(Xbox One)

Game Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Tyler Treese

Back but not better than ever.

Having three different developers at the helm of video gaming's biggest franchise has been an interesting move by Activision, and one that has put Call of Duty in a bit of an identity crisis. Last year, fans were treated to the excellent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The first offering from Sledgehammer Games took an established series to new heights with added mobility, and a phenomenal campaign mode. Now just one year later, Treyarch is back, bringing yet another entry to the Black Ops sub-series.

Sadly, instead of any sort of iteration, Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a considerable step back not only from last year's Advanced Warfare, but also previous Black Ops games. This may be surprising to read, after Black Ops III had an impressive multiplayer beta just a few months ago, but the beta was short enough to mask many of the game's shortcomings, and focused on the game's best mode – multiplayer.

For the first few rounds of multiplayer, Black Ops III is a blast. The new emphasis on mobility makes the game feel a lot like Titanfall, and that is definitely a good thing. Players can run on walls, and have a boost jump that allows players to move around similarly to Advanced Warfare, but with more freedom. If this all sounds awesome on paper, it's because it absolutely is. The mobility being so much fun is also why the multiplayer becomes so frustrating. Instead of maps being designed around the player being able to run on walls and boost to high areas, they instead seem like standard Call of Duty maps. In fact, the whole game feels like the added mobility was tacked onto the game after Treyarch saw how well received Advanced Warfare was.

This feeling becomes apparent after running into the many invisible walls that litter those multiplayer maps. Just because you can boost high enough to reach a rooftop doesn't mean you can actually run across it. Instead, players will often find out that they can't walk on areas they can actually reach just because Treyarch decided to make that part of the map inaccessible. It's frustrating, it takes players out of the experience, and is a constant reminder that this is a game of missed opportunities.

Once players realize how limited the mobility really is, they can start to enjoy the multiplayer once again. The shooting is just as polished as one would expect in a Call of Duty game, and Treyarch has actually done some very interesting things with how the multiplayer is structured. The biggest of which is that players choose from different characters (similar to a MOBA), each equipped with different abilities. These abilities, that can only be used after they charge up during a match, range from protective armor to devastating special attacks. It adds an extra layer of strategy to a series that has become known for rewarding fast reflexes.

It's also worth noting that Black Ops III has a staggering amount of multiplayer modes. From standard Team Deathmatch to Capture the Flag, the game has just about every mode that fans have enjoyed in the past (besides Headquarters.) The most interesting new addition is Safeguard, a mode that has players trying to escort a robot from one side of a map to the other while an opposing team tries to kill it. Much like escort missions in games, this mode isn't particularly captivating, but at least there are other modes to play.

Like the multiplayer, the campaign is also a mixed bag of interesting concepts that don't quite fulfill their promise. The story, which has absolutely nothing to do with previous Black Ops games, takes place in the year 2065. This is the furthest in the future that Call of Duty has gone, and Treyarch takes advantage of this in a few neat ways. The most impactful new feature is that the main character in the campaign (who is never given a name despite being fully voiced) has been enhanced with cybernetic implants. These implants open up a lot of new gameplay mechanics, ranging from enhanced HUDs that reveal enemies, to a special ability (such as hacking enemy robots) that runs on a cooldown timer. These are both great additions to the gameplay, but sadly they are stuck in a campaign that is largely boring.

While previous Call of Duty games have had some of the most memorable action sequences in gaming history, Black Ops III is devoid of any memorable moments. Instead, players just go through area after area of nondescript enemies. It starts to feel repetitive very early on, and the game never presents enemies in an interesting fashion. The campaign also fails to take advantage of any of the added mobility that shines in multiplayer, as it is all completely optional. Yes, the ability to use a boost and run on walls are both unlockable upgrades in the campaign. This means that the story never takes advantage of these abilities, and levels weren't designed around using them. Once again, the new mobility isn't emphasized and is more of an afterthought than anything worthwhile.

Despite the combat in the campaign being largely dull, Call of Duty: Black Ops III almost makes up for it in the story department. It's not a great story (as it predictably is about how cybernetics can go wrong), but it's a story that manages to go to some weird places. Even if the weirdness resulted in what is probably the worst moment in the entire series (a terrible nod towards World at War), Treyarch still deserves some credit for trying something new.

Speaking of World at War, for the first time since 2008, Call of Duty has a cooperative campaign mode. This makes the campaign more enjoyable, but we very much doubt that many will want to play through Black Ops III repeatedly. More interestingly, there is a pretty enjoyable wave-based survival mode that is hidden away in the campaign's lobby room. We've no clue why it's tucked away in a lobby and not in the main menu, but nonetheless, the mode is more fun than the other survival mode in Black Ops III.

Also, Zombies is back once again. The popular survival mode refuses to die, just like the undead enemies that players have to kill within it. There isn't much to say about the mode, as players either love it or hate it at this point. Black Ops III currently has two separate maps for the mode (one of which returns from World at War), and the new one has an awful setup that seems straight out of a bad horror film where four murderers have to redeem themselves by taking on wave after wave of zombies.

