Over the last couple of days, I've had a triple dose of multiplayer PvP, having spent time with Black Ops III, Halo 5 Guardians: Warzone, and Star Wars: Battlefront. Each has delivered an excellent PvP experience in its own right, and each of them I'm looking forward to playing for different reasons.
First up, Black Ops III. Boasting a roster of new specialist characters with limited-time special abilities, and the most fluid combat system and traversals yet, I had an absolute blast playing the latest Call of Duty game. I should admit at this point that I'm a hardcore player of the series, and currently put in an hour or two on Advanced Warfare most nights, so take that as you will, but I think Black Ops III has all the hallmarks of being a standout for the series.
Why? Because the movement feels so incredibly smooth and fluid, and the game seems to be designed around maximizing your gun-up time. Auto-mantling is highly intelligent, and combined with the new slide, power boost and wall-running maneuvers, deliver something that feels like a true parkour-type experience. I really enjoy the freedom of movement that Titanfall offers, and Black Ops III takes it one step further. It really doesn't take long to get used to the new system, and within minutes of playing the pre-alpha demo on display at E3, I was chaining together highly satisfying maneuvers - running across walls and jumping into fast-moving slides while firing and turning.
The game just feels silky smooth, and movement is natural and logical. There's a new thrust jump that lets you control the distance you leap by holding down the button. Keep it depressed and you do a long jump. Tap it, and then continue to tap and you do a shorter jump that is then extended by a short series of hops. Of course, you're a sitting duck when you do this, as you're essentially following a fairly predictable arc that can easily be tracked by an enterprising enemy, but again, while you're doing this you have your gun up, and if you look before you leap, you should be able to shoot your foe before they shoot you.
What helps showcase the movement so well - at least in the four different levels I played - is their excellent design. Treyarch has crafted some very well executed environments that are the perfect playground for the new movement system. Objects to jump over, slide under and walls to run along seem to be around every turn, and if you're creative with the way you travel around, you can constantly surprise both yourself and your enemy with what you can do. I had a blast running and gunning - one of the smoothest and most natural-feeling shooters I've played so far.
While Black Ops III feels very tight and buttoned-down - and its arenas relatively small - Halo 5 Guardians: Warzone is far more epic in nature. Sporting 12 vs 12 multiplayer battles played across the franchise's biggest ever maps, Halo 5's PvP is much larger and more open in scope than Black Ops III. The large-scale arenas are also dotted with objectives and vehicles that really change up the gameplay. Obviously I'm comparing apples with oranges, but I'm ultimately trying to compare how each of these games feel - not necessarily say one is better than the other. In the case of Halo 5, it feels a little more like a warzone compared to Black Ops III's more tight and competitive shooting gallery. That's not to say Halo 5 isn't competitive - it most certainly is. It just feels like because the maps are more expansive and open, you have more time and space to maneuver and decide what to do next, versus Black Ops' more frantic and kinetic close-quarters gameplay.
Playing Halo 5 off the back of Black Ops III, the gameplay feels more considered and thoughtful - in a tactical way. Like I said, you have more time and space to move around. Because of this, I played a lot more cautiously - probably because deaths felt a little more meaningful in Halo 5, especially when attacking an objective that you want to hold. A dead person is no good in a situation like that, while in Black Ops III, it's so much quicker to get back into the action.
I only had the chance to play one round of Halo 5, which wasn't really enough to fully appreciate the game, but I did like the fact that it's easy to find nodes that let you switch weapons and pick up vehicles. There are also PvE objectives on the battlefield, which your team can destroy to earn points. Striking the balance between PvE objectives and taking care of the opposing team is an obvious tactical decision that needs to be taken, and this helps enrich the gameplay and add variety.
I enjoyed playing Halo 5 and am looking forward to spending some quality time with it. In a way, it feels a little old-school. Its maps are expansive and interesting, and the multiple objectives and PvE challenges help make the gameplay feel different to both the other games I'm talking about here. It's clearly got its own thing going on, and I think it has a lot of potential.
Star Wars: Battlefront sits somewhere between Halo 5 and Black Ops III in terms of how frenetic the gameplay feels. While it does feature open maps, the sheer number of players help concentrate the action so that it feels like a very intense firefight. Like Halo 5, there are plenty of objectives on the battlefield, so that there always feels like there's something to do - or someone to shoot at. This constant feeling of action combined with the sound effects pulled straight from the Star Wars movies make for some really exciting proceedings - faster-paced than Halo 5, and in some respects even more intense than some of the more frantic moments of the Battlefield series.
Ultimately, there's just something to be said about feeling like you're in the middle of a Star Wars battle zone. Especially since the game is so graphically impressive - at least, the Hoth level I played was. From the familiar sound of gunfire and the colors of the laser beams flying between the two teams to the highly recognizable silhouettes of space ships zooming overhead, the game elicits a real feeling of excitement. How long this will hold I don't know, but while I was playing Star Wars: Battlefront, I almost felt like a kid finally getting to realize my fantasy of being in the midst of a pitched battle between Imperial Forces and the Rebels. It felt truly thrilling - helped by the fact that the action is so fast-paced.
What's for certain is that if you're a fan of multiplayer PvP, each of the games I've talked about delivers. Whether it's the more close-quarter combat of Black Ops III, the more considered tactical battles of Halo 5, or the intense warfare of Star Wars: Battlefront, all offer top-of-the-line PvP action that is distinctly different from one another. All look highly promising, and I'll be reporting more in-depth on each of them over the coming weeks.