Everybody likes cybernetic soldiers, right? Right?
Another year, another Call of Duty. But trust us, this year's game is different. It's a familiar pitch, one that Treyarch truly hopes to deliver on with Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It pushes advanced technology and fluid movement more so than any other game in the series, and it shows in both the single-player and multiplayer modes. I even got some hands on time with the PlayStation 4 version of Black Ops III and its competitive multiplayer at E3 this year.
The multiplayer gives the Call of Duty series its legs, and the traditional competitive modes compliment the new mechanics well. Treyarch emphasizes the design principle of fluid combat movement in Black Ops III, which specifically refers to unique traversal abilities. Players utilize thrust jumps to get around maps quickly, though it also adds an extra layer of vulnerability. I picked off quite a few enemies in the air, so the thrust jump creates a new risk/reward combat mechanic. That's especially true because of the movement meter in the middle of the screen, which only allows for a limited number of mid-air jumps.
Players can also power slide across the map by touching the crouch button as they run. In fact, I held the sprint button at all times (that's right, unlimited sprinting) and used the power slide move constantly. You have to figure a moving target that immediately ducks with no prior warning is a lot harder to hit than one that simply stands. The power slide also uses the movement meter, so it's possible to chain together moves for a limited amount of time. Wall running, the easiest and most fun movement mechanic, also factors into the meter. It's not often that I needed to thrust jump into a wall run followed by a power slide, but the few times I did it felt satisfying.
Black Ops III also includes enhanced weapon customization. I mean, if you're going to be spending countless hours with Call of Duty multiplayer, it makes sense to customize the guns and give them a bit of personality. Treyarch calls it Gunsmith, and it allows players to add a variety of attachments to each weapon. They don't cancel each other out, so attachment combinations that don't quite make sense stylistically can still be added to weapons. It looks impressive up close, and the designs really pop during matches as well.
The hands-on demo showcased Specialists as well, an integral part of the Black Ops III multiplayer experience. The game features nine different Specialists, enhanced soldiers with special abilities. The demo only included six of them, but they cover a broad spectrum. For example, Seraph can use a special pistol called the Annihilator when her special is activated, while Reaper the robot uses a glitch move that teleports him to a previous location. Each Specialist has two different abilities to choose from prior to matches, one of which usually focuses on a powerful weapon. Players can still create custom loadouts, but special moves often influence the outcome of entire matches. It takes quite a few points to fill the special meter, but there's a certain rush to pressing L1 + R1 to activate it.
I also saw an extended look at the Call of Duty: Black Ops III campaign, though it was a recorded video with most of its footage from Sony's E3 press conference. Once again it emphasizes the four-player co-op and advanced cybernetic technology. Players work together and use ridiculous abilities, such as shock punches and/or drone control. Players can also switch cybercores to use different abilities, so it looks like Treyarch plans to add some variety on that front over the course of the campaign.
The combination of enhanced combat movement and a wide selection of Specialists appears to inject some life into the Call of Duty franchise based on my time with the game. Only time will tell whether it's enough to sustain interest in Black Ops III months into its release. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is scheduled to come out on November 6 on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.