E3 Reaction: Call of Duty: Black Ops III is Somehow Fun Despite Being Bland

Last year at E3, Activision showed off Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, offering fans a look at a bleak future where soldiers were augmented to higher standards and the explosions were bigger than ever. Now, Activision has revealed Call of Duty: Black Ops III, offering fans a look at a bleak future where soldiers are augmented to higher standards and with explosions that are bigger than ever. Did that sound repetitive? Because the games look repetitive. Not only does the game commit the cardinal sin of being repetitive, but it seems like a dumber and less fun version of another game at this year’s E3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

I will give “Black Ops III” this: It looks and sounds incredible. The graphics are at an all-time high featuring crisp and pristine visuals with life-like explosions and environments that collapse in the midst of battle. Human characters in these games are often a prime example of the uncanny valley, looking less than realistic enough that it becomes an issue to the player, but the ones present here look as photoreal as I’ve seen. Among the cast is “Farscape” star Ben Browder, who was present for the demo presentation I attended, which was perhaps more exciting than the demo itself. In fact, I’m not sure I can tell you what actually happened in the single player demo I saw, except that they ran around and then blew up a big hole in the ground.

What is so strange about the single player of “Black Ops III” is how stark and mundane the world appears. Everything is a different shade of brown and no one thing sticks out as being visually interesting. It’s oddly boring in its visual language – in fact the world of the game itself is supremely bland. The levels are just a place for characters to fire guns and run around with fun explosions, they add nothing to the scope of the title because they all look the same.

On the flip side, however, is the multiplayer for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Don’t get me wrong, it’s mostly the same as the other “Call of Duty” multiplayer modes too, but there is a slight shift in the form of “specialists.” With nine different characters to choose from, each with two different special abilities, there’s at least some new blood being tossed into the ring, even if other games have been doing it for years. 18 options give players the chance to shake things up. Not only does each specialist have a unique appearance from each other, but players are also able to customize their classes, giving them an extra layer of choice in the game. All that said, the multiplayer is still fun. Playing as a gun-slinging female or a mini-gun toting robot (my personal favorite) is a blast, but there is little new ground being broken in regard to how it all plays out. King of the Hill, deathmatch, and capture the flag are classic game types for a reason, and they still work here. 

If the new “Call of Duty” game is the thing you look forward to every year, this will probably hit all of the requirements you need. From the perspective of someone else though, it’s literally more of the same. Even though the second verse is the same as the first, some people really liked that first verse, and just because it’s a prettier version of games you’ve already played doesn’t mean it should stop you from enjoying it. Some might argue that this is the entire point of having these powerful next-gen consoles is for, crazy shooting games that look cool and are fun to play with your friends. Is it too much to ask for a slight change up though?

Call of Duty: Black Ops III launches on Friday, November 6 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.