First Person Shooter News Roundup

TitanfallOver the last handful of days, we’ve had a few pretty sizable news items drop all relating to different FPS games. Each one isn’t really worth a full article exploring, but they’re definitely worth talking about at least a little bit. So that’s what we’ll do today.

We’ll start with the easy one to digest – Titanfall 2 has apparently officially been unveiled and it’s going to have a campaign mode included. There’s a couple things here to look at. First off, this is the first official word we’ve gotten about a sequel to Titanfall outside of some speculation about platforms. I think it was kind of an open secret in the gaming world – the first game did so well and really helped bring FPS games to the current-gen consoles, that a sequel was a no-brainer. While we still don’t have any real concrete details, knowing that Respawn and EA saw the lack of a true single-player campaign as a shortcoming and are addressing it is a good thing. I thought that Titanfall had a really cool universe that it built, and the campaign Multiplayer matches, while a cool experiment, just didn’t quite deliver for me. I think that because it came out when it did in the current-gen lifespan, the player count dropped pretty quickly, despite it being a really great game. I’m hoping that putting in a true campaign mode, bringing along Frontier Defense mode as well as keeping the overall multiplayer mode more or less the same will keep players invested in a shooter that has a truly unique feel compared with the rest of the market.

Call of Duty Black Market

The other two bits of news I want to talk about today both revolve around Activision’s two biggest FPS games, and probably their biggest games period: Destiny and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Let’s look at Call of Duty first. Yes, they just launched a new DLC map pack on the PS4, and while there were a couple pretty big issues with a couple map exploits that got patched quickly, I think the overall reaction has been mainly positive. Which is what makes this latest little influx of content we got this week kinda surprising. Treyarch added in over 100 new Supply Drop items, to all platforms, including new guns, not just melee items. That’s got the community a little divided, and understandably so. Here’s the problem – all those new items, including a couple really compelling weapons that I want to try out, are tied totally behind RNG based loot drops. It’s like fishing for a certain loot drop in Destiny all over again, just with the looming shadow of “COD Points” to look at. Since Call of Duty‘s loot drops are all tied with microtransactions instead of just in-game play/currency, there’s always going to be that shadow looming over new content. There needs to be something done with the Cryptokeys – either a permanent increase to the rate their earned, some kind of daily challenge that earns a Rare Supply Drop, or the weighting on the new weapons should be favored. Since I’ve been playing the game I have yet to see any of the Supply Drop weapons for me – and in truth, only a couple instances of them in my playing. I know that they have to have some incentive to buy COD Points, but tying cool new guns to them isn’t really the way to do it. I think keeping the customization items there is totally fine, but actual in-game items that can impact matches I wouldn’t have gone that route.

Destiny Crimson Days

On the other side of the Activision coin, we have Destiny. Crimson Days started yesterday and I have to say, it’s kinda underwhelming. Sure the Crimson Doubles look pretty cool – it’s a neat twist on Elimination. But that’s literally it – there’s one quest and one set of weekly bounties. In theory, you could reasonably complete everything that the event brings with it in a day of playing. They only added in two distinct pieces of gear – two Ghost Shells – that’s it. Festival of the Lost and SRL both added in a lot more, granted gear that didn’t really do anything for your Light level. But still, two Ghost shells, two shaders and one emblem is pretty weak. Tess Everis has a couple new Emotes that you can buy with real money (Silver) but again, not really worth it unless you’re really invested in the social side of Destiny. This really isn’t what Destiny needs right now – mainly because there is no PvE content added in with this at all. And that’s the real problem here – I think we maybe lose sight of this because a lot of streamers and YouTubers in the Destiny community do play a good amount of PvP, but the majority of players are PvE based players. There needs to be some kind of influx of PvE content quickly – I would hope next month instead of the April that we’re thinking now. What kills me especially is that in the Crimson Days Grimoire Card we get a glimpse of what Crimson Days could have added on the PvE front – and it’s something that was in my fantasy development for the sequel I did last week: Horde Mode. Two-man, co-op endless waves of enemies on the different planets we have – they even mention it happening in the Vault of Glass! How cool could that have been – fighting off endless waves of Vault of Glass Vex with a partner for increasingly better rewards. Even if it’s a short timed event, that’s pretty much exactly what the PvE side needs right now.

