Another year, and another Call of Duty title is on its way. This time, Treyarch returns with Black Ops III. Although the game isn't due until November, the multiplayer beta is slowly rolling out to consoles and PC players in the coming weeks, with PlayStation 4 owners getting it one week before it comes to Xbox One and PC.
It's been a few years since I actively played a Call of Duty title, specifically, Modern Warfare 3, which came out in 2012. Various features were added, enriching the already popular multiplayer experience. Despite all of the upgrades, the foundational gameplay mechanics are still the same and quite enjoyable.
Each Call of Duty variant always seems to one-up the previous installment with one or two new features. This time around, it comes in the form of Specialists -- nine different characters, each with their own unique weapons and abilities. For example, the Specialist Outrider utilizes a compound bow with exploding rounds as well as the Vision Pulse abilities that reveal the location of enemies in the nearby area.
My character of choice was Ruin, whose Gravity Spikes ability can crush nearby enemies thanks to its small explosive radius. Once I chose a Specialist, the next screen showed the familiar weapon loadout screen, where I can choose a set of weapons, explosives, perks, attachments and Scorestreaks to bring to the battlefield.
Obviously, you gain access to a wider arsenal as you level up, but unlocking a new item doesn't make it immediately available. Players must also obtain unlock keys to actually be able to use them. This makes each player's loadout more strategic when it comes down to selecting the best tool for battle.
Gameplay, Here We Go
On the gameplay side, Black Ops III continues the series' fast-paced gameplay. It takes a page from Sledgehammer Games' Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare by mimicking the Exoskeleton armor, which allows for faster movement thanks to its small rockets. Whether it's a sprawling map or a small, confined group of buildings, the game's jet pack helped me reach tall platforms, turn corners faster to get the drop on an enemy and run across walls to gain a new perspective. It's astounding to think that such a small addition would have a big impact on gameplay, but it somehow makes each session exciting.
As far as the Specialist abilities are concerned, using them is all a matter of timing. A gauge for the ability fills up throughout each fight (with kills and scores added to speed up the process). When it's ready, a message at the bottom of the screen will allow you to press the L1 and R1 buttons simultaneously to activate it. However, its execution isn't as fast as I'd hoped. With Ruin's Gravity Spikes, a telltale electric charge is emitted and one second later it explodes, killing any enemies in its path. However, that one second split between charge and explosion is quick enough for enemies to kill me before it detonates, wasting a perfect chance to get the lead.
There were a few times where Gravity Spikes turned the tide in combat but I didn't utilize it often, and I didn't feel left out for doing so. There's still enjoyment in using my traditional weapon loadout to get enemies and using the fast mobility of the jet pack to make the game more exciting at every turn.
Looking Forward To It
Nowadays, betas seem to be more for the fans rather than the developers. Sure, there's still data being collected to ensure that online functionalities are optimized on launch day, but the multi-week sessions are for the fans to get their first glimpse of a work in progress and get excited for the final product. The Call of Duty games thrived from its beta stages. There's still a few more weeks for the beta and thousands more will be able to play it in the coming days, but in a span of a few hours, Call of Duty: Black Ops III quickly grabbed my attention and brought me back to the popular franchise.