Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Fracture Game Mode Thoughts

Over the weekend Treyarch turned on the double weapon XP in Black Ops III, as they usually have some kind of double XP on weekends. But this weekend they also had a second treat for us – a brand new game mode called Fracture. I put in a handful of games on Friday and thought I’d put down a few thoughts on the mode.

Black Ops 3

This is the second new game mode that Treyarch put in to the Call of Duty world – the other being Safeguard. Calling Fracture totally new though is a little disingenuous to me. Fracture is essentially the Black Ops III spin on the classic Headhunter game mode of FPS games past. You kill the enemies, pick up the item they drop, and deliver it to a capture point. The last time I can remember a major FPS having Headhunter in it is Halo: Reach. I can’t remember with certainty if the capture point rotated in that game, but in Black Ops III, the capture point will cycle around the map every couple minutes. It can make for a couple tense moments per game as you try to score with a bunch of points and the zone rotates, as well as make sure you are paying attention to the map rotation and flow. Depending on your play preferences, Fracture is one of those modes where you can do whatever you like – if you like objective play, you can be the scoop-up man; if you’re a pure offense player, run a slayer class; or you can run a more balanced class to handle both sides of the coin with some support built in. Since the games tend to flow based around where the capture point is, the best weapon type might change over the course of the game. Some points help facilitate the slower, more long range weapons like LMGs and Snipers. Others require you have the speed to navigate around small rooms and tight corners and that’s where the fast SMGs and Shotguns thrive. That kind of variety in each game can even vary more depending on the map. I played on Rift, which played right into my style of assault rifle overwatch play with the M8A7. The next game was on Knockout, and using the M8A7 was a lot trickier – that’s one where using a faster weapon would have been the way to go. More than the other slayer-based modes (TDM, FFA and Kill Confirmed) I think the map really can dictate the flow of the game.

Which brings me to the parts of Fracture that I wasn’t crazy about. Overall I would say Fracture works pretty well – most importantly, it’s fun. But it does have some issues that I kept seeing. The biggest being that even with the rotating capture zone, there is still a lot of camping. I didn’t see it from the top level players I kept seeing, but just about every game I played there were a couple dots that always seemed to pop up around the zone, and they usually showed up in corners. Camping is one of those problems that never, ever will go away in competitive games – you see it in Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, Overwatch, the list goes on all the way back to the old days of Quake, Doom and Unreal. That was the whole idea behind Kill Confirmed originally – push players to play more aggressively to actually score. You can argue the effectiveness across the whole player-base with that, but I know I find myself rushing for those tags and having to stop myself when I switch back to TDM. Fracture/Headhunter takes that idea and adds in the extra layer of needing to score in the zone – again, all to try and keep camping at a minimum. The problem is that instead of traditional camping, you get poaching – they set up at the capture point, and pop you as you move in for the score. It’s not particularly effective if you’re paying attention – a good grenade/rocket/C4 pack will take care of most poachers, as will a lot of scorestreaks. It’s one of those things that you just have to deal with, and know that there will probably be going on when you spawn in to the game. The other big trend I kept seeing was the prevalence of SMGs, regardless of map and capture point. This is one of those things that I’ve seen creep up in the overall Black Ops III game since I’ve been back – the Kuda, VMP and Vesper are all crazy good these days and really can’t be touched time-to-kill-wise in a lot of situations. It’s so late in Black Ops III‘s lifespan that I don’t really see much in the way of a big change coming, but I do think the VMP in particular needs to come back to the pack a little bit. My last minor complaint with Fracture is just that the score feels a little low – the score limit is set to 60 now. Games go fast, maybe a little too quickly; I think a score of 75 might be the better number. It opens up the potential for one or two last capture zone rotations, which are really when I think the most action happens as you try to rotate over and get the score.

Fracture is one of those things that Treyarch does well – they keep supporting their game deep into its lifespan with some unique ways. It wasn’t too long ago they added in the contracts as a way to earn extra cryptokeys as well as access to the new specialist Blackjack. It’s one thing to bring out DLC map packs for shooters, but what we’ve seen from Activision’s FPS developers with Black Ops and Destiny is that they’re willing to add in a little extra. It helps keep the games feel fresh as they enter the dog days – Call of Duty tends to be a one-year game each time around; Destiny is a little different beast of course. We’re starting to get just about to the next wave of games, so while we wait, Fracture is a great way to keep Black Ops III in your rotation.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III Eclipse Map Impressions

Black Ops 3

The second DLC for Call ofDuty: Black Ops III, Eclipse, came out on Xbox One and PC last week, and I wanted to quickly go over my thoughts on the four new multiplayer maps added in. I’ve played each map a couple times, both in Hardcore and Core modes, and in a couple different game types as well.

