While working on my Black Ops III review, I began wondering whether I was playing the same game as the rest of the media. Many of my fellow game critics are praising the latest Black Ops entry for taking COD to new heights, and for finally bringing innovation to what’s been a derivative franchise for many years now. I can’t say I agree with those claims. To me personally, Black Ops III is no different from previous COD entries, aside from developer Treyarch swiping gameplay mechanics from other, more robust, FPS titles.
The campaign is still a brief, and embarrassing, venture through linear corridors and excessive explosions. And no, small open areas with respawning mini-bosses don’t count as “breaking linearity.” The Zombies mode is identical to previous reiterations save for a new setting and a few gameplay tweaks. And the Multiplayer is precisely what you’d expect from a COD title, even if the gunplay is now more akin to Titanfall and Crysis.
"To me personally, Black Ops III is no different from previous COD entries, aside from developer Treyarch swiping gameplay mechanics from other, more robust, FPS titles."
Having said that, none of these things make Black Ops III a particularly bad game. In fact, I’ll continue playing the multiplayer for several weeks to come, but I feel it’s important to get the misconceptions about everyone’s claims out in the open. For one, where is the 12-15 hour campaign the developers boasted about? I completed the eleven story missions in a little over five hours on the normal difficulty setting, and while there’s a second Zombie-themed campaign unlocked after completion, it’s still the same experience with some aesthetic changes and Zombies instead of robots.
Secondly, none of the gameplay revisions are new or innovative. Most of the special abilities are ripped straight from Crysis and Bioshock, and the wall running is clearly taken from Titanfall. I see nothing wrong with being inspired by other developers, but a big company like Treyarch could’ve done a little more to set themselves apart. Maybe if COD’s marketing wasn’t so damn pretentious and bloated, this wouldn’t bother me too much. But, every year we’re led to believe that change is coming, and every year we end up with the same product.
"But, every year we’re led to believe that change is coming, and every year we end up with the same product."
I, like many other gamers, am partially guilty of COD remaining stagnant. I continue to play the multiplayer, I continue purchasing the map packs, and I continue to enjoy myself, despite my frustration with the series. In a way, that’s somewhat of a compliment towards Treyarch, as their formula still carries a certain appeal. As far as multiplayer shooters go, COD is unquestionably unparalleled in delivering a technically sound experience.
Like many fans have argued before, COD needs to take the Titanfall route and completely ditch the single player. The campaign in Black Ops III is the worst so far, and I’d go as far as saying it’s more laughable and disorderly than Ghosts. After five hours, I still have no idea what the narrative is about, nor do I care to find out. Black Ops III feels like it was written by a bunch of college dropout frat boys who’ve watched nothing but Michael Bay movies their entire lives. The writing is beyond cringe worthy. To make matters worse, the script wasn’t written to match the female character. Seriously.
Even the visuals don’t impress like they used to. Everything is polished to perfection, but everything also lacks creativity and identity. Looking back at the campaign, I can’t think of a single aesthetically unique level or location, and the same goes for the generic-looking characters. Multiplayer maps are far more interesting in comparison, but the fact that the Nuk3town map is being offered as a bonus just goes to show how much more creative Treyarch used to be only a few years ago.
"I feel like a broken record whenever I review COD games, and frankly, that’s very symptomatic of what the series has become."
Fortunately, the multiplayer continues to be one of the strongest in the industry...that is if you are a fan of these kind of things. Personally, COD has always been the kind of game I play for a few weeks each year, then move on without ever thinking about it again. The same is true this time around. I admit, I’m enjoying the multiplayer for its frantic action and smooth gameplay, but with Fallout 4 and Tomb Raider releasing today, it’ll be hard to imagine Black Ops III getting as much playtime from me until I completely run out of other options.
I feel like a broken record whenever I review COD games, and frankly, that’s very symptomatic of what the series has become. It’s a paint by the numbers product in every way, and I’m just saddened that Treyarch is so hesitant to move the series forward. Unfortunately, it just doesn't matter at this point. COD is there for COD fans, and COD fans are certainly going to enjoy what Blops III has to offer. For everyone else, there are literally countless alternatives that offer much better FPS action and more longevity and depth.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4