I, like many others, have spent much of the past few days digging deep into the Call of Duty Black Ops 3 beta. I’ve sunk maybe 10-15 hours into the multiplayer experience, and having skipped the past few Call of Duty titles, I was expecting to be rewarded with an evolved experience, but instead I’m met with an frankensteinian amalgamation of several shooters I’ve played before. Black Ops 3 doesn’t change the series, not that I was necessarily expecting it to, but I was hoping it’d be a different direction than Advanced Warfare, and is instead just moving backwards.
The two big changes are those made to movement and the inclusion of the specialists, which are a separate loadout that decides the appearance of your character and a special ability that charges throughout the duration of the match. The movement is where I was the most disappointed, I think. You can now use a jetpack after your initial jump and run along walls, which is strikingly familiar to anyone who sunk any time into Titanfall. Maybe even more disappointing is that the jetpac feels sluggish in comparison to Titanfall’s very quick upward movement. The dodges and lunges from Advance Warfare are gone, and replaced with something that I think is generally less appealing.
The specialists just feel as artificial as the differences between the Destiny classes. You can choose between either a unique weapon that will kill in a single hit, or some kind of ability, like doubling your score-streak earnings, or turning temporarily invisible. Both feel plucked out of Bungie titles, whether it’s Halo or Destiny, and don’t really fit into the Call of Duty multiplayer experience, which moves at a breakneck pace. I understand balancing will happen between release and this beta, and things have already been tweaked in the experience that I’ve been playing, but it doesn’t change how out-of-place these abilities feel.
Outside of an escort-mission style gameplay mode that Treyarch referred to themselves as a “very beta mode”, that’s about all that’s changed since the last time I sank any significant time into a Call of Duty. I don’t necessarily want to say I was “expecting more” or something, and I do understand that the campaign and zombie modes will bring a lot to the experience, but my first brush with the game was just so disappointing. I was expecting that the separation from the franchise for such a long time would get me back in when I returned, as opposed to turning me off, but the innovation of shooters like Destiny and Titanfall, and soon Halo 5, seem to completely outshine even what Treyarch has brought to the table.
But like I said, I’ve played several hours of it. I do still enjoy unlocking new items every level, hitting an endorphin-inducing killstreak, or wiping out the entire enemy team with one clip. The gameplay is still great, but after this beta, I think I’m set. I’m good. I was really looking forward to Black Ops 3 since I adore the other two, especial Black Ops 2. I want to believe Treyarch can really bring creativity into this franchise still, but the first two hours of this beta experience were just plagued with, “this is like a less-good Titanfall without robots.”
I know that’s reductive, and I see how Treyarch has spruced up the franchise here, especially the presentation, but at the end of the day Call of Duty seems so dated by comparison to the ever-changing needs of this genre. It just pulls from more creative new IPs, like Titanfall and Destiny. If you were expecting another big shift for the franchise after Advanced Warfare, I think you’ll find yourself severely disappointed.