Let’s start with what is I think the weakest of the new maps: Knockout. It’s got a really unique visual look, with the traditional Asian architecture, but I think that’s the high point with the map. There are a lot of tight, short hallways, which play into the new weapon meta I’ve been seeing lately of the powerful one-hit weapons like the Marshal and KRM. I did really enjoy it on Domination, mainly because the three points are put in perfect spots – they’re open enough to be attacked from a few directions, making posting up camps to defend trickier. There are a couple longer sightlines, mainly around the center area where weapons like the Sheiva and snipers can work well, and the outer paths also provide some alternate routes to avoid the corner shotgun/SMG party. I think it’s a map that, with some spawn tweaking and playing in an Objective mode can be fun, but isn’t as flexible as some others.

Moving up one spot, we get Spire. Spire is the one I’ve played the least I would say, but I think it’s got a couple really high points. It’s got good mid-range sightlines for longer range engagements, while still having plenty of close range spots for intense action. I know that I complained a lot about that with Knockout, but I think Spire does a better job of balancing the ranges. It’s got great outside lanes for flanking around, there are lots of crossing paths as well for crossfires. I also really like how much cover is on this map – it feels a bit like this map is better played boots-on-ground, not thrust jumping around. You have pillars that you can use for cover, there are plenty of waist-high walls as well. Some of the pathways are a little confusing, especially the ones that lead outside from A and C Dom – it just feels like they should lead to the overlook window to me. It’s another really good Domination map, but one that I think works well on slayer modes as well.

The last two maps definitely impressed me, especially compared with the first set of DLC. First, Rift is a really good stretch map. Yes, it’s got lots of interior rooms where those one-hit power weapons can do well, but it’s also balanced with the pretty long exterior lanes. Each exterior lane also has a long wall-run that can put you right behind the enemy almost immediately off the spawn if they aren’t paying attention. As a run-and-gun flanking kind of player, I love when maps have those kinda sneaky, quick routes on them.I played this one on Safeguard, and while I don’t really love Safeguard in general, I think it worked pretty well. The defense actually can set up and stand a chance should the robot get near the objective. Compared with the first two maps, I think this is one that pretty much every gun in the game works on. Knockout might be too rushed for the slower LMGs and snipers, while Spire just plays too fast for some of the slower killing weapons. This one has spots where any weapon works, and can work really well. I did just damn fine with the Shieva on it working on headshots.

Black Ops 3 Verge

That said, my favorite map though is Verge. Verge is the remake map in this DLC set, this time of a World at War map, which is nice since that’s the only Call of Duty I never played. This is also where everything I said about Knockout feels a little dirty, because those same tight corners and lanes I complained about there are what make Verge my favorite. It’s got two lanes that are right on top of each other it feels like – with the middle lane defined by a really narrow bridge, littered with cover. There are plenty of small, tight corners where those who feel compelled can camp with one-hit kill weapons. But the map honestly just plays too fast to get away with that. The lanes, while they are narrow, are also stretched out – they feel a lot longer than you might initially think; and as such, snipers and LMGs and the Shieva all can do some serious work here. A good shot can really control a whole lane without too much effort – there’s enough cover to move from point to point while avoiding counter sniping. But there are enough side routes around too where flanking is easy enough, and the caves in particular are great for running melee weapons in.

Overall, I really like this set of maps better than the first DLC pack, Awakening. Awakening’s maps I think are overall visually more stimulating, but they all felt like they had one little thing that kept them from standing out, minus Skyjacked. Guardian has some real bad camping issues, facilitated by the map layout; Rise could be great if it was ever came up in the map rotation, and Splash just feels like it’s got too much going on. I actually think even Knockout is better than that first set of maps. Sure, this could just be positive thoughts because this new set literally just came out, but we’ll see. We’re starting to get to the point with Black Ops III where needs to keep up this trend of adding great things to the game to keep the player count high through the summer. This is usually the time where people hit the games they missed from last year, but this year we’ve already got three huge launches this month alone, two of which definitely are competitive FPS games. We’ll see what’s next as we get closer to Infinite Warfare this fall.

Weekend Recap – Overwatch Beta, Battlefield 1, and Black Ops Black Market

Over this past weekend, we were graced with a good selection of gaming goodness to enjoy. I thought I’d talk a little bit about the two games with new polish that I played over the weekend along with my early thoughts on the Battlefield 1 announcement. We’re still a month out from E3, but we’re already getting some big bits of news.

Black Ops 3

Let’s start with the quick hitter – Black Ops III put out a hotfix going into the weekend that added in a new feature to the Black Market. Treyarch put out Contracts – eventually they’ll be daily and weekly features, but for now there’s just a featured Contract. Complete it – win 75 games – and you earn a weapon bribe for the Black Market along with 10 free rare supply drops. On top of that, Season Pass holders were gifted that same prize upon logging on this weekend. I was super lucky with my packages, netting the HG-40, Brass Knuckles and MVP baseball bat, but I know that there were lots of people who only got the one guaranteed weapon. What I really like with this new patch is it looks like Treyarch/Activision have heard the arguments from the broader community about supply drops. It’s early on with the new elements of the Black Market, but if this is a way for Treyarch to reward players with rare supply drops or even gear bribes for completing the Contracts it is bound to up the level of engagement with the Black Market. It’s a positive sign from a publisher that tends to not back down on secondary purchases like the CoD Points are. If it’s an early signal that Activision is going to be a little more flexible omoving forward, that is a great sign for their other big games – Destiny, Infinite Warfare and soon Overwatch. We just have to hope that it is the start of something.

