With alternate histories and crazy weapons, Treyarch’s Black Ops games have always been Call of Duty’s oddballs. After killing mind-wolves with a swarm of nano-bees in the new campaign, I’m happy to say Black Ops 3 not only continues that trend, but smartly embraces its sci-fi oddities more than ever before.
But the most remarkable thing about Black Ops 3 isn’t its tone; it’s the sheer amount of content which, at its best, is some of the greatest I’ve seen in Call of Duty (note: the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions lack many of the features of the current-gen and PC version). Multiplayer still has the depth fans expect by now, but the addition of unique Specialists makes every player more important. Likewise, the option for four-player co-op and the new focus on playing how you want the campaign and Zombies modes more rewarding and fun to play than they’ve ever been.
The six-hour story is set in the not-too-distant future, and, like most similar sci-fi fare, it includes its own techno-gibberish to get used to. Black Ops 3 settles on “Direct Neural Interface,” or DNI for short. This ubiquitous technology allows humans to mentally interact with computers, weapons, and other people. It introduces both terrific new abilities and important new limitations that changed the way I thought about playing Call of Duty. For example, you can’t use enemies’ dropped weapons because they’re registered to someone else’s brain – hence Black Ops 3’s focus on cool new combat powers. “
Without getting into spoilers, I’ll say that Black Ops 3 didn’t spend enough time making me care about its characters before it tried to cash them in for an emotional payoff. It’s disappointing because Black Ops 3 begins to explore some genuinely interesting and taboo topics: What happens when people no longer own their thoughts, or when they don’t receive the mental health care they need? The answer: kill more robots!
With Our Powers Combined…
Killing more robots (and other enemies) is actually quite fun thanks to the new powers, which come in three flavors: blow things up, beat things up, or control your enemies and have them blow things up for you. Each power tree promotes a certain style of play, and you don’t earn enough points to level up all three paths unless you choose to sacrifice extra perks, weapon upgrades, and more. Even then, you can usually only use one type per level, so committing to one path is important. Plus, this leaves enough points to beef up your trusty primary weapon, which feels more important than it ever has. The gun you pick will likely stay in your hands for the entire level.
On your first run, you’ll commit to one style. On a second or third run, your character will unlock the ability to switch between different power types in the middle of a mission, opening the door for fun new combinations. The first time I played through one area, I charged around the battlefield, slaying as I went. The second time I sat behind cover, happily hacking drones and using them to clear the way. It’s refreshing to play a Call of Duty level and have more options than “shoot that guy again, but with a different gun.” “If you want to fight for every single inch, Realistic mode is excellent.
Using powers effectively is pretty much mandatory if you want to even try to survive the new “Realistic” difficulty mode, where one bullet is often enough to take you out. I’m not up for the challenge, but if you want to fight for every single inch, Realistic mode is excellent at running you through the wringer.Black ops 3 is available for PC, ps3/ps4 Xbox one/Xbox 360