Ultimately, the FPS news is a mixed bag – the Titanfall news has me optimistic about the sequel coming our way; but the Activision side of things is a little muddier. It seems like they’re both short-term additions to games that need long-term attention. If Destiny is supposed to live for ten years, this isn’t the kind of content it needs. If Call of Duty is going to have microtransactions moving forward, tying game-altering items to them sets a bad precedent. Hopefully Activision, Treyarch and Bungie all can start thinking a little farther out, and each game can very easily bounce back from this no problem at all.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III – The Best Call of Duty?

Black Ops 3I know that we’ve been talking a bit about The Division Beta and Destiny‘s future lately, but the game that I’ve been playing the most over the last month or so has been Call of Duty: Black Ops III. And that’s had me thinking – is it the best Call of Duty since the modern era of CoD games started? So with that in mind, let’s rank the modern games and find out. By modern games I mean any Call of Duty console/PC release since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, mainly because it completely changed the formula for the series.

Before we hit the rankings, there is one little caveat to get out of the way. I can’t put Call of Duty: World at War on the list because I’ve never actually played it. It came out while I was still playing a whole lot of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, among other games. In hindsight I do wish that I had picked it up when it was relevant, but oh well. With that said, let’s move on to the Official Infinite Lives Call of Duty Rankings.

Advanced Warfare Cover

At the bottom of the list, I’m going with Advanced Warfare. Yes, it’s Sledgehammer Games’ first full Call of Duty game, but the formula for what makes a CoD game work isn’t exactly a secret. Advanced Warfare just didn’t really pull it off – the campaign was forgettable, the co-op experience was pretty threadbare and the multiplayer had a weapon meta that never really got balanced. The problem really is that there were two or three weapons that were just head and shoulders above the rest – the BAL, ASM1 and Tac-19 all were essentially required to have a shot at performing well. The movement changes were a step in the right direction, but now that we’ve seen Black Ops III take them further, I think it’s kinda evident that that was what Advanced Warfare should have done; regardless of the Titanfall comparisons. I do think that Sledgehammer can make a real good CoD title, but Advanced Warfare just wasn’t it.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Moving a little up the list, we get to the last Infinity Ward developed title: Call of Duty: Ghosts. This one hurts a little because it was so, so close to being great. The campaign, while predictable, was fun the whole way through. The Extinction mode was fantastic, in truth it was my favorite part of the game. What killed the game for me was, much like AW, a broken online meta. The Honey Badger was just too powerful in any engagement, and IW never really addressed it in a way that fixed the problem. There’s a reason that it was banned from competitive play. What kinda blows my mind though is how with the DLC season, IW kept moving in that direction with map-specific killstreaks that were just insanely powerful. Michael Myers and The Predator totally broke any semblance of balance in matches, even with Honey Badgers all over the place. Since Infinity Ward is putting out this year’s game, and I would expect to see Ghosts 2 (despite reports I’ve seen to the contrary – it just makes too much sense not to), I really hope that they look at what works with their style games and what the community has embraced with the last two titles.

Call of Duty Black Ops

Next up, I’m going with a somewhat unpopular opinion here – Call of Duty: Black Ops. Since I’ve been playing the new BO title, I’ve been keeping an eye on Reddit as well. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen with comments putting the first Black Ops title up on a pedestal. I am very much not one of those people. And I think I can explain why – I was the only one in my group of friends I play with that had Black Ops. That meant no Zombies mode for me, which I think is the strength of the first game. The campaign was really good – something that Treyarch is great with across the whole BO series. The multiplayer was solid. There was one weapon – the Commando – that was a little stronger, but in general it was fine. My problem looking back was that the maps really weren’t that memorable. Aside from Nuketown, and arguable Firing Range, I really don’t think there were any amazing maps there. Considering that it had to pull me away from Halo Reach and Modern Warfare 2, I just never got to that same level of love for the game. Still a good title, just not my favorite.