The other quick thing I want to talk about is the Overwatch beta. I played a good handful of games with a few different heroes and I have to say, I think it’s a very fun game. It is drawing comparisons to Battleborn, mainly because they both are dropping close to each other and both are hero shooters; but I actually think the two games are really different. Battleborn is a lot closer to a MOBA, both in terms of game modes and the way the heroes have to level up each match. Overwatch is a lot closer to a game like Team Fortress. It’s an arena shooter, just each hero has their own powers and roles. Widowmaker is a lot of fun if you just want to focus on killing the enemy team, Bastion is basically a built in Play of the Game hero, Mei is awesome for crowd control and power plays and Zenyatta is a really great hybrid support hero. Overwatch wasn’t really on my radar aside from a couple stream clips I had seen going into the Beta, but coming out it’s a game I could definitely see picking up.

Finally, let’s talk about that Battlefield announcement. Not even a full week removed from the Call of Duty announcement, EA and DICE came out swinging and reignited the military FPS wars. Sort of. I’ve never seen the two franchises as direct competition – they appeal to two different markets. That said, I think there’s a lot to be excited about with Battlefield 1. This is the first time that a major Triple A shooter has gone back to the First World War. I’m really looking forward to the opportunities that the setting presents, especially in terms of set pieces in the campaign. The multiplayer side still has a couple questions that I think need answering – it’s going to have to be a slower pace across the board, and Battlefield  has always been relatively slow paced outside of time to kill. The games are long, and with technology that’s older than any game we’ve played yet, the weapons/vehicles are going to be a tricky thing to nail. I have three hang-ups going in though – two directly relate to the game, the third is more about the developers/fanbase. As sson as the Call of Duty trailer dropped, there were a number of DICE developers casting shade on the looks of the trailer, saying it looked like a ten-year old game. Firstly, saying that is utterly ridiculous – ten years ago we were playing Oblivion and the first Gears of War, which looked nowhere even close to that good. Secondly, at least from that trailer, we got wehat really looked like gameplay. The Battlefield 1 trailer was all pre-rendered footage. Just because it says “game-engine footage” doesn’t mean that it’s showing actual gameplay footage. DICE pulled the same thing with Battlefront – which definitely doesn’t look like that first trailer did in-game. So maybe cool the jets a little on that, especially when your trailer looks a lot less polished than the Infinite Warfare trailer. The other issues I have are more directly related to the game. Firstly, that name is dreadful. Battlefield 1 – but it’s actually the fifth main series game. I get that the “1” is in reference to the WW1 setting, but take a page out of your own playbook – call it “Battlefield 1918” or something along those lines. That not only draws the focus to the setting, but also acts as a throwback to the first Battlefield game. Secondly, DICE really hasn’t proved to me that they can do a campaign at the highest level consistently. Bad Company is usually put out there as the example of the franchise doing it well – but that was almost ten years ago! And it’s the only one – Hardline wasn’t terrible, but it sure wasn’t on the level of some of the other FPS campaigns. So the campaign is a question mark that I have, but one that I really hope DICE answers. I have a feeling E3 will be plenty exciting this year.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Hero Armor Tips

Black Ops 3I’ve been going through the big grindy challenges in Call of Duty: Black Ops III this week, finishing out the weapon camo challenges and today we’re looking at the Specialist challenges. These ones are a little different than the weapon challenges since they have multiple tiers to go through before you reach that final gold armor. So the tips here are a little more general per Specialist than with the weapons. Before you even reach the final set of challenges though, you’ll need 800 kills with each Specialist, which is plenty of time to learn how their special weapon and abilities behave – which you’ll need for those final challenges. Those 800 kills can be handled in any way you see fit – that’s why I tie in a Specialist per prestige as I do the weapon camos.

