Call of Duty Black Ops III Review – The Best Call of Duty In Years

Another year and another Call of Duty game except it seems Treyarch have been harbouring some pent up aggression against their rivals at Infinity Ward and those who deem the COD games as cheap cash ins year in year out with nothing new to show for it. Well Call of Duty Black Ops III arrives with much gusto and a ballsy approach putting it bluntly and throws a massive two fingered salute at the naysayers because frankly if you were after an evolution without losing what makes these games fun to play, Treyarch have succinctly nailed it as far as I’m concerned. Take a look at our Call of Duty Black Ops III review for the full picture.

Call of Duty Black Ops III Review:

Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty Advanced Warfare continued the tradition of an action packed single player campaign moving the franchise into the future age last year with big named actors such as Kevin Spacey at the helm. It included the very much polarized and expertly honed multiplayer making for a well rounded package of an expected presence. There’s no denying the quality production values, the swift and well executed gameplay, expressive themes that are well suited to fans who’ve enjoyed the same approach since 2003. I’ve played most of the Call of Duty games and can appreciate where they stand in today’s gaming market. So there’s some big shoes to fill with each release but that’s perhaps an analogy wasted on Treyarch who have always come out fighting especially since the rather excellent and memorable World at War (arguably one of the best WWII shooters of our time) and the original Cold War inspired and deeply psychological original Black Ops in 2010.

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But that was back then and we’re here in the now with the latest release which simply retains the expected quality but interjects some much needed evolution without losing the core essence of the gameplay and what it stands for. Basically if you’re a fan of the franchise you should love what’s on offer here and if you’re in the camp of groaning at the sound of another COD game, then perhaps now is a good time to take some note.

Looking at the single player campaign and you’ll notice from the off a stark difference from previous games in the series because for the first time you get to choose a male or female operative. Whilst the game doesn’t give players the full customization options to make their own character, there’s a few choices for the solitary male/female avatar to tailor – such as hair colour, bandanna or not, shaven head. Pretty basic stuff that you’ll notice during the cutscenes. Thankfully Treyarch didn’t cheap out and make your character a mute which means whoever you choose you’ll hear plenty of dialogue which is pretty neat. Stepping beyond the basic character and given the game’s futuristic slant you’re also able to customize the outfit as you find more gear such as helmets and threads adding a much needed personal touch to the game which in the past the series has been quite rigid in this regard.

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Moving on to the gameplay and it’s business as usual with tight gun-play mechanics with a variety of customizable weapons which can be chosen before missions and even changed during missions to suit the scenario at hand. This time players have the rather neat wall running, climbing abilities as standard, some cool abilities such as being able to hack robot enemies or drones and send em packing, a helpful vision mode which allows you to view dug in enemies behind cover. The HUD also displays what type of gear they are packing whether that’s rocket launchers, well armoured goons or sniper rifle wielding cowards. It’s a good system which on the surface might sound like making the game too easy, is in fact pretty solid without being cheap. The male or female enemy come at you in their numbers and although possess the intelligence of chimps at times or gets stuck running into inanimate objects, can be quite formidable even on the easier settings. Talking of which, the game’s all new realistic difficulty is rather cheap and there’s no denying that its name is wrongly chosen. This mode is a one hit death for you which doesn’t extend to the opposition. It’s a slower paced tense but utterly frustrating affair for those with more patience to use cover effectively than anything. It’s a neat addition but mostly unbalanced and should at least be changed to make it feel more “realistic” – that’s one hit kills on the enemy too Treyarch.

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What’s perhaps the most neat aspect of the single player campaign aside from the fact it comes as an offline mode for lone players (or split-screen) or online for co-op play is how the level design has been revamped from its linear roots. Now players have choices in how they approach the many skirmishes and big battles on offer across the lengthy missions. There’s quite a bit more verticality this time which suits players opting for ranged weapons or those who want to experience close quarters play. It’s a gratuitous melting pot of ideas that works wonders and mean battles remain tense and less scripted than before without losing any of its drama. There’s naturally some big moments on offer which puts players at the heart of a meandering story of corruption and trust which as usual somewhat plays second fiddle to actually getting ones hands dirty.

The game doesn’t end with the single player story either as fan favourite Zombie mode is back and whilst more tactical with three other players online can be tackled solo. There’s a really neat Noire like presentation here with four very different characters to play as and lots more stuff to do to survive the zombie onslaught. It’s a very neat distraction from the main campaign and could almost be an entirely separate game if it was fleshed out a little more. The only real negative one can level against it is that it’s quite vague in letting newcomers and even vets know what is required when they are thrown in at the deep end.

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In terms of visuals Black Ops III boasts some excellent locations, effects and animations.It’s a top quality game in the visual department although if you’re playing on PC there are numerous issues which sadly bring the experience down quite considerably. Performance wise it’s a bit of a mess even using a top end system where shadows flicker on AMD GPUs and the game has an awful memory leak which after extended play reduces the game to a stuttering nightmare that’s practically unplayable and requiring a complete restarting of the game. With these issues fixed then there’s a beautiful game here which console owners can experience without hindrance albeit with dynamic resolutions and a meandering frame rate which often rests at 30 fps compared to the rather lovely rock solid 60 the PC version affords (when it works). The console versions do hold up rather well in comparison the PC which is pretty good.

Audio is also high quality with real presence during big battles and some notoriously over the the top shouting from the main characters especially from your often swearing side kick Jacob Hendricks who you’ll love or loath in equal measure. It’s an full on assault on the ears with a dramatic musical score which can be muted entirely if that’s your calling and in our experience is better for it at times.

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Over the longer term Treyarch flexes its muscles by rewarding players who replay the campaign missions over and over again amassing the highest score and achieving specific accolades. Aside from the usual assortment of collectibles which players can view at their base of operations which acts as a central hub of intelligence, there are side mini games such Combat Training and free run activities to mess around with as well. Players also level-up their character, their gear and can upgrade abilities and such like making for a much more involving campaign than previous efforts. This is how to do a single player game to keep players coming back for more aside from merely offering additional difficulties. It’s an impressive amount of options on offer and one we hope future games in the series take note of. The solo player can invest many hours of play into this game which is seemingly offers it all.

Gamers well tuned with the multiplayer will be right at home here with the fast paced gameplay expected from the series. There’s a wealth of team and solo op competitive modes to play with and if you’re a lone player not wanting to get shot to a pulp but an ever competitive online crowd then the option to play any of modes and maps with customizable bots is yours for the taking. Treyarch also adds a bit more personality to the core game by including more defined classes which players select and then use their unique abilities – again these can be either male or female operatives.

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Call of Duty Black Ops III is an entertaining, fun and awesome addition to the series which rather than stagnate in its own juices has come out fighting this time for the greater good with a stellar campaign, excellent zombies mode and the all encompassing multiplayer the series is famous for. When you put all of these elements into the one package there’s really very little to fault here aside from the technical niggles of the PC version which hopefully will be patched sooner rather than later. When the game works as intended it offers an impressive amount of bang for your buck without having to rely on DLC extras. Treyarch has done an incredible job with the Black Ops series, and has truly made it their own striving to better themselves each time. If there’s one shooter on the cards for the holiday season then this has got to be the go-to game without a shadow of a doubt.

Score 9.5/10

Xbox One review code supplied by Microsoft Team Xbox.

Written by: Robert Cram

Robert Cram has hundreds of video game reviews and thousands of articles under his belt. He aims to remain objective and fair in his analysis. With years of experience, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement is entirely optional.