Similar to how the Assassin’s Creed series managed to unleash an absolute torrent of titles since its 2007 inception, the Call Of Duty franchise likewise has a plethora of entries since debuting back in 2003. Just counting the base console titles, we’re already in double digits before even considering the spin-offs or handheld entries.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Treyarch developed series Black Ops reaches the end of its first trilogy, catapulting the story into a dystopian future apart from the standard WWII or modern battlefields that Call Of Duty is most known for. Where does Black Ops 3 rank in the overall series? That depends on what you like most about the Call Of Duty franchise and how you felt about the previous games. But for me, the sci-fi elements and changes to multiplayer make the third Black Ops title a serious contender near the top of the pile.
Before comparing Black Ops 3 to the rest of the series, it’s worth mentioning what platform its being played on, as the last gen consoles don’t even have the campaign at all and some of the mutliplayer aspects are actually culled. This is very much an experience that’s for the PC or Xbox One / PS4 crowd.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 Graphics
Looking back just a few years to when the series really exploded with the first Modern Warfare we can see that a lot of the graphics in the earlier games have not aged well (the blocky ships in the first Modern Warfare in particular look terrible). Black Ops 3 meanwhile takes full advantage of the next gen graphics for an incredibly polished look in a way that the much-maligned Ghosts didn’t quite nail.
I’ll be in the minority here as someone who actually quite enjoys Ghosts, but even I recognize it’s not close to the best in the series and that it didn’t add enough in terms of different gameplay or graphical upgrades to be a worthy first entry in the Xbox One / PS4 era.
Before Treyarch shook things up with the first Black Ops there was another return to the over-used WWII setting with World At War. While an overall competent and acceptable game, it was also a step back to retread old ground, not adding much beyond famous voice actors. On that front, Black Ops 3 delivers, taking us to a revamped setting and story that may have a lot of the same twists and turns but presents them in completely different ways.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 Zombie Mode
The original Black Ops really upped the ante for Treyarch — which has typically played second fiddle to Infinity Ward — with an interesting setting, crazy twist ending, and of course the now-infamous zombie mode and Nuketown maps. Getting to play as Nixon in the zombie apocalypse was a plus, and while that silliness isn’t around in part 3, the zombie mode has undergone a significant and pleasing change.
This time around the zombie mayhem takes place in the ’40s with a style that feels like a darker Indiana Jones. Add in voice acting from Ron Perlman (of both Fallout and Sons of Anarchy fame) and Jeff Goldblum (The Fly remake, Jurassic Park, and for a select few film fans, Igby Goes Down) combined with the Lovecraftian Cthuhlu mythos elements and you’ve got a recipe for success.
In a new twist, the main campaign also gets a zombified mode available after you beat it for the first time, pulling out all the human and robotic enemies and replacing them with zombies. Sinister voiceovers then shift the direction of the story to make the zombie theme work in the futuristic setting.
Black Ops 2 introduced the futuristic timeline more fully explored now in part 3, but Advanced Warfare felt like the first truly next-gen title in the series, adding exo-suit flying and fast paced movement. What Advanced Warfare was probably most known for was the disturbingly spot-on Kevin Spacey in all the advertising. Instead of Spacey in Black Ops 3 we get super soldier Christopher Meloni, who had a major presence on television since departing Law and Order: SVU too many years back followed by that brief pointless stint on True Blood.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 Gameplay
On the gameplay front, Black Ops 3 is familiar but the super soldier elements add in a new dimension where Call Of Duty collides with Crysis as you hack bots and send out firefly swarms (or “robo-bees” as most have taken to calling it), going fully sci-fi for the first time in the series. Adding in robotic enemies who take more sustained firepower to bring down than the average human enemy changes combat slightly, although sometime its more frustrating than engaging, especially playing solo.
Welcome changes come to multiplayer as well, with the ability to choose different specializations playing a big role in shaking up the constant repetition of run / shoot / die / respawn that makes up FPS online play. Unfortunately while some maps have lots of ways to take advantage of the new powers and movement options, others aren’t are as well utilized and feel pretty standard. Co-oping the campaign with multiple people able to play story missions on the other hand is a constant blast, and that’s something that was sorely lacking from the earlier entries in the series.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 Story And Setting
The Black Ops titles are known for telling different kinds of stories than what you get with the rest of Call Of Duty, and this time around the storyline is weirdly “out there” (sometimes to a bizarre degree) but still peppered with fairly predictable twists. The campaign has a lot of that epic feel from Modern Warfare 2 and 3 where the world is practically shaking around you – and sometimes that’s literally happening as the environment takes a pounding.
Different missions thankfully have varied settings as well. While there’s the typical bunkers and city streets, you also get the Maglev train in the New World mission, the jungle themes in Provocation and Hypnocenter, and the snowy WWII segments on Demon Within. For you achievement hunters, once again you’ll be searching through the missions to pick up all the collectibles, a staple of the game since Modern Warfare. The oddball collection of items on display this time around (from gangsta bling to hookahs to broken robot parts) makes more sense once the campaign story finishes, so don’t give up!
So is Black Ops 3 the best game in Call Of Duty history? I’ll have to draw the line there with a definitive “no,” despite all the fun changes. The original Modern Warfare had many cinematic moments, and the sequel upped the ante in every conceivable way, and is still probably the best game in the entire series.
Climbing glaciers with pick axes, snowmobile gun battles, experiencing a nuclear blast from space, the heart-wrenching double cross death of Ghost and Roach: these are all iconic moments of FPS gaming that won’t be overcome anytime soon. While easily one of the better entries in the last few years, Black Ops 3 hasn’t knocked Modern Warfare 2 off the throne for me.
Black Ops 3 strikes a balance between redefining the gameplay and keeping it all similar enough to still rest comfortably in the Call Of Duty franchise overall, a series known (whether for good or ill) for sticking closely to a particular formula.
It’s basically the same thing you’ve come to know and love (or loathe), but with overall minor changes in the grand scheme of things, and that’s OK, because that’s how the Call Of Duty series operates, although I can’t help but feel something big needs to be shaken up at some point before real stagnation sets in.