Once you’ve reached those last challenges though, that’s where things get a little trickier. So we’ll start with the three Specialists that I think have the hardest individual challenges: Prophet, Outrider and Nomad. Each has a weapon that’s actually pretty damn good – it’s their special abilities that have tough challenges. Let’s look at Prophet first. His weapon, the Tempest, is a one-shot kill, and has potential for multi-kills with its arcing damage. So getting double kills with it for the final challenge is pretty straightforward. It’s Glitch that’s a problem. Glitch lets you warp back in time a bit, which is amazing for getting you out of danger in a hurry. The problem here is that the challenge associated with Glitch is offensive based – you are tasked with getting kills shortly after Glitching. The real trouble is that the final challenge has you looking for double kills – even in Hardcore that’s a real hard task. What I recommend is running with Semtex or C4, and using those to set up kills then Glitch before the detonation. I got my doubles done in Chaos Moshpit – Hardpoint on Nuketown. Tossed two Semtex into the Hardpoint, Glitched back and got the kills. I think, unless you have a really precise setup, that’s your best bet. With Outrider, it’s a similar situation. Her Sparrow bow is plenty strong – the multi-kills aren’t too bad to get in just about any game mode. It’s Vision Pulse that bugged me. The range on the pulse isn’t as far as you might think, and the actual pulse/mark feels really inconsistent. I was finding myself picking up one or two kills per match – even with Overdrive on. Getting my doubles was a rough go. What I ended up doing was, again, playing Chaos Moshpit looking for Nuketown. Once I got Nuketown with an objective mode, I just focused on trying to get behind a small group – Hardpoint helped the most. Wait for the Hardpoint to be inside one of the houses, flank behind, pulse and move quick on the double. It’s not foolproof, but that made my attempts a lot easier. Nomad is the one here that I’m really just going on the other side of things – I’ve not played as him yet. But much like with Glitch, the challenges for Rejack have you looking for kills after coming back from the dead. The problem is that when you use Rejack, you have this very large green gas cloud around you. I know that it’s supposed to help obscure you when you do spawn, but all it does for me is tell me to wait and watch for him to pop up. You need to really pick and choose your moments here, unlike with Glitch. I’ve also seen people complaining a bit about his H.I.V.E. Launcher – the simple answer there is just play objective game modes and put the mines around the objectives. Domination and Hardpoint both work, and you can always put down a mine or two to cover your flanks if you want.

Black Ops 3 Ruin

Of the other Speciaists, I think they’re a lot more straightforward. Even the couple I haven’t played as – Ruin and Spectre – I think are pretty self-explanatory. Knowing that the medals for Ruin’s speed boost just require you to get kills while it’s active means it shouldn’t be a bad prospect. In truth I think his Gravity Spike is going to be the tougher challenge to complete. Spectre seems like he’s going to be really easy – Ripper is insane to deal with on the other side of things, so using it has to be a breeze, and having Active Camo in a shooter is always a good thing. I thought Battery and Firebreak were both super easy to finish. Kinetic Armor in Hardcore is a no-brainer, and the Purifier flamethrower is super powerful. I guess Heat Wave can be a little tricky to get doubles with, but again, flank, and play from behind the enemy. With Seraph, just set up your Scorestreaks so they’re close in value – pop Combat Focus, grab the points you need and there you go.

If there’s one overall tip for the Specialists’ challenges, it’s to play objective game modes. Nuketown is probably the best map across the board, especially on Hardpoint, but you can do them on most maps no problem. I like to focus on one ability at a time though – don’t flip between the weapon and ability until you have to. Get the 40 kills with the weapon, then switch to the ability and finish that. I think that generally the Specialists are easier to do than weapons – there are less to do, and the challenges are overall easier I think. Again, don’t burn yourself out, pick your moments and you’ll do just fine.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Secondary Weapon Camo Tips

Black Ops 3I talked yesterday about a few tips I’ve picked up while grinding out the weapon camos for the primary weapons in Call of Duty: Black Ops III. What I didn’t touch on at all are the secondary weapons – the pistols, launchers and melee weapons – that you need to also complete if you’re chasing Dark Matter. So today, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what I’ve learned as I also work my way through those secondaries.

We’ll start with the pistols since you’ll probably have one available more often than not on your classes. The three pistols that you need to complete for Dark Matter each behave really differently. You’ve got a standard semi-auto in the MR6, a burst-fire in the RK5 and a full-auto with the L-CAR 9. If you don’t like semi-autos, you’ve got other options, even though I think the MR6 is easy enough to use regardless of how slow your trigger is. What I think is a little surprising is how useful the pistols actually are – in Black Ops II, there was really only one sidearm option that was worth using. This time around, each pistol is powerful enough to kill pretty quickly. If you follow my advice and play Harcore TDM, you can absolutely get away with just using a sidearm as your primary weapon, with any of the options. I said with the primary weapons I pick a couple to do each prestige – that’s not how I approach the pistols. I do focus on just doing them one gun at a time, but I don’t worry about doing them within one prestige. Since there’s only three pistols, there really isn’t as much of a hurry to do them. I do still stick with Hardcore though, since getting headshots in there is much easier, even with pistols. I really don’t see the need for a sight, I actually went with no attachments most of the time, or Extended/Fast Mags if I was working on a primary at the same time. After the headshots are done though, I think you can put on Dual Wield – it ups your DPS, and you can work on a few different challenges at the same time. Dual Wield is certainly easier to manage with the RK5 and L-CAR since they aren’t semi-autos, but two MR6’s are definitely a beast to reckon with in close quarters. Honestly, most of what I said about SMGs yesterday fits here with the pistols – play aggressively, aim high, and take Scavenger to replace your ammo. When you’ve moved on to the final set of challenges, I actually think Hardcore is still the place to be – even getting the five kills in one life done there is easier than in Core. I do think you should combine no-perks and no-attachments into one thing though – get them both done at the same time. I recommend taking Tactician and doubling up on stun grenades – I like Concussion and Flashbang/Shock Charge; doing that acts as a bit of a counter to losing perks and attachments. When you’re going for the five kills, get rid of your primary weapon – throw on Secondary Gunfighter, load up on attachments and perks and run with just your pistol. If you don’t feel comfortable without a primary, pick one up off the ground as the game plays out. Out of the secondary weapons, the pistols really shouldn’t be giving you too much trouble to complete.