Modern Warfare 3

Moving up the list, another Infinity Ward title, Modern Warfare 3. A game that is near and dear to me, as it was one of the few titles I actually was able to create content for G4tv.com for, I can’t really put it higher up the list. I think the best way to really describe the game is just plain solid. Everything in the game was good, and arguably great, but the game as a whole just didn’t blow me away. The campaign should have been this huge blow off to the story that was told over three games. Instead, it felt like those huge set-pieces were forced in, along with the big twist with Yuri and Makarov. The multiplayer did something different with the Call of Duty: Elite system to deliver the DLC. And that DLC was actually pretty strong – a good mix of new maps and classics, along with a whole new Face-Off mode for small matches. I played it for about a full year, and enjoyed it all the way through – it was the first Call of Duty that I actually wanted to stick with to hit Prestige 10. I just think that compared with the four remaining games, it’s not quite as strong across the board.

Modern Warfare 2

One step up the list, the previous game in Infinity Ward’s lineup – Modern Warfare 2. This one is a little tricky for me. I love this game – in truth I think it’s my favorite of the series. I had more fun playing this game than just about any other Call of Duty. But looking back at it, it absolutely had its flaws. Not having a really fleshed out co-op aside from Spec Ops missions I think now seems like a big miss. The multiplayer had its fair share of relatively major issues – the Javelin glitch, One Man Army abuse, Marathon-Lightweight-Commando knifers, infinite care-packages and care-package marker speed boosts all contributed to some frustrating moments. But IW was good about fixing them as best they could. Add in that the map selection was phenomenal, made for really fun games. Increasing the customization options to players with Callsigns and Emblems tied to challenges helped push the players to actually try to do challenges that maybe they wouldn’t have normally. It’s still a game that I look back on and get the itch to load up from time to time – I actually did play a few games of it last summer.

Black Ops II

Pulling the bronze medal on my list, I’m going to go with Black Ops II. Treyarch is really good at crafting a story mode that is actually worth playing through. In this case, they really stepped it up with branching paths that could impact the ending of the game. That not only shows that Treyarch was taking something, a campaign, that a lot of players brushed off really seriously; but it also added replayability to something that typically doesn’t really have it. Zombies mode – which again I didn’t really play – took the formula and cranked it up to 10. The Easter Eggs were super in-depth, with multiple demanding steps to unlock them. And the meat of the game – the multiplayer – was just as solid as ever. I think this is the game where Treyarch really nailed their style of multiplayer. It’s not as fast paced as Infinity Ward’s, with a little slower time to kill and more focus of simple map design with little flairs to try and control. Sure there were powerful weapons – the M8A1 in particular – but they weren’t game breaking ones. It’s the first game that I felt compelled to complete gold camo challenges for entire weapon classes – diamond camo will do that. After how lukewarm I felt about Black Ops, this game was a complete 180 for me – I really enjoy the hell out of this one.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Finally, I’m going to take a bit of a cop-out. There are two games left to look at – Modern Warfare and Black Ops III – fitting since that was the question that I really set out to look at. And here’s the thing – I don’t really know that I have the answer. From a content standpoint, Black Ops III is way ahead of Modern Warfare – as well it should be. Modern Warfare is almost ten years old at this point. Mechanics-wise, again, Black Ops III shows ten years of development learning. But there’s still something really special about Modern Warfare. It was a landmark game in FPS progression. It was a seismic shift for a franchise that dates back to the early 2000’s. It showed that modern set games could be just as gripping as World War Two shooters. But most importantly, it gave us the blueprint for the way multiplayer shooters would evolve and grow into. We’re still playing games that borrow, sometimes directly, from that first Modern WarfareBlack Ops III is, I think, the peak of that evolution. It takes everything that Infinity Ward put out, spins it forward those ten years, and makes it all work with the extra moving parts we’ve come to expect. Is it the best Call of Duty game in the franchise? I think it’s the best Call of Duty that we can have right now – it is the perfect combination of all three phases: Campaign, Co-op, and Multiplayer. The question I’m looking at now is what Infinity Ward, the original guys on the franchise, can do to continue evolving the franchise this year.

