Descending on Los Angeles for every year brings with it a lot of surprises. It’s true that as the marketing campaigns get bigger plenty of leaks spoil those reveals ahead of time, but typically there are at least a few announcements that get gamers excited. But even then, there are some titles that are practically mainstays of E3.
As one of the best selling annual titles around, Call of Duty takes up regular residence at E3, albeit in many different forms. With the franchise now in the hands of a rotating stable of three developers, it’s never clear what to expect from the latest game when compared to the last. The same is true of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which we got to play at E3 2015.
Even before the show floor opened there was the feeling that Call of Duty fans were in for something a little different. After all, this was the first year that Sony, not Microsoft, debuted the Call of Duty E3 demo, and took things a step further by announcing PlayStation gamers were going to have the exclusive on first-release DLC.
That announcement in itself led to much speculation about the state of the Call of Duty franchise, but few can say if it will impact Black Ops 3, if it all. For our part, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s most intriguing elements are the changes it is making to the campaign and multiplayer, principally its co-op campaign and ‘Specialist’ multiplayer concept.
Unfortunately, Game Rant was unable to see any more of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 campaign aside from what was shown during Sony’s E3 2015 Press Conference. But, we were able to go hands-on with the Black Ops 3 multiplayer and see if the new class-based concept is successful.
For those who might not be familiar, the basic idea is that players are selecting one of a handful of characters – it looks like there might be 9 in total – called Specialists. Each of these Specialists has its own unique design and two abilities, one is more active and one is more passive. The sentient robot Reaper, for example, has an active ability that transforms its arm into a Gatling gun, while the passive ability is called Psychosis and creates three copies of Reaper. Sorry, COD fans, the robot no longer time travels.
Players can only select one of these abilities before heading out into battle, so it’s important to choose wisely. In essence, each of these abilities is like a ‘Super’ (think Destiny) that’s slowly powered via a recharge bar. Getting kills, completing objectives, or just playing the match fills the bar, and once the bar is full players can trigger their ability when convenient.
The abilities themselves are all rather unique, and will suit a wide variety of play styles. One of my personal favorites is Specialist Nomad’s ‘Rejack’ ability, which lets him jumpstart his heart after falling in battle. Because Call of Duty is all about quick firefights, being able to instantly jump back into battle and potentially get revenge on your killer is really cool.
The special abilities also add a new wrinkle to combat beyond just the basic running, jumping and shooting. Sure, Black Ops 3 features a lot of the same boost jumping and sliding seen in Advanced Warfare – this iteration lets players toggle the amount of boost they want to use and has wall running – but it’s the abilities that will make encounters slightly more dynamic.
Outside of that, though, this still felt like Call of Duty. Players can create loadouts with different classes of weapons, add attachments, select perks, and customize their scorestreaks. All of those previously established layers are there, but the main difference is that your team may be a bunch of Reapers running around, instead of distinctly designed soldiers. It’s kind of goofy and on a basic level may impact gameplay balance, but it was fine for a first impression.
However, these new features, while exciting for diehard Call of Duty fans, will likely do very little for longtime detractors. With scorestreaks, perks, and now these special abilities, there’s an even greater advantage afforded to players at the top of the Call of Duty multiplayer food chain. In our demo, for example, there was a player who racked up an absurd 45-kill total by the end of a match – we played Domination, Kill Confirmed, and Hardpoint – and that same player finished with over 30 kills in another. Including the special abilities by themselves would have been fine, but with all the other boosts it does make things seem hard to balance.
Call of Duty fans, on the other hand, will find a lot of the gameplay changes make firefights more dynamic and they give them more avenues through which to turn the tide of battle. Killing enemies is still the primary objective, but now they are so many ways to do so. Treyarch is clearly working hard to make sure Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is more than just an average online multiplayer shooter.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 releases November 6, 2015 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.