If those two maps don't fill your appetite for shooting zombies in video games (despite most people getting sick of them by 2009), then you'll be thrilled to find out that there is a new mode called Nightmares. Unlocked after finishing the campaign, the mode replaces all of the enemy soldiers with zombie counterparts. This is even less fun than the already flawed campaign, but at least it is appropriately named.


Call of Duty: Black Ops III is the most content-filled game in the entire series. While that would normally be a good thing, the problem is that none of the content is particularly interesting. From the underwhelming campaign to the disappointing multiplayer, there isn't much to really recommend playing over last year's game. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is just okay, but being just okay isn't enough to keep players entertained when there are so many better offerings available from the same series.

Game Trailer

User Comments (22)



A_BabyRed_Yoshi said:

Wait wait wait am I seeing this right?? A review that doesn't praise a COD game when it doesn't deserve it?? Much respect, Mr. Treese



TeslaChippie said:

Seems to be the most divisive game in the series so far, but as always there seems to be more glowing reviews than scathing ones. And as always, my friends and I had a blast in the campaign and zombies, and we're just dipping our toes into the multiplayer, but it feels excellent. Does that make us shallow people? Dunno.



sorethumbed said:

Haven't tried the multiplayer yet. I found zombies fun and really enjoyed the single player.



VoodooTrumpet said:

What an incredibly bitter viewpoint.

It's the first Call of Duty I've played since Modern Warfare 3 and I would say it's on a par with that. The multiplayer is solid as usual (if I want to fly through the air non-stop I'll play Titanfall), and campaign is most interesting I've played in the franchise since Modern Warfare 2.



SuperKMx said:

@VoodooTrumpet Not sure how "bitter" it is, to be fair. The reviewer wasn't a huge fan of the game and was honest about it, rather than hyping it up to the moon just because it's a huge franchise. Seems like exactly what reviews should be, to me.



JaxonH said:

Can somebody please tell me exactly how I get to this "survival mode tucked away in the campaign lobby". I didn't even know the campaign had a lobby.

I have a main menu, and I have basically like 2 real choices. Campaign, or multiplayer.

I can't even find where the zombie mode is



ReigningSemtex said:

@VoodooTrumpet but modern warfare 3 sucked

Haven't played a call of duty since black ops 2 because it's just the same thing every year I keep hoping they will one year come up with something new and fun but it's just the same ideas again and again, I would much rather play titanfall because at least it's actually fun



BAMozzy said:

Personally I think the MP is a truly next gen CoD game. The fact it plays like a traditional CoD and the Maps, that despite the new movement mechanics, still flow and play like a CoD is what makes this game so much better than last years chaotic mess that was Advanced Warfare. There was a reason that Black Ops 2 was being played by more people than AW!!!! Advanced Warfare is regarded as one of the worst CoD games by the majority of the CoD community!! In fact most were wary of BO3 and the new movement because of the impact of the 'exo-movement'. However BO3's movement is an enhancement and the overall game play puts the emphasis back on 'gun-skill'. AW was more about the movement than anything else. even those without the best 'variants' could be the best player if they had the best movement and/or a 'scuf' type controller! The movement in AW also ruined the flow and feel of CoD, turning it into an unpredictable and chaotic mess. It also meant that the spawn system felt broken too as enemies could be on top of you as you spawn in. BO3's spawns are a LOT better and matches play in a much more 'CoD' style. It also has the new Gunsmith and Paintjob options - a place to create your own weapon variant with the many attachments and create your own paintjob for each weapon too
The campaign itself is a little weird. The fact that it has its own XP system and can be played in 4-player co-op changes the more traditional linear structure and the mission design too. However it does add replayability as well as a 'bonus' hidden campaign for completing it - which is certainly worth unlocking.
Zombies retains everything that Treyarch Zombies offer. It does add a few new things to the mix but the new movement isn't one of these. As a result it retains that claustrophobic feeling that made this part so popular. I know 'Zombies' may be an overused enemy type but they are also one of the best too. The fact that they relentlessly chase after you until they are killed, even if they are missing a limb or 2 make them perfect fodder for a wave based co-op mode like this. The new zombies has it usual 'easter eggs' as well as a new XP system.
All the modes are linked in some ways too. Camo's are unlockable in each mode and can be used in any mode too - same goes for emblems and player cards as well.
This is by far the most feature packed CoD, Every game mode can be played with friends too Its by far the best Gen 8 CoD. Whilst it may have some similarities to Titanfall, this offers a hell of a LOT more content. More modes, more MP modes, more weapons and unlockables, a lot more variety and options in every way!
I know its 'fashionable' to hate on CoD because of its success. Its certainly not he same thing every year although at its most basic, it does have some similarities but its a FPS and ALL FPS games have similarities! Treyarch games though feel different to Infinity Wards! Certain things are expected in a CoD - Its MP will be fast paced and have perks, scorestreaks etc, a good variety of game modes, unlockables etc, Its campaign will be big on explosions etc etc. This years is no different in that respect but it also has its differences too. From the new movement and Specialists in MP to the (up to) 4-player co-op campaign and Zombies - both with their own XP progression too. You will be hard pressed to find any game with this much content (no wonder the last gen versions are so poor) even after they have 'sold' you all the DLC. From my perspective its a return to form for CoD and by far the best Gen 8 CoD too



The_Man said:

There are some major flaws with this review.