The Evolution of Nuketown

Black Ops 3

I’ve written a bunch here about the importance of map design in FPS games. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is no different. And Treyarch has one of the best designed maps in the franchise as a whole with Nuketown. It’s become the trademark Treyarch map – now that it’s appeared in every Black Ops game. While the basic layout and design hasn’t changed over the three variants, the details that make each map feel unique from each other are what really make the map as strong as it is. Treyarch has done a tremendous job of taking the updates in each game and making the new additions to Nuketown work with them. In the original, the mobility option comes from diving – so, you’ll see pieces of cover that are perfect to hero dive over. In Nuketown 2025, the scorestreaks and weapon balance was a lot different, and while diving was still the mobility option, it became a lot easier to defend the houses and really turned games more into map control and less about crazy action. Now though, with wall running and thrust jumps and slides, the map has again shifted and is way more about moving around and flanking and creating different sight lines.

Call of Duty Nuketown

Yes, if you’re playing Domination, there’s a pretty infamous head-glitch spot that really I think was a bad placement. But in general the game is less about holding down a house or side of the map and a lot more about controlling the middle and knowing your movement routes. Wallrunning can get you out of the side halls alive, and help you get around hard charging teams. The second floor windows are a lot easier to get into – no more mantling on a couple different pieces of decoration, you just thrust jump right in. That makes holding that second floor a lot more risky that it was in Black Ops II. That’s really what makes the map really special – it’s evolved with each iteration and each time it still remains one of the strongest maps in shooters in general. With the chaos moshpit playlist basically being Nuketown all the time, it comes up really often – and I am not sick of it at all. It’s a map that is pretty much perfect for completing any challenges in the game. It’s where I finished my Glitch double kills for Prophet. I finished my KSG gold camo on it as well.

Infinity Ward is putting out the Call of Duty this year – that’s just how the rotation is shaking out, which means we’re unlikely to see a Modern Warfare anniversary. In truth, we’re probably in for a Ghosts 2 this year – which I only bring up because Ghosts didn’t really have a signature map in it, despite the fact that Infinity Ward had a signature map with the Modern Warfare games – Crash. When we actually see the map list, that’s when we’ll learn if Infinity Ward thought any map in Ghosts was worth bringing forward. While it might not be Nuketown, it could still be a pretty damn solid map.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Multiplayer Achievements

Black Ops 3

I hit level 55 in Call of Duty: Black Ops III last night, which is the level cap before entering Prestige Mode. When you reach that level, you get one of the four multiplayer achievements in the game – one is unlocked at level 10, the other two deal with the new Specialist mechanic in Black Ops. That, combined with my ongoing grind for weapon camos, calling cards and Specialist attire got me thinking about those sort of multiplayer achievements – whether they’re actual Xbox Achievements/PlayStation Trophies or in-game items. My stance on multiplayer achievements has always been more or less that they really shouldn’t be on the achievement list. But that idea was basically formed from the achievements that were in Gears of War, Halo 3, and Halo: Reach. Over the last couple years, I’ve softened my stance a little.

