For the past two weeks, gamers have been able to play the Beta version of Black Ops III. It first started on PlayStation 4, then Xbox One and PC players gained access later. As the franchise gets older and the games get more futuristic, a lot of new features and mechanics are being added in. In this article, I will be sharing my thoughts on Black Ops III based on the time I played the Beta on my PC.
Before continuing the article, I just want to make it clear that this is not a formal review and it will definitely be subjective and speculative. The game is obviously incomplete while it’s in its Beta phase and I understand that. Because of this, I will not be talking about the technical side of the game, but rather the mechanical changes.
The biggest difference in Black Ops III is the new movement system. It’s not something entirely new, as it seems to be closely modeled after the movement in Titanfall. In Titanfall, these mechanics worked extremely well and made getting around the map so much fun. However, this isn’t the case for Black Ops III. This isn’t necessarily because the controls are clunky or anything like that, but because the maps simply aren’t well designed for it.
The main issue with the maps that were in the Beta is that there is very little room for exploration and alternative paths. Obviously, I’m not expecting a huge open world. However, when the player has the ability to jump multiple stories high, I expect jumping over and onto things in the environment to be possible. This is definitely not the case in most maps, and you are usually met with unnecessary invisible walls. The best example I can think of is on the map Hunted. Hunted is full of various different structures and foliage, but you are almost always met with an invisible wall. I would love to be able to jump on-top of the arch in-front the of B-flag bridge to gain a high vantage point, but that just isn’t possible.
In addition to the jumping, a big new aspect of the movement is wall running. This is a very cool concept at first, but once again it is hindered by the maps. More often than not, there seems to be areas that are cut out specifically to be used for wall running. A good example is in the map Combine. On one side of the map, there is a huge wall that can be used to get a flank position on enemies. The problem is that this is really the only place a good flank route can be achieved, and because of this, it often results in death on the other side. There are also a lot of spots where there is a vertical wall, and for some reason you cannot run across it. To me, it seems like Treyarch has created some sort of whitelist to decide which walls can be run on, and you are out of luck with all the other walls.
By now I think it’s clear that I believe the map design is a huge issue in the game. I know that what I’ve played is only a Beta, and there are still a handful of other maps to be played. Unfortunately, if the current maps are like this I imagine the other maps aren’t all that different. Again, I’m not asking for huge open maps. Instead, it would just be nice if there was some room for exploration. For example, it would be so awesome to learn new wall running and jet packing combos to get across the map or get behind the enemies, but that just isn’t a possibility due to all the invisible walls and lack of true verticality.
Movement aside, one of the biggest elements of any FPS is the gunplay. This is the part of the game that really makes the game feel like a Call of Duty game, because it honestly hasn’t changed that much over the past couple of years. The SMGs still seem to be the dominant weapon class and the Razorback, a mid-ranged SMG, was the “tryhard” weapon for the Beta. Due to the movement, weapon balance, and map design, it seemed like snipers and long range ARs were even more irrelevant than they have been in the past.
The next change is the new specialist class system. I would call this a big change, but once you start playing you realize that this is really nothing more than a fourth perk. While there is some in-game dialogue of “outride down,” but in reality this doesn’t really matter at all. It would be one thing if there was a limited quantity of these players or if they had a specific role, but the only time when specialist class matters is the few seconds you are using their ability. I think it could have been really awesome to have true classes with radically different playstyles, but that just isn’t the case and just seems like an extra perk or scorestreak. Additionally, the weapons that specialists have are often overpowered and they are not hard to get. Because of this, they barely seem like a reward and just disrupt the balance of the game rather than making it more balanced.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a game with a lot of potential, but unfortunately, it also has a lot of features that cripples the game. While the movement is futuristic and an attempt to diversify the series, it seems the map design and gunplay is still stuck in the franchise's past. Sitting back for one or two games may be fun at first, but it quickly gets stale and repetitive. While this is all based on an unfinished version of the game, I think it definitely dictates the overall direction. Unfortunately, I don’t think this years multiplayer gameplay won’t be any better than it has been in the past.