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Call of Duty Black Ops has taken IIII steps forward

I used to play an absolute ton of Call of Duty. I’ve told the story before about skipping high school to play Modern Warfare’s DLC on release date and Modern Warfare 2 on release week. Both times I had ‘orthodontist appointments’ and the second time the pain unfortunately continued for several days. ‘Pain’ and ‘unfortunately’ should be accompanied with air quotes. Recently Call of Duty games haven’t had the same level of hype or anticipation for me. I totally skipped Infinite Warfare and COD: WWII and was incredibly disappointed with Black Ops III. In my opinion these were III steps backwards for the franchise. Now thanks to the recent Beta, I believe the next Call of Duty Black Ops title will be IIII steps forwards.

Modes

Call of Duty Black Ops IIII is packed to the brim with fan favorite modes. You have Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, Hardpoint and Control. Control has been tweaked to make it more interesting. Lives are limited and eventually you won’t be able to spawn. This adds a lot of intensity and makes the final push to capture points or the last ditch defenses feel even more vital. You also have the newest mode; Heist. Heist is an absolutely wonderful addition to multiplayer that I think is going to go down a treat within the COD community. A little Search and Destroy, a little Capture the Flag with a huge twist, the intensity and strategic elements of the mode were fantastic. Every player starts with equal classes and armed only with a pistol. As you get kills and assists you earn money. At the beginning of every round this money can be spent on a variety of perks, equipment and weapons. Each round lasts until either the enemy team is eliminated or the objective (suitcase of $$$) is delivered to an extraction point. It is very fast paced and very risk reward. Try to save up for a couple of rounds for a more expensive weapon and you’ll be at a serious disadvantage early on. Spend too much money on a weapon early on and you’ll be constantly refilling ammo. You can even buy body armor to boost your health. It’s a mode than understands what Call of Duty should be. Fast paced, frantic action while still rooted on the ground and demanded a level of skill. Rooted on the ground is important for the next point…

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Maps

Verticality has been defeated. The absolute curse of the Call of Duty franchise, it is no longer a worry. Maps really ensure horizontal behavior in Black Ops IIII, gone are the ridiculously high buildings with three or four tiers that you could use to outrageously cross maps and reintroduced are nice, long corridors with plenty of obstacles. At most some levels have basement sections and one floor. This keeps the action contained and doesn’t automatically hand an advantage to the parkour experts. What is interesting is certain map’s special features, such as the ability to go under water (yes, I know it featured before) or retractable bridges. Lanes are much more clearly defined as well. They do intersect at the front, middle and back but for 80% of the map they aren’t interconnected. This helps objective based modes find a rhythm of back and forth between two rival teams. Helping the maps is the guns…

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Weapons

Gone are the overly futuristic prototypes, returning are tweaks and twists to classic and well known video game weaponry. There’s a gun that’s similar to the MP5, the SCAR makes its return and the LMGs could be straight out of Modern Warfare 2. This is an excellent thing. Activision, between COD, Destiny and now Overwatch, have always been masters of gunplay and BO4 epitomizes that. Just how like MW2 is it? Quick scoping returns. It requires a great deal of skill but with enough practice it can be pulled off consistently. The first shotgun requires two bullets to kill with a pump action in between ensuring that you can’t just tear through a team one bullet at a time. Assault rifles and SMGs are both still your best bet though they feel distinctive enough. Assault rifles may lack the DPS but they have an accuracy bonus that makes up for it. Even the burst assault rifle felt like an amazing tactical option. If you were close enough to enemies and you had enough skill it could function like a shotgun, laying three bullets into their head in one burst. Whereas at range it could be devastating to damage opponents and lower their health before teammates burst in to sweep them up.

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Characters

Like Overwatch, at the beginning of each multiplayer game in BO4 begins with you selecting who you’ll play as. Each operative has a unique set of skills exclusive to them. These skills all vary wonderfully, no two characters feel as if they overlap. These skills include trip mines, radar darts, grapple guns and more. As you plan you’ll eventually get access to each character’s upgraded skill. These are essentially Super moves that grant a huge advantage in battle. One is a 1 hit KO Magnum that you can tear through opponents with. Another is a Flamethrower which is amazing for clearing an objective. My favorite? Your own personal K9 unit. This dog will follow you around and maul enemies if they get too close. This is a vital change to moment to moment gameplay. There are a lot more unpredictable events occurring around the map and you have to really have your trigger finger ready to cope. Another new addition that changes up the moment to moment gameplay? The lack of health regeneration. Instead you give yourself an injection that triggers the regeneration. This is unlimited use but doesn’t automatically boost you to full. There’s the animation and then a tiny wait to hit the full 150 again which could allow an opponent an advantage.

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Health regeneration probably could have been it’s own point but the ‘IIII steps forward’ headline was just too good to give up. It takes a lot of work to come up with headlines that perfect and it would have been a shame to let it waste. What isn’t wasting? Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. By fully focusing on multiplayer, Treyarch has an opportunity to perfect what made the franchise so special a decade ago. In under a month we’ll have the opportunity to play the much anticipated Battle Royale mode Blackout. Updated impressions will come then! For now, stick to thelootgaming.com for Spyro, Destiny and all your gaming news and reviews.