With the games that I play the most online right now – Destiny, Halo 5, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III – each has competitive multiplayer achievements. A few years ago, I would have been pissed about that – mainly because I see those achievements always drawing the most attention for boosters and the such. I played the hell out of Halo 3 and I’m still missing a whole slew of the multiplayer achievements because they could only be unlocked in Free for All – which to me just further encouraged boosting. With Halo 5 though, the multiplayer achievements are much more easily unlocked. Win five games of the different game modes, and do the same for each of the original three Warzone maps. In theory that’s really not that many games, should you play well and get your wins quickly. Then you are free to just focus on the in-game commendations and REQ points. With the Warzone achievement, I do think that since you’re at the mercy of the map selector, it can be a bit more frustrating – I had the same issue with Titanfall asking you to win a game of each mode on each map. But those are achievements that, again in theory, are simply unlocked by playing the game over time. That’s kinda the point with shooters these days – the campaign is good for a few play sessions, then it’s the multiplayer that keeps the game installed on your hard drive.

Destiny Crucible

With the two Activision games – Destiny and Call of Duty – the lists are a little different. Destiny does have a couple PvP achievements, and really only one is dependent on player skill and might be tricky (Kill a Warlock, Hunter and Titan in one life). The rest are pretty much just keep playing kind of achievements – which works with Destiny‘s notion of you playing a bunch of different activities every time you log on. And since the bulk of the content is PvE in nature, that’s where the bulk of the achievements are. That one odd achievement is a good example of one that I definitely take issue with. At launch, it was a lot easier to get that one – everyone was still playing around with each class, including alts. I got that achievement when I was leveling my Warlock before my fireteam had actually finished the story – mainly thanks to Nova Bomb being good at covering a wide area. After the meta stabilized though and Titans all but vanished from PvP through most of Year One, that achievement became a hell of a lot harder to unlock. Now it’s probably back to being relatively straightforward with Sunbreakers making Titans relevant again.

Which brings me to Call of Duty. It’s been a series that has always done different things with multiplayer. The first multiplayer specific achievements didn’t appear until the first Black Ops, of which there were two – one to reach level 10 in Combat Training, and one to win five Wager Matches. And for the most part, that’s been pretty much how each game has approached the multiplayer achievements – with ones that are easily unlocked just from playing a whole bunch of games. Where they’ve put a lot of the kind of things that could have been achievements are in the meta-challenges. Stuff like Misery Loves Company, The Loner, and Collateral all would have made fine achievements, but putting them in-game helps reduce the boosting, in theory. For Call of Duty, I think that balance is definitely the best way to go. It lets the developers put in a couple multiplayer achievements to round out the list, but put the real challenges in-game and reward the players with in-game items. With Black Ops III though, that line has been blurred just a little bit. Those two Specialist related achievements aren’t just earned by playing with them a lot – maybe the triple kill one depending on the weapon – but the five medals in one game one definitely seems designed to push players toward a specific playstyle with specific Specialists. I’ve spent this whole Prestige playing as Prophet – mainly because I think Tempest is a great objective defense weapon – and I don’t think I’ve played a single game (even with Overdrive) that I’ve felt like I could have earned five medals based on Glitch. Truth be told, I think Glitch is one of the two weakest abilities in game along with Rejack, mainly because of the challenge associated with Glitch has you getting kills after it. To me, it’s way more attuned to a defensive use – before I was trying to get those last cosmetic items for Prophet, that’s how I used it – to survive fights I was dead in.

Black Ops II

Tie that together with the “secret” Dark Matter camo and Gold Hero attire for Specialists, and it’s really not that hard to see why Treyarch is cracking down on boosters pretty early in the game’s life. Instead of Dark Matter being like Diamond was in Black Ops II as a status symbol, my first thought is now trying to figure out if the player is a booster. Now, of course, Diamond had boosters too – they’re part of the system, and that’s why there’s always going to be the need to crack down on them. Putting things that almost encourage boosting into the achievement list is never a good thing, and I think Treyarch toed the line a little this time around. Hopefully Ghosts 2 or whatever we get this year will have a more straightforward list.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Wallrunning Thoughts

I’ve been a big Call of Duty fan for a long time – going back to the Classic games on the PC. Now that I’ve been playing a good chunk of Black Ops III multiplayer I think that Treyarch has pretty much completely changed the formula for their games. The biggest change to me that we’ve seen in the overall franchise over the last three games has been increasing the mobility. Ghosts added in sliding, Advanced Warfare added in boost jumps and dodging, as well as sliding, and now we’re at Black Ops III with wall running, thruster jumps and sliding. So with that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little about those new mobility options in Black Ops III.

