As Call of Duty: Black Ops III Beta winds down, it's time to reflect on how it's shaping up. I've already posted impressions of the game, so I'm not doing that again. Instead, I'm taking a look at the game's positives and negatives. What it's doing right, and where things still need some work.
Send in the Clones
The new specialists are an interesting set of characters who each has his or her own unique special abilities. They're varied and interesting, ranging from the bouncing cluster of grenades from Battery's War Machine to the deadly jump-in AoE slam of Ruin's Gravity Spikes. However, the one problem I have with the specialists is that you often have multiple characters running around all looking the same, and saying the same thing. I can put up with the chatter, but one thing I really like about Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is that all the characters look different. Sure, they have the same faces as one another, but there's a huge amount of gear that you can get to give your character a distinct look. This results in everyone feeling like an individual, even though they might have the same faces underneath their masks and helmets.
So far, it doesn't look like there's any way to customize characters' looks, but I think it would be a great thing even if we could give our specialists some different-colored outfits to help distinguish one from another. Particularly since there's a nemesis system in the game, which would help you identify which particular character it is that's killing you so that you could, should you so wish, easily be able to pick them out of a crowd and exact your revenge upon them.
While I doubt whether there will be such an option in the release copy of the game, regardless, something to help players distinguish the same-looking characters from one another would be a positive thing.
Respawn Points Need Work
While most of the time the respawn points enable you to get back into the heat of battle very quickly – which is exactly what you want – I did run into more than a few situations when I respawned almost right in front of my assailant, giving them a chance to shoot me again very quickly. And I've also had a few situations where I've shot someone, and they've spawned almost right next to me, and I've easily been able to gun them down a second time.
Needless to say, this isn't optimal, and it feels like some work is needed to refine the respawn points a little more effectively. Generally speaking, I think the respawn works very well, and it's important to keep their fundamental workings intact so that you can get back into the action quickly, but the game definitely needs to perhaps move the respawn points right back to the battlefield periphery so that you're not right in the line of an enemy's sight when you respawn again.
This gets a big thumbs-up from me. There's a myriad of ways to personalize your weapons. While players did get the chance to play around with paint jobs, the Gunsmithing option wasn't available in beta. Quite how it will work remains to be seen, but we were given a little idea about this when Treyarch’s Design Director, David Vonderhaar tweeted that, “The variants are a custom created gun made from Optics, Attachments, paint jobs, and camo. All cosmetic. No stat changers.”
So it sounds like the game will essentially let players create fully customized-looking guns that include a variety of add-ons.
This seems to be fairly well balanced. While some players quickly hit the upper echelons in Beta, anecdotally speaking, most players leveled up fairly steadily and were somewhere between 20-30 by the time the weekend hit. I was certainly satisfied with my progress in terms of time invested, and feel that Treyarch have found a happy medium that doesn't let power-levelers go too crazy, but also doesn't leave behind the average player.
Leveling guns is similarly well balanced, and I had a number of level 10 guns by the time the weekend rolled around - and I was putting in a few hours of gameplay a night.
One of my favorite aspects of Call of Duty: Black Ops III is the gun selection. Sure, there's the usual choice of shotguns, assault rifles, SMGs, sniper rifles and the rest, but we have some really interesting options that feel balanced, but offer some distinct opportunities. Whether it's the rapid burst fire of the Vesper for close-range dominance, or the seemingly endless magazine of the Dingo that worked (at least for me) as a great all-rounder, players have a lot of choice when it comes to picking their poison.
What's clear is that there's a lot of potential to create loadouts that suit specific situations, whether you want to shoot people from afar, create an all-round loadout that's adaptable for most situations, or lurk around areas of the map where you'll run into other players at close-quarters.
The four maps featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops III Beta are all a huge amount of fun to play in. They all feature a good balance of close, mid-range and longer-range situations, and offer little in the way of cheap camping spots. I did find a few areas where you could hole up briefly and shoot at other players, but for the most part, wherever you stop, you're left exposed for other players to take a free shot at you should they approach you in the right direction.
I ended up investing quite a lot of time in Hardpoint, and really enjoyed my time spent playing. It's one of my favorite modes, and it seems to work very well with the maps included in Beta to create a dynamic set of rolling battles. The placement of the hardpoints works very well indeed, and there are very few situations where a team can dominate a position once ensconced. All hardpoints seem to be attackable from at least three points, and often far more, and combined with the dynamic spawning system that puts you straight back into the action results in good back and forth battles for the most part.
Obviously a really good team of players playing and working together is always going to dominate a pick-up group, but there's little that can be done about that in pretty much any mode.
So Far, So Good
Like I said in my impressions piece, the game is coming together nicely, and is definitely feeling like a strong entry into the Call of Duty series. It's fast, the movement system is fluid and dynamic, and, generally speaking, the game runs very smoothly when the servers are behaving themselves.
Beta turned out to be a great advertisement for the game, and despite a few issues on Sunday afternoon when the servers seemed to be glitching a little bit, I ran into almost no issues at all – which is impressive for a Beta. I can't wait until the beginning of November to play the release version!