First Impressions: Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s PS4 Beta: Frantically Fun, But It’s Hardly a “Beautiful” Game

The Call of Duty: Black Ops III PS4 beta is in full swing and I’ve been sat around crushing my opponents left, right and centre all day long. It’s been epic and I’ve received tens of messages from opponents congratulating me on my victories. Okay, that’s bullcrap. I’ve actually been getting my rear-end handed to me on a plate by just about everyone, by the sounds of the microphones, their mothers.

After a solid twelve minutes my thumbs and trigger fingers were left exhausted. The constant repetition of hitting L2 then R2 in an effort to fire off a few shots first had seriously taken its toll on me. It’s hard not to die, even more so in Call of Duty games where the action is so fast paced that you barely get a moment to gather yourself after spawning. On many an occasion I found myself spawning, taking a quick look around, moving forward ten steps and then being put down like a dimwit in a warzone. Despite the many deaths (and death threats from some very unhelpful players) I still managed to have some fun.

There are a few game modes on offer that include some of the series’ mainstays such as Team Deathmatch,  Demolition and the ever popular Search and Destroy. Being a team player who focuses on objects instead of kills, I’ve spent most of my time in the Domination game mode.

Quick recap: Domination has three control points which players must capture by hanging around the designated area until the meter is full and the area belongs to you. Opponents will try and snuff you out and win back the area. Points are allocated periodically, so the longer you hold an area, the more points you gain. At the end of the game, whichever team has the most points wins. Kills don’t contribute to the overall score, though they’re handy for aquiring Killstreaks that’ll make your life a little easier.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty damn hard to get a game with like-minded folks without buddying up with a mate or two. The majority of people who go into Domination games seem intent on just racking up as many kills as possible rather than actually, you know, completing the objective. It’s a shame, but that’s Call of Duty for you. If you’re looking for a better community, Battlefield is probably the place to go.

Going back and forth between games give you the opportunity to customise your loadouts and prepare for the next battle. Those who played the brilliant Black Ops II (11 million are still playing it,) you’ll instantly recognise the Pick 10 when it comes to preparing your solider for war. There are a few changes, though, some more pronounced than others. Specialists are being introduced with Black Ops III, each of which come with their own unique abilities, weapons and get this – their own voices. Yeah, because that’s what you really want to hear when you’re chatting with your mates in a party…

It’s not bad, though, and while I may have a whinge and a moan, the special characters did add a new layer of depth that motivates you to carry on playing to beef up your character. Then again, this does present a bit of a balancing issue as players who play more will be at a slight advantage of players who don’t play as much and maybe just want to jump in for a game or two instead of spending their lives glued to the screen in an effort to rank up. The older days of when everyone started out the same have long gone.

Black Ops III also introduces new movements. I wasn’t too big on Advanced Warfare’s new jumpy mechanics. They were fine in the single player campaign where mistakes aren’t as punishing, but in the multiplayer I was constantly being outmaneuvered by people with more than just a spring in their step. It’s a similar affair in Black Ops III’s multiplayer, too, although it has been refined a touch and does feel rather nice, especially when you get the jump on some poor sod who’s cowering behind a rock; it was immensely satisfying to run at the bugger, jump over his head and plant a few shots in the back of his legs. Yeah – I’m not the best at aiming, but it got the job done and I lived for a full ten seconds before being shot in the back by a camping little dweeb.

Gunplay is the usual Call of Duty affair. If you’ve played one, you’ll know exactly how to use the weapons. It’s simply a case of point at enemy, push left trigger, hold right trigger and hope for the best. There’s a wide variety of weapons to choose from, though after playing so many first-person shooters, there’s only so many variations of a gun that the developers can come up with. It’s not the look of the guns that you’ll be needing to pay attention to – though if you’re a bit on the vain side there are customisation options – but the stats. It’s basically a game of numbers. How fast can gun A fire? How much recoil does gun B have? Will it affect my play style? Do I care too much about how a digital gun works? Should I be doing something else with my life? These were all questions I found myself asking out loud as I sat comparing the firearms on offer. For simple folks like me, anything with decent damage and generous recoil will be the go-to weapon.

Graphically speaking, it didn’t blow me away. Like, at all. It was very much the humdrum presentation that we’ve come to expect from Call of Duty’s multiplayer. The campaign’s are generally well made – Advanced Warfare’s was actually quite amazing – but the multiplayer side of things take a tumble. It’s understandable, though, as cutbacks have to be made to accommodate the fact that people from all around the world are connected to one game, so there’s a lot of code to manage and the graphics are the first in the firing line when it comes to trimming the fat away. Character models do look pretty good in all fairness and if they’re the downgraded models from the single-player campaign then we’re all in for a treat – those of us who actually play the campaign, anyway.

Of course, I’m not going to be too harsh on the graphical presentation at this point as the game is still a few months away from release so I’d expect  some of those godawful low-resolution textures will be banished along with a few other things. It’s serviceable and a notable upgrade from Treyarch’s previous work, but anybody claiming the graphics are “beautiful” is a suffering from a severe case of verbal diarrhoea and needs to be plugged up. It’s good looking, but it’s far from being a leader of the pack. The beta is intended to stress-test the netcode and make sure the game works, not showcase the graphical fidelity, so again, I’m not going to be too harsh when it comes to graphics quality. Besides, I’m more a single-player kind of man, and we all know that’s where the graphics will truly shine.

For the record, I’ve put in between six or seven hours with Black Ops III’s beta, so these are just preliminary impressions. I’ve barely touched the sides when it comes to testing out the other game modes (Team Deathmatch scares me) and I’m still scratching the surface of the customisation options on offer. What I have learned is that the game is still the same old Call of Duty; but that’s not a bad thing as it retains its fast, frantic and fun gameplay. Granted, other players may be arseholes a lot of the time, but every now and then you’ll come across some decent players and that’s what really makes the experience a winner.

This is not intended to be a review of Call of Duty: Black Ops III. This is just one author’s initial impressions from the ongoing beta, intended to give those who’re not pariticipating in the test run an idea as to how the online side of things runs. We’ll be conducting a full and thorough review of Call of Duty: Black Ops III in time for the game’s release.


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