It’s hard to look at wallrunning in an FPS these days without comparing it to TitanfallTitanfall had such a seamless integration with the wallrunning and clamber mechanics that it has kinda set the standard in the modern set of FPS games. So going in to Black Ops III I was curious to see how Treyarch would approach it. I can definitely see some influence in how easy it is to transition into a wall run or clamber. Shooters are definitely moving to a more mobile mind-set. Cover use will always be an important part of any FPS game, but mobility is really starting to be a huge part of how encounters are playing out. What I think Black Ops III does well with the wall running is that you can still aim-down-sights while running. In Titanfall, if you aim, you stick to the wall, killing your momentum and making you an easy target. With being able to aim and move on the walls, it opens up a whole bunch of different options to get into firefights and engage the enemy from a whole bunch of different angles. Since Treyarch has a bunch of challenges that are based around wallrunning, and the maps are set-up for it as well, you’re bound to see lots of people running all over the place.Black Ops 3

Microtransactions and FPS Games – The New Normal

Black Ops 3Now that I’ve finally gotten Black Ops III, I’ve now played all of what I consider the big four competitive FPS games in the modern market: Call of Duty, Halo 5, Battlefield: Hardline, and Destiny. There’s plenty to say about each game, how each game’s gunplay feels, the maps in each game, the story content, the post-launch content – so on and so forth. But what I’ve been thinking about most lately is the addition of microtransactions to each game.

Three of those four games – the odd man out being Battlefield – focus the microtransactions around cosmetic additions. Destiny uses Silver as a secondary currency, and Black Ops III uses COD Points to fill the same role. The difference really is that COD Points are earnable in game, while Silver is solely bought with real money. Halo 5 is similar to Black Ops III in that the in-game currency can be earned by playing the game. Where they really break away from each other is the purpose they all have. The Black Market in Call of Duty provides you with a random set of cosmetic items – that’s it. You can actually get duplicates, which can be burned for more cryptokeys to buy more supply drops. But anything you get out of those supply drops is purely cosmetic. Nothing in them has any actual bearing on the matches you’ll play. In Halo, the REQ packs you buy earn you the power weapons, vehicles, power-ups and such that you use in Warzone matches, as well as providing the cosmetic items to make your Spartan unique. In Destiny though, your only options are cosmetic emotes – you spend real money to be able to do the Carlton. Again, no real bearing on gameplay – but does help make your Guardian your own. When SRL was live, you could get those horns and sparrows, but those also don’t really have a direct impact on gameplay – just transit. With Battlefield, the microtransactions are the boosts which unlock all the items for a class or vehicle class.

Halo 5 Warzone

With four pretty different takes on microtransactions and post-launch DLC, I have been trying to figure out which I think has the most staying power. I think they’re all kind of based around the MOBA style for buying skins – which has proven to be pretty darn successful so far. In terms of how I see them moving in shooters, I think that the Halo/Call of Duty model will probably continue on. If games keep those real-money transactions based around cosmetic gear, they’ll definitely get sales, but they need to have some way to earn the in-game money actually in-game. It’s something that I think just about every major shooter will have to look at moving forward – I honestly think that traditional Map Packs might be on the way out if something like this can prove to be viable. I think that’s something to keep an eye on as this year moves on closer to the big launches later on.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III First Thoughts

Black Ops 3Over the holiday season, I picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops III while it was on sale. I’ve spent the last week or so playing a bunch of multiplayer, and starting to work through the Veteran campaign. Now that I’m a few missions in, and I’m around level 30 in MP, I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts about how I think Treyarch’s latest entry in the venerable franchise.

