I want to make something clear right now: I’m nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack Call of Duty player in terms of my multiplayer skillset. My lifetime KDR (kill/death ratio, naturally) across all Call of Duty games is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.1. I don’t specialize in quick scoping, and I consider myself a role-player who is always focused on the objective as opposed to kills. I’ve been atop the leaderboard of many a match, but I’ve also been the proverbial “bullet sponge” in many others. I purchase Call of Duty games primarily for the white-hot, Michael Bay-inspired single-player campaigns and the massively addictive cooperative Zombie mode. I only venture into the multiplayer side of things if my friends are playing because it’s all about the laughs and conversations, and not so much the end result of each match.
Now that you’re up to snuff on my Call of Duty street cred, let’s get to the good stuff! This past weekend I was able to spend some time playing the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Multiplayer Beta on the PlayStation 4 (Xbox One and PC owners gain access this week), and I came away impressed, despite getting my ass handed to me regularly and dealing with the expected network issues that often accompany a beta test. I was actually pretty fond of the multiplayer featured in Advanced Warfare, but because many of my friends skipped last year’s installment, I can only compare what I played in the Black Ops 3 beta with my short experience with Advanced Warfare during its initial launch month.
Call of Duty games have always featured frantic gameplay that is best experienced at 60 frames per second. I was happy to see that the Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta was optimized very well on the PlayStation 4 (I expect it to be that way across the board); I never once came across any sort of hitches in the framerate, even when the action heated up considerably in confined areas. The Call of Duty engine has been beaten to death over the years, for better or worse. Black Ops 3 doesn’t “look” much better than previous Call of Duty games, but in terms of framerate, this baby runs buttery smooth and that’s what I’ve come to expect from the series.
When it comes to Call of Duty, the only thing more important than a smooth framerate are the controls, and Black Ops 3 was a joy to play. The Call of Duty community is massive and everyone has their favorite iteration of the game’s controls, so I expect there to be some opposing viewpoints on this topic, but I love the Black Ops 3 control scheme. The motto for this years Call of Duty is “Guns Up.” No matter what you’re doing in-game, your gun will always be at the ready, making for a more offensive-minded style of play. Whether you’re vaulting over low-laying cover, sliding along the ground, or wall-running, you always have full control of your weapon, grenades, and melee abilities. This is especially useful considering that the tried-and-true “run and gun” philosophy still remains at the foundation of most Call of Duty players style of play. Unless someone is sneaking up behind you with their combat knife, you’ll rarely find yourself at a disadvantage when you can hop over or run along a wall with guns blazing.
The other standout for me was the ability to try out the various specialist classes available in the game. The specialist classes are…er, special…because each class has a unique ability that can be used once it’s been charged up. This is very similar to the way your super abilities work in Destiny. Above, I put an emphasis on “try out” because once I saw one of the specialists had a crossbow (Outrider class), I was pretty much set on that being my character throughout the duration of the beta. I absolutely loved the Outrider specialist because using the crossbow, while difficult at first, was extremely rewarding. Lining up an enemy who was wall-running, placing a well aimed shot into their torso, and watching them fly back violently before exploding was an absolute pleasure. I even died a few times as I marveled at what I had just accomplished. I’m assuming ALL Xbox One owners will be granted access to the beta this upcoming weekend, similar to the way in which the game opened up to all PlayStation 4 owners regardless of pre-order this past weekend, and if so, I will make a point to download the Xbox One version of the beta, try out the other classes, and update this article accordingly.
When it comes to game modes, the usual suspects — Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, etc. — were present alongside the new Safeguard mode, which was added to the beta post-launch and proved to be one of my favorite game types. Safeguard tasks one team with escorting an AI-controlled robot from one side of the map to the other, while the other team is out to destroy it. The only way the drone will move is if a member of the escort team is standing next to it. The enemy team can disable the drone by inflicting enough damage, requiring a reboot of the bot before it can move again. This mode featured some of the more fierce firefights I experienced during the beta because most of the time you’d have all 12 players in the same vicinity. If close quarters encounters entered the picture, things got even more intense. I’m glad to see that Treyarch is trying out new modes this time around, and Safeguard is a mode I could easily see myself playing exclusively later this fall when Black Ops 3 launches. Speaking of maps, I didn’t dislike any of the maps that were included in the beta, and I loved the snow-themed map “Stronghold” that was added post-launch with Safeguard mode. The maps were well-designed with plenty of choke points, verticality, and structures for wall-running. Treyarch is my favorite Call of Duty developer, and they didn’t disappoint with any of the maps in the beta.
As I mentioned above, I ran into a plethora of network issues during my time with the beta, but since sussing out and fixing these bugs prior to release is the point of hosting a beta, I think acting surprised about it would be rather silly. There were many times, whether I was in a party or not, where I simply couldn’t get placed in a game. There were also bouts of online lag that made some matches almost totally unplayable. Again, these issues are expected during a beta, and hopefully Treyarch is able to identify these problems now so they occur less frequently at launch. The only non-network related issues I had with the game were the spawn system logic and the effective range of shotguns. In regards to the spawning system, there were many times I’d spawn onto the battlefield, only to have the enemy team then begin to spawn behind me resulting in instant death. The effective range of shotguns is pretty self-explanatory; some shotguns were just way too effective from a distance. They need to reduce the range of these bad boys just a smidge.
Overall, I had a really good time playing through the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta with my friends. We got our butts kicked often by those who must’ve been playing the beta non-stop from the moment it started, but even then we often came away laughing, speaking very highly about one aspect of the game or another. I love the controls in Black Ops 3 more so than I did in Advanced Warfare. The wall-running is incredibly fun and a useful tactic for flanking, while boosting through the air is much more manageable this time around when compared to Advanced Warfare’s thrust mechanic, proving to be both advantageous when avoiding enemy fire and a detriment when being used excessively. The real pleasure is when you’re able to combine all of these abilities into a series of breathtaking and thrilling moves, and that’s what I enjoyed most out of everything the beta allowed us to try. I’m extremely excited for Black Ops 3 to arrive this fall, mainly for the cooperative campaign and revamped Zombie experience, but if this beta is any indication of what we can expect come launch, I’ll be happy to make time to play multiplayer as well, with or without friends.