The 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 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.
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.
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.
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.