The launchers, on the other hand, might be a little slower of a grind. You only have two weapons to worry about, but their challenges almost require you to be in a losing situation. You have to shoot down/blow up 100 scorestreaks to reach the final set of challenges for each launcher. UAV’s and Counter UAV’s are easy enough to destroy – they only take one rocket – but when you get stuck in a lobby with a good enemy team that’s just pounding your team with high tier scorestreaks, they can often times push you before you get the rockets off. What I like to do is combine a launcher with my LMG classes, and run with counter scorestream perks – Blind Eye and Cold Blooded. That way if there are lots of scorestreaks up, I get them with the launcher, and if needed the LMG for the perk challenges. The other thing I like to do is get rid of a third perk and put on Scavenger with Cold Blooded to keep my supplied with rockets. That’s more of an issue with the XM-53, since you only get two shots, and some streaks take more rockets than that. You should always have at least one class with a launcher on it while you’re grinding those 100 scorestreaks out – see a UAV called up, switch to it, shoot it down, switch back if you want. With the last set of challenges though, things get a little trickier. On the XM-53, you need to get direct kills with the rockets, 10 times; destroy five scorestreaks in one game; shoot down two scorestreaks rapidly; take out five Talons or Cerberus; and take out 10 Turrets with it. The Blackcell is a little different. It has double the ammo as the XM-53, but requires vehicle lock-on; it’s basically this game’s Stinger missile launcher. Instead of enemy kills, you have to shoot down a scorestreak 20 seconds after it’s called in 5 times – not too hard with UAV’s, you just have to be in the right spot. The other challenges are the same though – just with the added advantage of more ammo. With the launchers, I think this is the one class where no matter what tips I give, or you find elsewhere, you’re in this for the long haul. You’re at the whims of the enemy team – if they don’t or can’t call up scorestreaks, you can’t really progress with the weapons. Just make sure you have a class or two set up with the launchers ready for when/if they do and you’ll be fine.

The last secondary you need to complete for Dark Matter – the Combat Knife – is the one that I have basically no experience with. I never have been a huge knifer in Call of Duty, save for back in Modern Warfare 2 with the Tactical Knife, Marathon, Lightweight, Commando combo. With the new mobility and everything in Black Ops III though I can see playing with a melee weapon as actually not being obscenely difficult. What is tough though is that this is going to be a grind, no two ways about it. 100 kills is already a lot with a melee weapon – this is one case where Hardcore probably is a bad move; in truth I would say go into Ground War or Chaos Moshpit and look for objective games. Once you’ve got those 100 kills done though, you have a set of pretty tough challenges for the Gold. Survivor medals – if you’re just rushing enemies, you’ll probably get these no problem; Revenge medals, same as any other weapon class, not too bad; Back Stabber medals, a little more setup is involved, but actually not too terrible – use doorways and the thrust jump to ninja enemies. It’s the last two that I think are going to be rough – the five kills in one life, five times really has me thinking stealthy play is a must. Lock down buildings with lots of corners to attack from – use active camo on Spectre to help too. The one that I think requires the most planning though has you knife someone, pick up their gun, then kill them with it – all in the same life, five times. Outside of the bloodthirsties, this is probably the only challenge, across all weapons in the game, that requires you to actively plan ahead and target specific enemies. This is one where I think objective modes really help out – you have a pretty good idea of where the enemies are going to be heading, you can catch one headed there, grab the gun, then wait for the second push.

The secondary weapons generally need you to plan a little ahead – you can just play normally, but you’ll probably die a bit more doing that. Slow down your moves, think about your reduced range and rate of fire, remember what role your launchers are supposed to play, and put stealth and flanking higher on the tactics list and you’ll do just fine. It is a little bit of a grind, but that’s the fun of Call of Duty. Tomorrow though we’ll look into the Specialists, and talk a bit about how to go about finishing their armor challenges for Hero Armor.

Call of Duty Black Ops III: Camo Tips

Black Ops 3I may have been playing a whole bunch of The Division over the last week, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped paying attention to the other games I enjoy. In particular I’ve seen a lot of posts over on the Black Ops III subreddit talking about the Dark Matter camo grind and the struggles people are having. So, while I might not be the most try-hard of Call of Duty players out there, I have found myself burning through the gold camos relatively smoothly. With that in mind, I thought I’d put down some tips that I’ve found useful on my own grind to the Dark Matter camo.

