For millions of gamers around the world, the beginning of November means one thing: the newest installment in the Call of Duty franchise. This annual juggernaut tops the charts year after year and, while sales momentum has slowed in recent years, the series remains one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 continues to look to the future, with players facing robots and cyborgs in a second Cold War. Gamers will take the role of an enhanced super soldier, adding an emphasis on verticality as well as traversal to the campaign and competitive multiplayer. The series will also include the newest version of fan-favorite Zombies mode (featuring a noir-inspired story set in the 1940s). So, how does the new installment rank?
Black Ops 3 launched today, to positive early reviews, with (at the time of this writing) 84% on review aggregate site Metacritic. To help gamers make a decision regarding whether or not they should answer this year's Call of Duty, we've collected review excerpts from around the industry.
IGN - Brian Albert
"... the most remarkable thing about 'Black Ops III' isn't its tone; it's the sheer amount of content which, at its best, is some of the greatest I've seen in 'Call of Duty.' Multiplayer still has the depth fans expect by now, but the addition of unique Specialists makes every player more important. Likewise, the option for four-player co-op and the new focus on playing how you want make the campaign and Zombies modes more rewarding and fun to play than they've ever been." Score: N/A
Gamespot - Mike Mahardy
"In its undead modes, and the first 10 hours of multiplayer, [the game] excels. But in its campaign, it merely crawls forward. Black Ops III doesn't offer anything remarkable to the series, but does just enough to maintain the Call of Duty status quo. The franchise, however slowly, continues its inexorable march." Score: 7/10
Destructoid - Chris Carter
"Those of you who found 'Advanced [Warfare]'s movement system to be too frenetic will be pleased to hear its been toned down for 'Black Ops III,' as the jetpack is now essentially a double jump, or a slide boost, and that's it. While I did like airdashing and all of the craziness that the last iteration entailed, I'm happy that each game has a distinctly different feel to it." Score: 8.5/10
Giant Bomb - Jeff Gerstmann
"Stuff. This game has a ton of stuff in it. The modes are there, they're many, and they're relatively diverse for a 'Call of Duty' game. On paper, it might be the biggest 'Call of Duty' package yet. But the devil's in the details here, and various changes made to multiplayer feel like more wheel-spinning from a series that's had a little too much wheel-spinning over the last few years... 'Black Ops III' is a pretty even mix of positive and negatives. It's OK." Score: 3/5
Polygon - Arthur Gies
"At its heart, 'Black Ops III's multiplayer is still very much Treyarch's take on 'Call of Duty.' This means it's fun - 'Call of Duty' and 'Black Ops' found a basis for solid, competitive multiplayer that worked almost a decade ago and it still resonates here and there. But I'm surprised with how familiar, how recognizable it all feels, which is even more disappointingly the case with its campaign." Score 7.0/10
Game Informer - Daniel Tack
"Despite a campaign that struggles with occasional mundane shootouts that bring the out-of-this-world story down to earth, the overall 'Call of Duty: Black Ops III' package is incredibly strong, with something for everyone. Whether you're into traditional multiplayer mayhem or zombie survival, you've got lots of choices that are fun solo and even better with friends." Score 9.0/10
The Escapist - Amanda Dyar
"'Black Ops III' has upped its game, giving exciting updates to the fan-favorite Zombies and the classic multiplayer, but the single player doesn't measure up to the same standard." Score 4.0/5
GamesRadar - Maxwell McGee
"'Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a massive, varied game, but your satisfaction will depend heavily on whether you have friends to play with either locally or online. Zombies finally comes into its own here with a play-style and design all its own, while the blockbuster campaign ends up feeling more Michael Bay than James Cameron." Score: 4.0/5
As always, reviews are subjective - but consensus seems to be that the Black Ops 3 campaign is underwhelming overall - unless playing co-op with a friend. Given Black Ops 2's choice-driven narrative, Black Ops 3's generic gameplay and story would be a step backwards. While it may initially have seemed like a blunder to exclude the campaign from last-gen versions, it sounds as though 360 and PS3 players aren't missing much.
That said, multiplayer earned significantly more praise, especially the revamped Zombies mode. Competitive multiplayer has always been the most popular (and rewarding) aspect of the Call of Duty franchise and the mode remains unchanged (for the better) in Black Ops 3 - with minor adjustments for this iteration. The introduction of specialists and new powerups allow for some variation in the game modes, but it's largely more of the same - which, again, will probably be seen as good thing for die-hard players.
It's certainly not going to earn awards for the most original game of the year, but Black Ops 3 keeps the franchise alive by delivering another solid entry. As sales slow down, however, there may come a time in the near future where even a solid entry isn't enough. Innovation is what will keep Call of Duty at the top and hopefully Treyarch's next iteration is able to deliver a more ambitious blend of old and new.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is available now.