Call of Duty: Black Ops III Review

Richard Walker

Call of Duty has come a hell of a long way since its humble beginnings as a shooter grounded in World War II. It's gone from Modern Warfare to Advanced Warfare, and now to even more advancederer warfare with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the most terrifyingly futuristic entry in the series yet. With increasingly complex technology come equally complicated questions, especially when said tech is being integrated into the human body. Black Ops 3 addresses these questions in its campaign, and the result is one of the most ponderous, surreal and just plain barmy Call of Duty stories we've ever played.

Cutting edge equipment has also had an impact on Black Ops 3's multiplayer too, resulting in one of the fastest and most frantic we've played since the previous CoD. But it's also one of the most satisfying and deep online modes that money can buy, regardless of whether you've already decided that you love it or hate it. And as always, Black Ops 3's multiplayer is a bittersweet affair: brilliant fun when you're winning, enormously frustrating when you're not.

Multiplayer is still manic. Nowhere is safe.

Treyarch has been making a lot of noises about its campaign, promising the most ambitious story we've seen yet with the long-awaited return of 4-player co-op. Black Ops 3's campaign is certainly ambitious, but it's also a bit of a head-scratcher, with some seriously ponderous moments and an ending that'll more than likely leave you a bit confused. At times it's hard to give much of a shit about its cast of characters too, as mysteries are piled upon mysteries and you're simply railroaded along into the next brain-rattling set-piece.

But it's that very journey, not the destination that makes Black Ops 3's campaign so enjoyable, even if the story is a bit of a misfire. Played co-operatively with friends, the number of options at your disposal makes for an always frantic and incendiary affair, as you once again look to prevent catastrophe. At the heart of the gameplay experience is Black Ops 3's new Cyber Cores, enabling you to tailor your loadout to your playstyle with special cybernetic skills designed to confound and misdirect the enemy.

Each Cyber Core falls under the category of Chaos, Martial or Control, and until you're able to level up to 20 in the campaign, you have to choose a certain category to take into the field before you unlock the Multi Core ability for access to every Cyber Core. However, I found myself falling back on the same two Chaos Cores every time, hurling fireflies at human enemies to incapacitate them or draw them out of cover, while using the Immolate ability to scorch robotic foes. It's nice to have options, but not all of them are really needed.

Still, Cyber Cores present a range of tactical and often entertaining options during the campaign, and in co-op, the large-scale madness that can ensue is insanely fun. As the narrative unfolds, Black Ops 3 takes increasingly intense and bizarre sojourns into the nature of what's real and what's being simulated within the Direct Neural Interface (DNI) wired into your soldiers' brainpan. Disturbing, grisly scenes transpire, and everything goes a little bit Inception and at the beginning, a little bit Source Code too, as you strive to discover the truth behind the mysterious 'Frozen Forest'. It's a bit nuts, but strangely compelling nonetheless.

A dramatic scene. Probably. I can't remember.

Between missions, you'll return to your safe house, where you can hang out with your comrades, fiddle with loadouts and Cyber Cores, customise your weapons with attachments and bespoke paintjobs, or engage in wave-based battles in the Combat Immersion pods. You can even display your favourite collectibles on the shelves in your room or show off your service medals, showcasing your accomplishments to your buddies. Mess around on your computer and you'll also find a data log packed to the gills with text archives, audio, videos and even top-down shooter Dead Ops Arcade II: a bonus that in itself is loads of fun.

Complete the campaign, and you'll also uncover further secrets. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 really is massive. If ten hours or so of campaign isn't enough to satisfy, then the Zombies: Shadows of Evil portion of the game offers even more co-op shenanigans for you and three allies, as you take to the streets of Morg City, staving off the hordes of the undead while attempting to unravel a bizarre, occult mystery. Zombies remains immediate and enjoyable to dip into, part of the draw being tracking down the items required to unlock the endgame and lift the curse hanging over the four corrupt individuals at the centre of the intrigue.

By now you'll know what Zombies is all about, as you build barriers, shoot the undead to accrue points and exchange said points to unlock new areas, purchase weapons and ammo, and acquire GobbleGum that imbue your character with certain buffs and abilities. There are twists to the formula, with blue torches enabling you to take on the form of 'The Beast', reeling in zombies with tentacles or zapping them with electricity that can also be used to power up generators. The Beast's melee attack can also be used to smash open certain crates and doors, often leading to the secret items required to perform the final sacrificial ritual.