The first thing I do is the same in any CoD game – regardless of hidden camos – I pick one weapon per weapon class to focus on, per prestige. That way I don’t get burned out – I do one assault rifle, an SMG, a shotgun, sniper and LMG per prestige, and limit myself to those weapons. I find that it helps keep me focused and driven on finishing those guns because I don’t prestige until I finish them if they’re close. For example, in Black Ops III, my last prestige was built around finishing the VMP, HVK 30, Man o’ War and Dingo – all got gold before I prestiged to my current one, as well as starting work on my SVG and Argus since they’re late level unlocks. Breaking up the grind as you’re prestiging I find keeps it fresh since every prestige you’re using different weapons and tactics. With Black Ops III, I add in completing one Specialist per prestige too, combining the Hero Armor grind with Dark Matter.

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The second thing is that you have realize it isn’t going to be quick and easy – the weapons all behave differently, and some are just naturally easier than others to complete. I tore through the Kuda but the VMP was a nightmare for me. Same with the shotguns – that first pump action shotgun was a breeze, but I really slogged through the Brecci. If you’re really struggling with a gun, switch it up – the maps are all built well enough where just about any weapon class works, so just try working on a different gun for a couple games. If you’re still on the headshot/one-shot grind I think that’s especially true. It might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but 100 headshots/one-shots is a lot for one gun. Honestly, I don’t explicitly go for just headshots when I’m doing a gun – I play normally, and let the headshots come naturally. I usually get somewhere between 3-5 a game in a Hardcore TDM game; and it skews higher in objective games, especially on Nuketown. That’s really the most important play tactic I can give you – you have to play naturally. If you focus too much on changing your game around to get headshots or revenge medals/long shots, you’ll drive yourself mad. It’s tempting, especially with guns you don’t like, but you have to remember it’s a long grind – it’ll work out if you just play normally.

In terms of games, when I’m going for headshots/one-shots I do tend to play Hardcore, mainly because I just primarily play it anyway. Since pretty much every gun will kill in one or two hits, it makes getting them a lot easier – you should be aiming at the chest/head anyway if you’re playing an FPS like Call of Duty. Hardcore makes the natural action push your kills more toward headshots, especially with SMGs since you don’t need to worry as much about controlling the recoil. Aim chest high, fire off a few rounds, let the recoil push your gun to the head – rinse, repeat. It does have a little higher learning curve than Core game modes, but once you’ve got the maps down, and understand how TDM flows on each, I think it does help out in the long run. Where I switch out of Hardcore is once I’m on to the final set of challenges. That’s when I pop over to Chaos Moshpit/Nuketown – the games there tend not to be crazy sweaty, and objective games on Nuketown are godsends for those challenges. Playing Nuketown last prestige I finished my 50 Kills with 5 attachments, 5 Bloodthirsties and 5 Double Kills in two games on the Man o’ War. To be perfectly honest, Nuketown is the perfect map for those final challenges – it has everything you need to complete them. One the snipers, assault rifles and LMGs, there are a handful of sightlines that will net you longshots, for the SMGs and shotguns, the action is fast enough where revenge kills are similarly easy to come across. The same rings true for the double kills – the action is frenetic enough where it’s not hard to come across multiple enemies in rapid succession. I’ve gotten my only Core Mega Kill on Nuketown because the action is so crazy around the objectives, especially in Domination and Hardpoint.

Each class of weapons is a little different though, so I thought I’d give a couple top-level tips for each class to help with those tricky parts. First up: assault rifles, the jack-of-all-trades in Call of Duty games. Because they work in any situation, generally there isn’t a whole lot of trouble with them. Of the ones I’ve done so far – all but the Shieva and M8A7 – only the HVK was the one that I didn’t like. I found that its per-shot damage just wasn’t cutting it in Core game modes, even with its pretty high rate of fire. Generally though, you’re best off finding a good spot to control – in Hardcore TDM that can get a little tricky with spawns, but in the objective games just control those objectives. You can play the objective and slay at the same time – they aren’t mutually exclusive options. For headshots, learn the recoil pattern, learn the head-glitch spots, and don’t be afraid to play a little passive if you need to. With the longshots, which have consistently been the one challenge that has given me trouble on the ARs, it’s all about learning the maps and knowing which ones have sightlines that are frequented and also give you the medal. Fringe, Nuketown, Infection, Stronghold all are great for them – there are a couple spots on each map that net you the medal and also see lots of foot traffic to get you the kills. Moving on the the SMGs, this is where I’ve been struggling. The Kuda was butter, the VMP was rough, and so far the Weevil has been in-between. In Hardcore, you really should play a flanking role – try to get around the enemy, and hit them from behind for the headshots. I like to run with Ghost, Fast Hands, Gung-Ho/Dead Silence. If you’re playing Core for the revenge medals or still headshots, play aggressively – you might die a bit more, but you need to get into the guns’ ideal ranges. Take attachments that up your DPS – Extended Mag, Fast Mag, Long Barrel and Stock are all good choices. I get rid of my sidearm generally on this class – I focus more on getting my primary as strong as possible. Again, objective modes help a lot to keep the spawns under control. Learn the flanking routes, sneaky spots and head glitches and you’ll be fine.

