Saturday, August 22, 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Beta impressions

Having not played last years Advanced Warfare, the double jumping and wall-running was completely new for me when I started playing the Call of Duty: Black Ops III beta. And to be fair, I was a bit skeptical about it. I didn't really have fun playing Ghosts and went back to the older games instead. After reading hands-on experiences in the months before this beta and after a few days of playing it, all the doubts are gone.

Surprisingly, the game feels very much like Call of Duty and that's mostly because the new moves are all optional. You can run on every wall, but sometimes you can use it in a more tactical way by skipping a portion of the map or perhaps even by running on an outside wall. When you press and hold the prone button while running, you make a power-slide. Pressing and holding the jump button makes you thrust through the air. These actions are tied to a meter, which prohibits you from continually using them. You can decide for yourself how you combine these actions, so you could do a wall-run, float through the air and immediately do a power-slide when you land.
It's also possible to swim in this CoD. You can even shoot and reload while doing that. It's a good way to surprise your opponent, but if someone spotted you, you might be a bit more vulnerable. You don't need a perk to sprint endlessly, which makes that the pace of the game is a bit higher, although it appears to be a bit slower than a few months ago, if I may believe people who then played it.

You no longer play as unnamed soldiers, but every player chooses a character, a so-called specialist. Each specialist has a unique weapon or ability. Before the match starts, you pick a specialist and either its ability or its weapon. The special becomes available after a while and you can decide to use it or save it for a later moment. Some specials help you identify enemies, another makes you run faster and there's one that lets you glitch to a previous position. On the weapon side there are weapons that can be used by everyone, like a grenade launcher, or ones that require more skill, like a bow and arrow. There even is one that reminds me of Scaramanga's Golden Gun. If you're not good enough to get a scorestreak reward, you still have something special and powerful.

There are four maps (originally three) playable in the beta and I like all of them, to my own surprise. Not all maps contain water and some maps have more wall-run routes than others, but that means that there is a nice balance and that it never feels gimmicky. The biggest problem right now are the spawn points, especially in game modes like capture the flag where there is respawn time and you might only get to live a few seconds before being shot to dead again by an enemy on the lookout.
Melee not always results in a direct kill, which kind of disappoints me, since I think it requires skill, as does chaining wall-runs, jumps and slides.

What matters most is that I have so much fun playing the game. Perhaps that's because of the level cap. Because of that, not all specialists and killstreaks can be unlocked, so there isn't a lot of air support yet. It remains to be seen if the full game is as well balanced as the beta or that there is too much chaos. The specialists seem to be a nice addition, as they can turn out great if used at critical moments.