“Locked and Loaded”

The fall season is quickly approaching and with it a new Call of Duty nears the Horizon. This year’s iteration of the popular franchise hands over the control of brand association from Microsoft to Sony, in relation to receiving DLC and beta access before other platforms, which began earlier this week. PS4 players who either pre-ordered Black Ops 3 or were lucky enough to snag a code floating around, were given the opportunity to dive into Treyarch’s return to the series, early. Available until Sunday, Aug. 23, the beta teases what’s next for the series, alluding to a return to franchise form, along with a few extra tricks to show for.

If anything, the beta offers plenty to experiment with, sporting an array of new maps, weapons, and abilities. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s multiplayer comes with a lot of change, ranging from small tweaks to complete system overhauls. While much of the moment to moment gameplay feels like familiar ground, Black Ops 3 narrows down its means of success in some creative ways the series has yet to adopt. This year’s entry requires players to put to use some of the game’s latest additions to the fast-paced combat, if looking to make the most out of each round. Black Ops 3 interjects just enough new ideas into the tried and true formula to keep things fresh, even if it decidingly plays things safe at first glance.Black Ops 3 Beta3Easily the most notable addition to the Call of Duty multiplayer formula is the new Specialist system. The Specialists are at the front and center of Black Ops 3 and are easily the biggest differentiator from past entries. When the full game launches later this November, there will be nine character options to choose from, each boasting two unique abilities, though only seven are available to test out in the beta. They’re activated using Unlock Tokens, which are received by leveling up throughout all the multiplayer offerings. Once bought, the various Specialists are able to be utilized in battle, bringing their own unique contribution to the fight. Becoming familiar with the offensive basics of each Specialist’s abilities are paramount, from the Outrider’s Sparrow longbow to the Prophet’s useful Glitch ability. Knowing how to deal with Specialists from a defensive perspective is also important, for falling victim to the widely spreading wrath of Ruin’s Gravity Spikes could be enough to turn the tides in the enemies direction. The involvement of the varied Specialists are easily the biggest and most welcome addition to Black Ops 3, as they fundamentally change the game without going too far overboard.

The movement system has also been overhauled, meshing the feel of Black Ops 2 with last year’s frantic Advanced Warfare. Sledgehammer Games’ vision for the series introduced a myriad of new traversal mechanics, redefining how players maneuver about maps. Black Ops 3 tones down the extensive movement and chooses to go with a slower approach, ultimately strengthening the multiplayer experience. Wall running, double jumps, and power slides still play a major part in making the most of traversal, but come across as more refined and palatable. The key to Black Ops 3’s movement is limitation. Double jumps and power slides take time to recharge; running out too soon or waiting too long could prove, for some, unaccounted for altercations. This doesn’t lessen the importance of traversal, in fact, only heightens its impact, demanding more thought and preparation from the player. Closing the distance between enemies, reaching tricky vantage points, and pulling off the impossible is just as rewarding–if not better–than in its predecessor. This year’s iteration sticks to many of the series’ most pronounced traits, such as time-to-kill and twitch-based controls, though make no mistake, as this is a Call of Duty game and it proudly wears its inspiration on its sleeve.Black Ops 3 Beta2Conclusion: Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s multiplayer component is promising. Though even through its robust new additions to the formula, there’s something about the moment to moment gameplay that feels all too familiar. Lined up amongst this generation’s prominently multiplayer focused first-person shooters, Black Ops 3 feels like the least daring. Granted, there’s a lot more to the package we’ve yet to see, with the campaign, zombies, and other multiplayer offerings. Coming off the beta, my first impressions are positive. Handing this year’s entry to Treyarch was wise and I’m curious to see how Black Ops 3 will fair in a climate packed with many other multiplayer centric shooters. Players on Xbox One and PC will have a chance to give the game a crack via a second beta that launches Aug. 26-30.

Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and whether or not you’re looking forward to it. Find me @BraxHaugen.