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While we’re still in close-range mode, the shotguns definitely have the most varied feel of the weapon classes. That’s because two guns have you chasing headshots, the other have you gunning for one-shots. The one-shot guns, the KRM and Argus, are in my opinion two of the easiest guns to use in the game. Once you have their range and rate of fire down, you can dominate games with them, they’re that powerful. Both guns work super well with and without attachments, so those challenges aren’t trouble, bloodthirsties can be if you’re too aggressive and get in over your head, but it’s more about playing smart. Time your run with a teammate or two to split the incoming fire, flank them (again, super important to learn), and pull back if you’re in trouble. It’s the other two – the Brecci and Haymaker – that can be a little tougher. You’re much more likely to just kill the enemy without a headshot in Core game modes. That’s where Hardcore helped me a ton with the Brecci – it’s a one-shot kill, so I knew I just had to aim a little higher than normal, and aerial attacks were good moves too. The same works with the Haymaker – play hardcore, aim high, take Scavenger and play aggressive – you’ve got a full-auto shotgun, use it to your advantage. The shotguns are where I think you can stay right in Hardcore the whole time to Gold Camo if you want – they behave a little more consistently in hardcore.

The last two classes are a little tricky – LMGs can be insanely fun, but also frustrating with the new mobility in Black Ops, while sniping has changed drastically from the old days of Modern Warfare. We’ll go with LMGs first. If there’s one weapon class where I think Hardcore is actually a detriment, it’s this one. You move too slow, even with Quickdraw on the gun you’ll be beat to the punch by just about any other class, and hipfire is too inaccurate. So I stick with Chaos Moshpit, mainly to try and pull Nuketown. Again, it’s perfect for the weapon challenges – headshots come really easily on it, with a number of great spots to look for. In Domination, pick a spot where you can cover B Dom – either window, Blue Car, or the long halls all work well. I said with the other classes to play aggressive, in this case I think you’re much better off hanging back a bit and playing defensive. You lock down your half of the map – don’t push too far and flip spawn, just keep them locked in, and keep getting those headshots. Each gun has a ton of ammo, although the Gorgon doesn’t have a huge magazine thanks to a two-shot kill, so don’t be afraid to go a little hog-wild with them. I like to run with FMJ on to make sure I can pick up the kill through cover too. I also combine my LMG class with my launcher class, so I use counter scorestreak perks, but you can absolutely go with other perks here. As long as you don’t have to deal with an enemy team full of rushers, LMGs should go pretty smoothly for you.

Snipers, on the other hand, are where I’ve been seeing the most frustration. The most important thing to remember is that Black Ops III is fast – it’s built around mobility and speed. It can be really tempting to set up a camp like the old Call of Duty days, but I’ve found that to be a real mixed bag. Combine that with the fact that the four snipers behave really differently, and I can see why people are struggling, in particular with the bloodthirsties. The Drakon really shouldn’t be too bad – use it like a DMR, run Recon ro ELO on it, play support like with an LMG and you should be fine. The Locus can be super frustrating – only netting one-shots chest high and up. This one was definitely a little slower for me – play it more like a traditional sniper, I ran with Variks as my sight and that helped a bit. Again, Nuketown is your friend, same with Fringe and even Stronghold. Play defensive, watch for flanking runs, and absolutely shoot-n-scoot. Grab a kill from one long hall on Nuketown, head up to window for a couple more, then relocate to a long hall again. Keep them guessing, and you should encounter less rushers. The P-06 was far and away my least favorite sniper. That shot delay is brutal to learn. Luckily, it is super powerful, so kills come easily, but you definitely need to know map flow and sightlines with it. I ran with Thermal on it, which I think actually really helped; and got my bloodthirsties done while I did my 5 Attachment kills because Rapid Fire, Fast Mags and Silencer made it much easier. The SVG plays a lot like a strong Locus, so the same things apply here, you just have a little bigger target than with the Locus. Again, Variks or Thermal are nice sights to put on, and Rapid Fire helps out a lot too. This is perhaps the one weapon class where you class setup is the most important. You’ll definitely be using every one of the pick ten. Trip Mines and Shock Charges are lifesavers, a good pistol as a back up helps a ton, and Scavenger helps you keep those traps in place. Perks are less important, aside from Scavenger, while attachments help out a ton I find.

