliberate.

Multiplayer has also been augmented with what Treyarch hails as an all-new “momentum-based, precision-focused, chained-movement system, allowing players to fluidly move through the environment with finesse, using controlled thrust jumps, power slides, and fast mantling capabilities in a multitude of combinations.” To be honest, I paid no attention to this while testing out the Specialists and accidentally toggled some of the movements, but I can only imagine how incredibly lethal gamers can become once they’ve integrated these into their play.

While there still remains hope that Black Ops III‘s four-player co-op campaign really isn’t as boring as it was to watch, we’re confident that multiplayer will yet again deliver everything fans have hoped for. That’s gotten us excited for Call of Duty this fall, and we still haven’t seen or heard anything new about zombies yet.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III is set for release on November 6, 2015, for the PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. However, a new deal with Sony will have all future CoD map packs and DLC available exclusively for PlayStation first before other platforms.