Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Review in Progress

Most outlets didn’t receive copies of the newest Call of Duty until Friday morning. So here are my quick impressions of Black Ops 3, a few hours in.

For the first time in the series, players have the option of playing a female soldier in the main campaign. (Ghosts had female soldiers for multiplayer.) This was one of the new features I was looking forward to most. I tend to avoid spoilers (even here at GR), so I didn’t know much beyond the new gender option and that the game looked to be a sci-fi setting.

So far, I’m having fun with the latest by developer Treyarch. The Black Ops series has been one of my favorite shooters. I really dug the cold-war tale by way of flashbacks voiced by Avatar‘s Sam Worthington in part two of the series. This time, the world is on the brink of a new cold war in the year 2065. Powerful military corporations are developing soldier augmentations.

But before all that, back to character creating. I was a tad disappointed that while you can choose between nine different female faces, they are all, essentially, a twenty-something Caucasian gal sporting a pixie cut or a shaved head. (Okay, I kind of like the pixie cut.) But I don’t know why they even bothered, since overall the options basically come down to a few hair colors and the placement of a black bandana. (Note: If you choose a guy, the physical options are similar with the voice being Farscape‘s Ben Browder which is cool.)

The opening mission is fairly standard CoD. Your character, known only as “the player," is tasked with heading to the Semien Mountains in Ethiopia to rescue minister Said. There isn’t much by way of intel, though. Upon arriving you have a crisis of conscience; Said is not the only person being held prisoner. Suffice it to say, he’s not the only one that gets extracted. The big surprise happens at the end, when you’re attacked and maimed (really badly) by what appears to be robots created by Skynet. (Their red eyes and laser sounds scream The Terminator opening.) Limbs are torn apart with copious amounts of blood filling the screen, which is way more horrific than losing an arm was in last year’s Advanced Warfare

Suddenly, you’re greeted by commander John Taylor (Law & Order‘s Christopher Meloni). The catch is that you’re in a coma, with Taylor invading your consciousness. He’s there to put you through an extensive training program to help you utilize a host of newly acquired abilities. You have the now standard futuristic metal limbs, of course, but that’s not the cool part. By hitting the directional button to the right, you enter Direct Neural Interface (DMI) mode. Like most games of the modern era, you can now get info onscreen regarding your enemy combatants. It’s not a full-on different visual look like, say, Detective Mode in the Arkham games, but it’s close enough.

The first simulation is a terrorist attack that went south in the year 2054. Your first new ability is, naturally, controlling drones by targeting them. You must wait for the ability to recharge before using again (obviously). By the end of the mission, I learned how to wall run, make robots blow up with my mind, and in the "weird for weird’s sake" category, order nanobot bees to swarm hostiles. This perk is more hilarious to read about than to see in execution, but I appreciate having some abilities that aren’t at all practical.

Unlike most recent shooters of late, there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of vertical gameplay. I suspect the wall run is their alternative to hitting A twice to jumping higher in the air. In truth, either wouldn’t really be that big of a deal gameplay-wise. The bigger, possible game-changer is that you can decide how to complete the mission with regards to the path you take. As a result, missions two and three felt a bit more open than most mission in Call of Duty titles. It’s not by any means a huge sandbox like the early Halo entries, but it does make the trial and error of each checkpoint more engaging if I can choose to go left or right or up or down. Progress!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the full review of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 early next week!