There’s still a bit more to talk about with the Dark Camo grind – I didn’t touch on Secondary weapons at all today. So tomorrow we’ll look at them, and Friday we’ll look at the grind for Hero Armor on the Specialists. Again, I’m definitely not the best Call of Duty player out there – I have a modest 1.5 K/D – but I think that I’ve played enough over the years to learn how to grind out those camo challenges. I have been for years now after all. I’m on the grind as well, so I feel the pain, I know the struggles and I also know that once I have those Diamond camos it feels so damn good. Keep at it, don’t burn yourself out, and they’ll fall one gun at a time.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Awakening MP Map Impressions

Black Ops 3The first DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Awakening, landed on Xbox One and PC today, bringing four new multiplayer maps and a new Zombies map. While I know that the maps have been available on PS4 for about a month now, I haven’t had the chance to play them until today. So with that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little bit about each of the four new maps and how I think they work in Black Ops III‘s current meta-game.

RISE
Rise is, to me, the most standard “Call of Duty” style map in the pack in terms of visuals. It’s set in an under construction research facility in the mountains around Zurich. It’s got a neat way of using Treyarch’s three lane approach to map design – one lane is full of cover to move around and feels really clustered and claustrophobic almost, the middle lane is pretty typical in three lane ideas featuring a large central courtyard that acts as a huge chokepoint, and the other outside lane is definitely the cleanest and most open, with a good chunk of water available for moving in. It’s a map where I think longer range engagements are going to be a little scarce – moving around it seems really easy, with lots of small crossing routes to take between the lanes. I don’t know if Treyarch did this on purpose, but Rise feels like it draws heavily on a couple different Black Ops II maps – Meltdown and Hydro. The water side has a sightline and window setup that looks a lot like the dam side on Hydro, and the interior industrial side felt a lot to me like Meltdown. They aren’t direct, but I couldn’t help feel the echoes.

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SPLASH
The brightest map in the pack for sure, Splash takes place in an abandoned water park. In most Call of Duty maps, the color palate is generally pretty muted – lots of grays and browns. Splash throws that out the window – bright reds, yellows, purples and blues are all over this map – it’s honestly a pretty refreshing look for a Call of Duty map. The map itself has a similar setup to most Black Ops III maps – three lanes, with a big central courtyard. In this case though, those outside lanes really are more designed to draw players to that center courtyard than as actual combat lanes. There aren’t a ton of super long sightlines – think combat that’s similar to Nuketown, so mid-range combat is going to be the main action here. When Awakening came out on PS4, this map had some pretty nasty collision issues that made it real easy to get out of the map an into really unfair positions. They were patched pretty quickly though, so hopefully playing on the Xbox won’t have any of those growing pains. Of the new maps, this is the one that I’m hoping ends up having a strong meta-game around it.

GAUNTLET
This is the map that visually I’m the most in love with. As much as I like Splash’s colors, Gauntlet has a really unique look that no map has had in Call of Duty. The three lanes each have distinct environments, designed to be training settings for Winslow Accord operatives. That helps give each lane a really unique feel from each other, and each one is going to demand different skills from players. The jungle lane is super dense visually – I think certain Specialist camos are going to make picking out targets difficult. Thermal scopes could be pretty handy on this one. The rainy, urban setting is symmetrical, and definitely built around long-range lane control. Each side has a little room that only has two entrances – perfect for sniping from to control that long hall. The middle lane though is where I think this map shines – the arctic section features just about every kind of combat and ability that Black Ops III has. Longer ranges, winding paths for flanking and close range weapons, wall running, ledge jumping, thrust jumps – all feature in in this arctic section.

SKYJACKED
The map going in that I knew the most about, Skyjacked is a updated remake of Hijacked from Black Ops II. Hijacked was a great map, and worked in any game mode – mainly because it was symmetrical but had enough routes to get from base to base to keep it from turning super campy. Skyjacked keeps that basic idea – symmetrical design with two main bases, but with the new movement options, getting around the map is so much faster and easier. The changes to the map mainly involve adjusting sightlines – there aren’t quite as many ones that cross the whole center of the map anymore, and the cabana and middle hut offer a lot more cover than before. The bottom deck also feels a lot more packed in, even with the addition of the outside route into and out of it. Where the biggest change though is in the utility of the towers. In Black Ops II, those towers could be used to really lock down the map, at least above deck, because you could easily defend them with their limited points of entry. Now though with thruster jumping, the second floor is easily reached from the main deck, so holding down a tower is going to be a lot more complex. It still feels really good to play – there’s a reason they picked Hijacked to bring forward. It still can be played with pretty much any weapon class, though I do think SMGs and fast firing assault rifles are better off here.

Overall, Awakening adds in four really strong maps to an already pretty good mix to Black Ops III. Now that we’re starting to get into some new games – Division comes next week, Quantum Break is next month – bringing new content to all consoles is just what Call of Duty needed. Halo 5 has been killing it with the free content updates so far, so I’m going to be curious how this performs on Xbox One. If you’re playing Black Ops III, I definitely recommend picking it up – it adds a good bit of life to the game.