Hands on with Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer


Complexity and simplicity collide

During my recent visit with Treyarch, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the multiplayer for Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

After sitting through a presentation that seemed dizzying at times with the amount of changes and layers Black Ops III offers, actually being able to experience these dynamic themes at first required an entire overhaul of my play style. However, after much experimentation, I quickly found myself falling into old habits.

The need, the need for speed

When first presented with the option of now using Specialists for multiplayer, your first reaction as a gamer is to try them all. And not only try them all, but try each character’s unique ability and power weapon of choice.

During each match we played, I was able to test out at least one Specialist and try rounds with an ability or power weapon — you can only choose one. Because of this and the various movement options given to players with Black Ops III (wall running, thrust jumping, infinite sprint, and power sliding), I was playing like a mad man.

No longer was I tentative about going out into the battlefield. I had a badass superhero that could do almost whatever I wanted. The results, however, were just as you’d expect for a rusher. While I may have been able to get a few kills, I would quickly find myself surrounded by others and vulnerable to attack.

While the rushing strategy will certainly be effective for those who excel at it, campers will also benefit. Not only because other players will be flying around the map without a care in the world, but because some specialist abilities actually allow you to see through walls and sense player movement.

For example, the specialist Outrider has the ability of Vision Pulse, which can tag enemies and allow you to locate any within range.

But how does it feel?

For some reason, the game felt very familiar. Even with all the changes Treyarch has made to the core gameplay of Call of Duty withBlack Ops III, there is still a general sense of familiarity that is there. To me, it was like how Modern Warfare felt the first time I played it on the Xbox 360.

Whether this is because of the color and tone of the maps or the actual pace of the gameplay, I really can’t pin down why I feel this way. But that’s all I could think of after stepping away from the play session.

For those of us who have been longtime fans of the series and wanted a return to form, this was a very comforting feeling for me.

But what about the maps?

To coincide with the complete overhaul of the movement mechanics and ability to swim within Black Ops III, the maps had to be specifically designed for these purposes.

In the few maps we did play, all of these changes came into play. On one map, there was a floating wall on one side that begged for the player to wall run on and thrust jump off of. Of course, with reward comes risk. Players are always vulnerable to attack, even when doing special movements.

In another map, called Hunted, there was a shallow body of water that invited players to dive in so they could reach an objective or try to flank an enemy. Keep in mind, though, your breath underwater is limited and you can shoot and be killed while submerged.

Even though my play time was limited to about an hour, I found no real issues with the maps. The spawns seemed fair and the overall balance and flow of each map seemed to fit the experience.

These are the maps we were able to try out:

  • Combine: Set in the remote Egyptian Sahara, this vertical farming and sustainability research facility plays fast and frenetic with tight interiors, an open middle and a dangerous flank path.
  • Hunted: This big game hunting lodge is situated beneath a waterfall in the lush mountains of Ethiopia, where rugged terrain opens up to long sight lines and a stealthy underwater pathway.
  • Stronghold: A high-tech Swiss chateau in the frozen, mountainous Alps, Stronghold has an asymmetrical design with a mix of exposed sight lines and tight, close quarters.

The sounds of war

A hallmark of any shooter worth its salt is how it sounds. How the guns sound, how the explosions sound. The richness and depth of sound for a shooter such as Black Ops III is key for its immersion factor.

Immediately, you can tell sound is a big deal to Treyarch. Everything in the game is crisp and distinct. The world is very much alive and made even more vibrant because of the high quality of work put into the audio experience of Black Ops III.

Even if the game fails at every other aspect for you, the one thing you won’t be able to complain about is the obvious love put into the sounds around you.

But will it have split-screen co-op for multiplayer?

While I wasn’t given a definitive answer, I can tell you there was text at the bottom of one of the set-up menus that said, “Add controller for split screen.”

Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise for a Call of Duty title, but it’s a nice potential inclusion when so many other games are stripping away the concept of split-screen.

Will I have fun?

Treyarch is attempting to make Black Ops III more player friendly. Whether it be through unique social integration or the introduction of abilities and power weapons, there is something there for those that have nitpicked the series to death.

I don’t know if every issue any given player ever had will be addressed with Black Ops III, but every opportunity to be better and get better are there.

But does that mean the game is fun or more fun than we should expect? I had fun. I didn’t want to walk away from the game. I want to play it right now and all night. If that means the game is fun, then I suppose it is.

At this point, Black Ops III has a lot of promise. Now it’s up to Treyarch to deliver on it.