Campaign, Shadows of Evil and the other secrets you'll unearth will keep you amply entertained for numerous hours, but it's multiplayer that you'll more than likely keep coming back to. Faster than it's ever been, Black Ops 3's multiplayer demands hair-trigger reactions and total awareness at all times. A bullet can come from anywhere with players thrust-jumping and wall-running all over the shop, but even hopeless matches can yield some sort of reward. There's a stack of modes to indulge in too, so if one isn't working for you, it's easy to mix things up.

Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Search and Destroy, Domination, Hardpoint, Capture the Flag, Demolition, Kill Confirmed, Gun Game and Uplink are all present and correct once again, with Safeguard requiring escort of a robot from point A to B. It's this latter mode that's probably the least appealing, often coming down to a boring draw and then a race against time that sounds exciting, but isn't. Classic modes like TDM, Gun Game and Kill Confirmed unsurprisingly remain the most engaging.

You'll also find a loot system in Black Ops 3 multiplayer, with Cryptokeys earned as you level up to spend at the Black Market on 54i contraband. Here a shady smuggler type will sell you a common supply drop for 10 Cryptokeys or a rare supply drop for 40. Each box has three rolls that'll grant you various pieces of gear, including weapons, calling cards and so on. All of this can be accessed in Custom Games where you're able to play with everything unlocked in any mode on any map, although you'll earn no XP or progress.

Zombies returns once more. Shoot 'em in the head!

There's even more to multiplayer too. So much that I could probably write a whole novel about it. Suffice it to say that eSports pro players are well catered for with Specialist Drafts that see each player picking their favourite Specialist class (you'll soon come to have one or two you opt for more often than others), as well as Ban/Protect options for each Specialist, weapons, scorestreaks and more. For beginners, meanwhile, there are a range of training options, as well as the Free Run Mode, offering parkour obstacle courses to tackle against the clock, with leaderboards to boot. Treyarch really has thought of absolutely everything. Whether you're a casual multiplayer dabbler or a serious CoD fanatic, there's a raft of multiplayer features in here for you.

Black Ops 3's achievement list gets the spread across the whole package just right too, putting the majority of focus on the campaign, while peppering a few tasks across Shadows of Evil and multiplayer too. There's even a secret achievement for finishing the game on Realistic difficulty, which is as tough as it sounds. Play in co-op with the ability to revive, however, and it might prove frustrating, but it's certainly possible. All in all, a damn fine list.

Featuring a campaign that attempts a complex and interesting story with somewhat mixed results, several big unlockable secrets, the Zombies: Shadows of Evil campaign and an immense multiplayer component that ups the tempo, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is almost too vast. As a package, Treyarch's game is undoubtedly ambitious, and there are some new elements in here that work remarkably well. Yet, the campaign misses the mark somewhat, despite being enormous fun in co-op, and multiplayer can occasionally be something of a mixed bag. Overall, though, it's hard to resist such a generous offering. And Black Ops 3 is by far the biggest and most all-encompassing Call of Duty to date.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Another year, another Call of Duty, Black Ops 3 is nonetheless a generous package that hits all of the right marks. Campaign is decent enough and Zombies is good fun, but it's the multiplayer that will keep you hooked.

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Another typically bombastic and bold Call of Duty score complemented by eardrum-piercing explosions and sound effects.Weapons don't sound as meaty as they could though.


Black Ops 3 is the first game I've seen that really, noticeably suffers on Xbox One from a resolution standpoint. The disparity between the Xbox One and PS4 versions is startling, with the Xbox One version visually inferior by far, with some horribly muddy textures and poor lighting. It looks shabby, but is perfectly serviceable and still runs well enough.


As predictably solid as every Call of Duty game that's gone before it, Black Ops 3 is quick, immediate, popcorn fun that does everything you want it to and more. Shooting things is seldom this entertaining.


Stacks and stacks of content. From campaign and multiplayer to Zombies, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is a robust package brilliantly presented. It's fairly hard to fault, although some of it is a little throwaway.


An excellent spread of achievements with some fun tasks to tackle in campaign, multiplayer and Zombies. Solid.

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