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Editor’s Note: Activision sent us a free copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 for us to write a review of the game.

Treyarch’s finally back. After three years of developing Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the title is finally available now worldwide. We’ve been playing multiplayer all day today. Here’s our impressions and review.

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Movement System

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s movement system has been talked about a lot. Treyarch brought all new thrust jumps, power sides, and more to multiplayer. As we noted in our impressions earlier this year, Treyarch has made the movement system in a way that players are not required to use it. Players can be successful without using the movement system because of the map designs. Movements in this game feel like an evolution from the movement set in Black Ops 2. As we’ve said before, Treyarch’s implementation of this new movement does not resemble Advanced Warfare’s Exo Suit mechanics. Sledgehammer Games’s focus with Exos was adding verticality, and a diverse ways to control your character. Treyarch’s focus seems to be evolving the core movement system to better fit the futuristic setting of the title, while at the same time retaining the classical movement feeling.

When playing with the new movement system, it easy to tell Treyarch is attempting to evole upon what Black Ops 2 had. We know a lot of players may say they want boots on the ground only, but Treyarch’s new system does not take away from the experience like Exo Suits did; these movements add to the experience, giving players quicker ways to get across the map.

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Specialists

Black Ops 3 introduces 9 different specialists. This is probably the biggest change to multiplayer that Treyarch has included with Black Ops 3. No longer are all players limited to the same set-ups; with specialists, each of them provide different voice overs, abilities, and more. Treyarch has taken a page out of Bungie’s book here. Destiny has different character classes with their own abilities and personalities. That’s the same way specialists are – each one is unique. The specialists all have their own back stories, which can be read in game through the specialists menu.

At first, we were skeptical about the specialists. Would adding characters with such game-changing abilities keep the game balanced? Those abilities looked quite overpowered at first. After playing for a while, we have realized that the abilities of the different specialists balance each other out. Ruin’s Gravity Spike can end Firebreak’s flamethrower. Seraph’s handgun can be knocked down by Battery’s grenade launcher. All of the abilities can be countered in one way or another.

The best part about the specialist system is the ability for the specialist abilities to change the entire pace of the game. Your team could be dominating a Hardpoint location, when out of nowhere Ruin can storm with a Gravity Spike and change the entire pace of the game. The abilities provide for unexpected changes to the game; you do not see it coming, and it somehow feels enjoyable that the pace of a game can change with the abilities. Of course, the abilities stand out the most in objective based games. There are many instances where players are cluttered together for objectives, and these abilities can be devastating.

Black Market

Ah, yes…the Black Market. Technically, Treyarch never actually revealed this feature pre-launch. This feature was revealed following leaks from early copies. But let’s talk about it. The concept of Supply Drops was introduced to Call of Duty with Sledgehammer Games’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Supply Drops offered fans a new loot system, where players could earn new gear and more. With Black Ops 3, Treyarch took a different approach to Supply Drops then Sledgehammer. And we approve of this new way.

Instead of getting Supply Drops randomly, Treyarch has added an in-game currency specific to the Black Market. The currency is called Cryptokey. This currency can be used to get Supply Drops in the Black Market. Players have the ability to buy either a Common or Rare Supply Drop. Common Drops costs 10, while Rare cost 30 (which changed this morning from 40). And the best part about these? There is no weapon variants. Sledgehammer Games’s version was heavily focusedĀ on weapon variants, and that seemed to give players an unfair advantage. Why should someone have a better gun because they’re willing to pay for Advanced Supply Drops?

But there is an issue with with Black Market. The Cryptokeys are hard to earn. We have had to play 10 games to get 10 of them. You can track how many you have in the Black Market or in the After Action Report. Treyarch needs to offer a way to get these more often, either by completing challenges or increasing the rate at which players can earn them.

With the Black Market, all of the items you can get are cosmetic. New camos for specific weapons, new taunts, new specialist gear, and more. There is a Common, Rare, and Legendary status for the items that can be earned. All of the items do not impact actual game. This is the right and – we believe – the only way to do it. And, it’s pretty obvious to think the next logical step in this is micro transactions. Activision and Treyarch will – or should – implement a way to acquire Cryptokey with real money.

Map Design

With Black Ops 3, Treyarch has kept their map design they’re known for. The maps take on similar feel to that of Black Ops 2, with the three-lane, fast paced design. Majority of the maps are medium sized, which is fantastic for the new movements. Unlike Advanced Warfare, the verticality is limited. While the new movement allows for thrust jumps, players cannot jump as high as they could with Exo Suits. The map themselves all play very well. Treyarch has done a fantastic job incorporating fan feedback into their designs of the maps.

Another aspect of the maps: the looks of the maps are incredible. The graphics and design are superb. If you get a chance to take tour of the maps with theater*, looking at the attention to detail Treyarch has put – not just within the maps – but also the exteriors are incredible.

Theater Mode*

Treyarch has brought back Theater Mode* from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Infinity Ward decided to leave it out with Ghosts, as did SHGames with Advanced Warfare. Theater Mode allows players to access recordings of their gameplay to view, edit, and share with friends. In addition, players can remove the HUD to get some incredible screenshots to show off.

As you expect, you are able to enter Free Camera mode and roam around maps; you can follow third person view of players, and you can change the player that you are currently viewing. The controls are simple, and easy to use. Treyarch has made it more accessible for fans.

Gunsmith and Weapon Paint Shop

Black Ops 3 also introduces completely new ways to customize and design your weapons. The Gunsmith allows you to design weapons that can be used in multiplayer and campaign. Gunsmith allows players to add optics to their weapons, add attachments, paintjobs, and camos. The game features a set of camos for each mode in Black Ops 3, but players can also create their own creations with the Paint Shop*.

Using the Paint Shop*, players are able to customize up to 64 layers on three sides of the weapons. The Paint Shop feature was available for use during the beta, and many fans instantly got hooked to it. It lets you create incredible designs just the way you like, bringing a whole new way to customize weapons in Call of Duty. There are also decals in the Paint Shop that are classified. According to the game’s messages, you have to unlock those from Supply Drops from the Black Market. The Paint Shop brings a new level to customization in Call of Duty, giving players more control over the look of their weapons.

As we said earlier, there is the option to apply pre-set camos to your weapons. The game features different set of camos for the campaign mode, multiplayer mode, and the zombies mode. Camos are unlocked via headshots. In addition, there’s a whole set of camos that can be unlocked via Supply Drops in the Black Market.

Conclusion

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s multiplayer is the best multiplayer in Call of Duty since Treyarch’s last release, Black Ops 2. Looking at the development studios, Treyarch seems to be the most grounded and have understood the desires of the fans, and they have found ways to incorporate so many of those into Black Ops 3. Infinity Ward seemed to be too shy to bring new innovation with Ghosts, and Sledgehammer Games’ first attempt at Call of Duty on their own did not mingle well with players because of the advanced movements.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is Treyarch’s first go with the three year development cycle, and it has paid off. While there are things that Treyarch could have done better – and maybe even explained better, like the Black Market – this is the first step in the right direction for the first 3 year-cycle Treyarch. And this is just the start. There’s plenty more to come with DLC, Call of Duty World League, and the mod tool support for PC players.


*Certain features, including Paint Shop and Theater, are not available on PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of last-gen. Our review was conducted on PlayStation 4. More info on last-gen available here.