Keeping a Thurrott family tradition, my son and I stayed up past midnight last night so we could play the latest Call of Duty title as soon as possible. Of course, it’s 2015, so the night didn’t involve an outing to Best Buy and another long wait as we installed the game to our consoles.
I … have been worried about this one. The previous COD title, Advanced Warfare, was my least favorite of the series, and, no, I haven’t forgotten the buggy Call of Duty 3. Part of the problem, I think, is the weird jetpack system, which seems so out of place for COD. But part of it, too, is the futuristic multiplayer environments, which also seem so out of place.
I’ve only played Black Ops III (BO3) for a few hours so far, mostly multiplayer. But what I’ve seen has been pleasantly surprising, despite some Day One bugs that prevented me from properly modifying my load-outs. (I’ll work on that today.) In short, it appears that BO3 has corrected the issues I had with AW multiplayer. The jetpack stuff feels more natural, in a COD sense, and not distracting. And the multiplayer levels are mostly visually familiar, retaining that great COD feel.
Explaining what I mean there, especially the jetpack thing, is going to be difficult, though I’ll point out that my son, who also mostly ignored AW, came to the same conclusion. For fans of video game series—be they Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, whatever—“feel” is important, if hard to describe. It’s why Halo or Battlefield feel a bit off to a hardcore COD fan, despite efforts by game makers to minimize the differences.
So let me give it a shot. With the jetpack, BO3 takes a less vertical approach and makes this capability more of a horizontal/forward progress kind of thing. That is, rather than letting you leap tall buildings as per Titanfall (or, AW for that matter), BO3’s jetpack propels you forward in bursts—you can basically triple-fire it, an advance over the classic “double-jump” movement in many shooters—and then up and over (or into ) short obstacles. You can clear fences, hop over small ponds, and bound into second story windows in buildings.
The look and feel of the multiplayer levels is important, too, since I’ll spend most of time here, and if this game is successful, I will create memories of these virtual places that match real-world locations. That never really happened with AW, with one or two exceptions, and while this, too, is hard to explain, I think it just comes down to AW not looking or feeling like COD. It’s the reason Halo is so less interesting to me, even though the play mechanics in the latest game are so well done. COD, through its move from WWII to modern scenarios, has retained a wonderful, gritty, real-world vibe. With the exception of AW. The BO3 levels I’ve played mostly seem to get this.
Single player? It’s exactly what it’s always been, a rail-guided walkthrough some incomprehensible story line that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Which is a pretty unfair judgment given that I’ve not even completed a single level yet, so whatever. You can tell. There will be the interminable bits where you have to drive some vehicle, some soaring cinematics, and loads of non-playable exposition. Who cares? I’ll play it through once and be done with it.
And that works for me, I think. I will give AW multiplayer another shot today just to sort of verify my theories. But it looks like BO3 will eliminate my worries about Call of Duty: Ghosts—the game before AW—being the last great COD, especially for multiplayer. Fingers crossed.