You obviously never played Advanced Warfare. It was the worst Call of Duty game ever made which saw a drop off in sales. More importantly in the success of any COD game is the retainability of the fan base. By the End of January no-one played advanced warfare. By moving into jumping all over they loast/are losing their core fan base

Call of duty franchise is losing their core fan base, they have lost a lot of players to battlefield, fall out 4 and when Star wars comes out I can see the COD active users dwindle to an all time low. The lack of the game being played on dedicated servers is a key feature. Why is this series call Lag Ops? It's for a reason and something they must fix.

World War 2 - We had overkill of WW2 with Medal of honour, World at war etc, but everyone has gone into the future. If COD is to revitalise itself it must return back. With the Next Gen Capabilities a true WW2 series would be great with the vehicles included. Even have an open world type game mode through hedgerows and trenches.

I would give this review a 4/10 as the only piece they got right was the single player campaign being poor.

But advanced warfare being good.....I'm still laughing now



JaxonH said:

@tylertreese thanks , but I can't find anything in that video. Just shows an load out screen 46 min in.

Do you know where I go from main menu?



A_BabyRed_Yoshi said:

Really? I always thought Ghosts or Blops 2 was the most hated COD. AW's campaign was actually a lot of fun to play, real cool seeing the fictional tech run the show.



sorethumbed said:

@BAMozzy, I'm with you (though I'm not much of a COD multiplayer). I really liked the single player and zombies is good also. Being able to mod campaign weapons is a plus too.



BAMozzy said:

@A_BabyRed_Yoshi I agree that Advanced Warfares campaign was good however its MP and even its 'Zombies' were quite poor - mainly because of the Exo-Suits.
The fact that Black ops 2 was the most played Call of Duty in terms of numbers every week showed that it certainly wasn't hated. Its regarded as one of the best in terms of MP by a lot of the community. I know its campaign wasn't that great but both Zombies and MP were and still are very popular
Ghosts was disliked because of the size of the disc based maps and the 'fun' they tried to inject with the 'field orders' but annoyed some as you could get a 'nuke' for tea-bagging. The weapon challenges also lead to a lot of camping round corners to get the 'leaning' kills too. Those that had the DLC also had the best content map-wise which obviously upset some too but it still had a good campaign and Extinction was fun. I quite enjoyed the MP myself but I do think BO2 was better.
As soon as people heard BO3 had boost jumping, nearly everyone went into a panic and thought it meant it would be similar to AW. AW is regarded as one of, if not the worst CoD game. I know people felt the same about Treyarchs first attempt too but by many, they are now regarded as the best developers in the franchise.



SuperKMx said:

@The_Man There are some major flaws with your comment.

I assume you're laughing that the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare that scored 81/100 on Metacritic and which sold circa 18million units could be considered to be "good", right? Absolutely, everyone should just assume your opinion is the fact, and anyone else who disagrees obviously hasn't played the game?

Seems fair.

You wade right in accusing the reviewer of not playing a game he's making distinct comments about and frankly, that made me stop reading the rest.



BAMozzy said:

@A_BabyRed_Yoshi Well after that came CoD4 and we know what impact that had on the games market, consoles and online gaming! Treyarch were also responsible for making a few games at that time but now are dedicated solely to the CoD franchise. not having the upheaval that IW have had has enabled them to grow and become the best of the 3.



Gamer83 said:

Those kind of comments become more frequent as a website grows, unfortunately. I can't tell you how many articles I've seen in the past few months at PushSquare where the writers, on a PlayStation-dedicated website no less, have been told to stop writing in a 'PlayStation bubble,' have been called biased (no duh, it's a brand-specific website and the truth is EVERYBODY, journalists and hobbyists alike, have a bias). It's the way of the internet. Disagree with a review or commentary then make baseless claims because there is nothing else to back up the point. Sucks, but as this website gets bigger more of this stuff will pop up.

I actually really appreciate the detail that went into this review though like a few others I do disagree with it to an extent. The amount of content in this game, along with the fact that I actually really enjoyed the campaign would bump up its score for me, however, I can see why people would have problems with it. As mainly a single-player gamer though and coming off Halo 5's decent but overall disappointing campaign, I thought Black Ops III was a nice change of pace.;

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