From a campaign standpoint, I went in with really tempered expectations. Black Ops II really didn’t stand out to me – the diverging storyline just didn’t really stick with me. So far though, I am definitely enjoying this one a bunch more. Sure, it’s got the usual Call of Duty tropes. The player character gets seriously injured (in first person) as a story-telling device; there’s huge set-pieces in just about every level; and there’s the sudden but inevitable betrayal. It’s simple-minded, old-school action movie fair; but that’s what I expect from Call of Duty, and they always deliver with it. It’s not groundbreaking storytelling, but it is definitely a fun time. If nothing else, it’s a good way to learn about the new mechanics in the game and apply that to multiplayer.

Black Ops 3 Ruin

Which is really where the longevity for a Call of Duty game lies. Sure, Treyarch has always done really well with their Zombies mode, but you kinda need other players to run through that, and my friends have sort of moved away from Call of Duty. So for me, multiplayer is where I live. I really came around to Treyarch’s take on multiplayer with Black Ops II. The gun-play felt really solid, I really liked the slower time-to-kill, and it was the first Call of Duty game that I thought Hardcore modes were actually a lot of fun, instead of a struggle. So far with Black Ops III, it feels very much like a continuation of the previous game. The gun-play feels a lot like it did in the last game, the time-to-kill is similar and so far, the meta feels pretty damn solid. There really hasn’t been a gun that I’ve either used, or seen in every game, where I go: I need to have that gun, with those attachments to have a chance in any firefight. There are a couple different weapons – in each weapon class – where I think I could actually perform well. That’s always the first thing I do when I play a Call of Duty game. Find the guns that are useful across the board – or find the overly strong ones. In this case, there’s no Honey Badger to dominate the meta, so I find myself picking my loadout more based around the map and game flow.

The next thing I start focusing on is the map design. Treyarch went back to FPS 101 for the maps in Black Ops III. Each map is based around a three lane design, and then the setting dictates the details and how those lanes interconnect. A lot of the details focus around the new wall running and thruster jump system, as well as the ability to swim now. That opens up new routes to flank around defense points, as well as just moving around to maneuver around behind enemies. That refocus on basic, simple map design is exactly what Treyarch needed. Black Ops II had some good maps – those happened to be based around three lane set – Hijacked, Yemen, Nuketown 2025 all stand out in my memory. There’s a reason that Nuketown has become the Black Ops franchise map – its simple design puts all of the wins and losses on gameplay, less on spawns and map quirks. The same extends to Hijacked – which will be making a return in the upcoming DLC pack. With Black Ops III, there are a couple strong maps – Combine, Evac, Aquarium, Havoc – all of those maps feel really balanced for just about any mode.

If this all sounds like I’m really enjoying Black Ops III, that’s pretty much true. This is, to me, the strongest Call of Duty across the board, since Black Ops IIGhosts had a decent campaign, an awesome co-op experience with Extinction that was just destroyed by a horrible multiplayer weapon meta and some questionable DLC maps. Advanced Warfare did a good job of starting a new sub-franchise, but also just didn’t really stand out to me. It’s got some nice pieces to it – I especially love the virtual firing range and is something I would like to see in the whole series moving forward. This one though has felt much more complete to me. Maybe because this is the first game that has, for all intents and purpose, left behind the last console generation. I fully expect that whatever game we get this year to continue that trend, which is honestly a full year later than it should have happened. Call of Duty has always offered up a multiplayer experience that is pretty different from a lot of what is out there. With the current lineup, I think Black Ops III does a good job of filling that role. It doesn’t try to be Halo, Destiny or Battlefield. It’s Call of Duty, and unabashedly so.