Call of Duty: Black Ops III (XB1) Review

Killing zombies with Jeff Goldblum.

To most people, Call of Duty is essentially the same game every year. Those that flock out to buy it are there for one thing, and one thing alone: the multiplayer. While I always enjoy the early killing sprees, I rarely partake in that portion even a week after launch. Truth is, people are just too good after launch. So I have started really enjoying the other facets of the package, ones that a lot of people rarely even bother checking out.

Treyarch has been known for crafting some of the most interesting entries in the series since the original developer disbanded most of its founders and the series got on a three-developer cycle. The Black Ops series in particular has been among the most popular entries. With its outside the box thinking and changes to the campaign every year, players like myself always look forward to how they are going to spice up things with each new entry. Black Ops 3 definitely travels down some of those roads, but it fails to progress the series in a way that previous entries pulled off so well.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC, 360, PS3
Price I’d Pay: $59.99

The most exciting addition to the campaign is the four player co-op. Being able to customize my character and play with friends made the action much more intense. This is also a much more lengthy campaign than previous entries. Sadly, the big-budget set pieces seem to be lacking when compared to past incarnations. There are a few highlights such as the tidal wave, but the over-the-top action is not as prevalent this time around.

The story does tell an interesting tale, even if it strays from most of the tie-ins to previous Black Ops games. The advanced movement systems have also been toned down from Advanced Warfare, which feels like a step backwards in the progression of the series. These are the trade-offs when two different developers helm the same series.

Of course, what makes the Call of Duty series so much fun is its superb game play. The shooting in Black Ops 3 feels familiar, but still sublime. The new powers characters are given are fun, but the mind-takeover kind of renders the rest of them obsolete after it is upgraded. Levels also feel more linear this time around, harkening back to the infamous “follow” mentality that plagued earlier games in the series. Still, it was a lot of fun trudging through with friends.

The best part about Black Ops 3 though is its sheer amount of content. This game is jam-packed with stuff to see and do. The campaign is nice, but it also has a twist upon completion that garners a second play through. The new scenario takes players through familiar areas, but with a zombie twist that makes it worthwhile.

There is also a separate zombie mode that features the familiar game play but now comes with its own themed campaign mode as well as its own progression system. The story is more robust and features familiar faces including everyone’s favorite Jeff Goldblum as a quirky magician.

The formula remains mostly untouched, with players killing zombies, earning money, and unlocking new areas and weapons, all while building barricades to see how long they can survive. What makes it stand out is the theme around it. It feels like a separate game all its own, complete with XP and a perks system.

Then of course we come to the bread and butter of the series; multiplayer. It is worth noting that the last gen versions of the game only include this mode. The campaign and extras were stripped out of those versions entirely.

The new competitive mode now focuses on Specialists, each with their own unique abilities. Think of it in the same mindset as a MOBA, where characters can earn these abilities during a match, and certain modes can even ban specific Specialists from matches. It is yet another way the developers of the series are trying to stay on par with trends in the gaming industry. First it was adding loot, and now taking cues from the increasingly popular MOBA genre.

The Pick 10 system also returns, allowing players to customize their loadouts how they see fit. I personally like to play with friends and bots, as I mentioned I am not on par with the players that crop up around launch time. I love that in these private matches all perks and customizations are unlocked from the outset, eliminating the need to level up on real matches to see all the goodies the game has to offer.

The maps included at launch are all fun to navigate and the standard modes of action return. The hugely popular Nuk3town map was only available for people who pre-ordered the game, but the new matchmaking system does allow for playlists that exclude that map, and likely future packs from the upcoming season pass. It is also worth noting that for the first time in series history, those maps will now be first on PlayStation 4 as opposed to Xbox One, which has been the standard for years.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 feels like a progression of the series as opposed to the advancement past entries from Treyarch delivered. Still it is hard to argue with how much is packed into this release, and I found myself exploring it all over and over again. The sheer amount of content makes up for the lack of innovation in some areas, and while I don’t think it stands out as much as Advanced Warfare, it still keeps me playing a series I never thought I would care about year in, and year out.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Three distinct modes
  • Shooting is sublime
  • Specialist system
  • Tons to unlock and customize
  • Campaign lacks those epic moments
  • Feels like substance over style
Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.