Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII Review

Will Bavier, Contributing Writer

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Overall Falcon rating: 4/5

 

Three days after the release of Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, the record-breaking franchise hit $500M in sales worldwide. Although the Call of Duty (CoD) series has been around for over 15 years, it still hasn’t faltered in popularity.

Black Ops IIII has three main game modes: Multiplayer, Blackout, and Zombies. Despite the lack of a story mode, Treyarch made up for it by implementing a new Battle Royale game mode, putting 100 players in a large arena to find weapons and battle it out until one player stands. Though my sweet tooth for action-packed, screen-shaking campaigns wasn’t exactly satisfied, I can confidently say that the $60 purchase is worth it if you like modern fast-paced first-person shooters.

 

Fun factor Falcon rating: 3.5/5

 

The hallmark of the CoD franchise is the fun factor, and while Black Ops IIII just about meets the competition of other games on the market, it isn’t bad, considering the high bar Treyarch has set for themselves. The majority of available weapons are easy to learn—which is welcoming for new players and die-hard players alike.

The new Blackout mode hones this expertly, but the multiplayer scene can easily be dominated by players who have the mechanical skill that simply can’t be learned when picking up the game. Playing casually with friends has the risk of ending with angry disconnects, as most games will match you against five stacks of hardcore players who send scorestreak after scorestreak at you. There have been countless times where I have joined a game in progress with no chance of winning, and the only reason I stay in the game is to get the rewards when the game finishes. However, when on the winning side, this game is incredibly fun and consistently rewards good play. Players will always feel proud after about performing well, whether it’s because of their name highlighted at the top of the leaderboard or their character standing above the others during the end-game screen.

The visuals in ‘Black Ops IIII’ are nothing less than expected from Infinity Ward’s top of the line game engine.”

Outside of Multiplayer, the Battle Royale mode is amazing; the fast-paced action combined with the heart-pumping intensity contributes to what is definitively the best I’ve played.

The Zombies game mode is also fun, putting a group of four players or less to survive as long as they can against an onslaught of terrifying zombies. Sometimes, the simplest of game modes can be the most fun.

 

Control and gameplay Falcon rating: 3/5

To many players who miss the more traditional style of “boots on the ground” CoD games, Treyarch has moved away from the controversial wall-running and double-jumping mechanics of Black Ops III.

The fourth installment of the Black Ops series instead distinguishes itself by introducing a larger amount of health for each player and self-healing mechanic. These contribute to a higher skill gap between the newbies and the Mountain Dew-chugging virtual (emphasis on the virtual) gods. Fast movement speed encourages players to use their imagination in order to outplay their opponent, which is shown best in Multiplayer mode; if a player decides to go on a long flank against the enemy, then they will most likely be rewarded with a kill or two.

Of course, there are some problems with gameplay. Primarily, the game seems to be… breaking. Players were outraged about the 20hz servers, comparing them to the smooth 60hz ones that ran in the beta. Treyarch responded rather quickly in a Reddit forum, saying that they would look to fix this: “We’re constantly working to optimize the game, and particularly network performance, to ensure the highest quality online experience for our players. For a game launch with as massive a population as ours hitting so many global servers at once, we configure our infrastructure to ensure game stability as the highest priority over all other factors.”

Treyarch seems to be playing a game of Whac-a-Mole—every problem they fix seems to create another. Melees aren’t registering, XP after matches aren’t rewarded, and challenges don’t properly register when completed. On PC, the game constantly crashes due to a “fatal error.”

The gameplay is also flawed and can be solved in two ways: fixing where the player spawns and making the perk abilities more balanced. The spawns should be altered to better fit each game mode. When playing Hardpoint (a mode available in Multiplayer), one team will usually spawn closer to the objective and another team will spawn across the map, giving an unfair advantage to one team.

My final gripe with Multiplayer is its perk system. Many players, myself included, feel forced to use some perks over others, simply because one is better than the other. If I want to be a support player for my team, the Team Link perk seems like it would best fit for helping my teammates, as I can see them through walls and my back is covered on my radar in case I need to intercept an enemy before they get to my team. However, without the Tracker or Ghost perk, I may not live long enough to be any help at all. Using the Ghost perk allows you to be undetected by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) when moving, but what’s the point if you can use a rocket launcher to blow it up and prevent the whole team from being seen? There are many similar cases where an overall stronger choice eliminates a potential niche loadout. These problems will be hard to get by for many players, but once Treyarch finds a way to permanently fix their servers, many of the problems will go away.

In Blackout, the movement and interaction with healing and revive times feel much more streamlined and fluid compared to other games I’ve played. This solves my biggest problem with previous Battle Royale game modes having an unbearably slow mid-game. The guns feel infinitely less clunky than in PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG), and the loot is easy to come by. The maps are detailed and run smoothly for the most part. With these aspects, it creates an immersive and enjoyable experience.

Zombies is mechanically very fun with the addition of three main maps: IX, Blood of the Dead, and Voyage of Despair. All of them are equally fun, with interconnecting passages that lead to open spaces, rich with buildable power-ups and unique items. For people new to Zombies, such as me, the beginner tutorial makes the ride smooth and eases you into new and old mechanics alike.

 

Visuals Falcon rating: 4/5

The visuals in Black Ops IIII are nothing less than expected from Infinity Ward’s top of the line game engine, as the character design and weapons are evidently crafted with detail and uniqueness in mind.

Weapon animations make some guns feel quick and tactile, while others feel heavy and powerful. If I choose a loadout with a belt-fed LMG and a rocket launcher on my back, I feel less agile than my run-and-gun kit with a light submachine weapon and pistol, even though it has minimal impact on my character’s movement.

The maps are detailed and run smoothly for the most part. Blackout’s graphics are incredibly eye-catching compared to other Battle Royale games, but they don’t get in the way of performance.

The playable characters in Zombies all have distinguishable character models, and the undead are as ghoulish as ever. The feeling of dread when you see the seven-foot tall zombie barbarian probably wouldn’t be as frightening if he looked like a potato.

 

Sound Falcon rating: 3.5/5

The best way to describe the audio in the newest addition to the CoD series is through one word: explosions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that playing a war game sounds like you’re in a war zone, which is emulated with bass-boosted explosions coming from every angle.

The roar of the Thresher flying overhead with a strafing run of explosives while you dive for cover from enemy fire is absolutely terrifying; I tip my hat to whoever did scorestreak audio at Treyarch.

The audio is also pretty informative since you are able to hear others’ footsteps. In Blackout, this is immensely important because it allows you to locate others in a building. In my opinion, the footsteps are almost too audible in Blackout; this encourages enemies to silently camp instead of risking being heard trying to relocate.

 

Replayability Falcon rating: 4.5/5

Black Ops relies on replayability, as all of the available modes are multiplayer experiences, and this installment beats previous CoD games easily. Loadout customization and an array of game modes make every match unique, and the meta is sure to improve as Treyarch rolls out each new balance patch.

There are also many different challenges to pursue, which are mostly worth grinding for. For instance, once I got tired of running my SMG loadout, I decided to get diamond camo on all my snipers through intense albeit painstaking mastery of all the snipers. Now, whenever I feel like flexing on my team, I can whip out my sparkling rifle and receive a wave of praise and awe! OK, maybe not, but my point stands. Black Ops still has that “one more game” charm to it, and, well… I’m charmed.

 

Overall impression:

Black Ops IIII adds a new aspect to the game without changing its fast-paced, action-packed experience that all players love. The new Blackout mode appears to be the better-looking older brother of PUBG with its own CoD twist, making it the best Battle Royale experience I’ve had so far. Zombies always will be a riveting experience to play with your buddies, and it appeals to newcomers. All of the game modes that Treyarch has to offer in Black Ops IIII contribute towards an extremely fun and addictive experience.

 

A shortened version of this piece appears in the December 2018 print edition.