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.

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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.

Call of Duty Dark Matter.gif

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.

Call of Duty KRM.png

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 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.

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.

Black Ops III – Your Future Home for…Interesting Emblems and Guns

Black Ops 3

This week Activision and Treyarch unveiled some new details about the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops III. In particular, they talked about the new customization features for the multiplayer. And, while I normally am all about customization in multiplayer games, the Call of Duty community has shown with this customization to be…a little immature. That’s where I see this new level of customization going, for better or worse.

They’re calling it the Gunsmith, and from a functional standpoint, I actually think it’s a cool idea. The big MP question every Call of Duty has going in is how the Create-a-Class will work. Ever since Black Ops II, the franchise has had some form of the Pick X system. Forgoing the somewhat rigid system of the older games; it, in theory, allows for more variety in the game. Ultimately, the cream rises to the top, and certain gun/attachment/perk combos appear much more frequently. The new Gunsmith system seems like the next step in that idea. The actual details are still unclear, but from what we know, they’ve overhauled the Create-a-Class system again. The big reason is that guns will now support six attachments.

Now, six attachments seems pretty damn crazy to me. I thought three opened the door for some ridiculously strong weapons, and generally I think it did. I would think that with the potential for double the attachments, the actual list of attachments will have to grow. Whether that’s done by splitting apart some attachments, or just adding in new ones remains to be seen. Of course, we haven’t actually gotten hands-on with the game yet, so it’s hard to know for sure just how the guns will feel.

Where I do feel confident talking about the game this early is the custom emblems that Treyarch likes to have. Add in the new ability to create skins for the guns, and I can only imagine the amount dick guns in our future. Now, the custom emblems have indeed allowed for some pretty damn brilliant creations. There are plenty of examples of creativity and dedication – I’ve toyed with it myself to come up with a couple ones I’m proud of. Treyarch is doubling the amount of layers available, along with adding in textures like metals for use. That should allow for some even more amazing pieces of art on emblems and guns. But I can’t help but think that overall we’ll be seeing a lot more dicks and boobs out there than super detailed creations.

Treyarch is in an interesting spot this year with Call of Duty. Not only is there the move to PlayStation exclusivity; but on top of that, Black Ops III is kind of flying under the radar. There are lots of other games out there that seem to be getting a lot more talk – for a variety of reasons. Destiny, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Fallout 4, Rainbow Six…and that’s just off the top of my head. This could be a fall season where Call of Duty doesn’t break all kinds of sales records – or it could totally still do that. That’s the fun part of gaming – we actually have to get there and play them to know for sure.

All Aboard the Hype Train! Black Ops III Leaving the Station

Before we wrap up the Borderlands characters, I want to talk about the first reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops III. We got our first look at actual game footage yesterday afternoon, so there’s actually some content to talk about today. There’s still a ton of details out there – I would expect more to come at E3, and then beyond – but there was enough in there to talk about and get me on board..

First, let’s talk about what I think is the biggest hurdle facing Black Ops III. Just going off of the trailer, it looks like it’s a similar setting to Advanced Warfare. That means that Treyarch has to create a game that feels different. There is a quick shot in the trailer showing some wall-running, so you know that there’s going to be some Titanfall comparisons. I don’t think that there’s really going to be the danger of too much bleed-over across the games. Treyarch is really good at sticking with their style of game – the Black Ops games always felt very different from the Infinity Ward games.

Black Ops 3

The big news in the trailer, aside from actually showing us gameplay, was the announcement of a multiplayer beta, available by pre-ordering. Call of Duty hasn’t ever really embraced multiplayer betas – especially on consoles – in the past. This is now two huge games that Activision has had beta’s for, if you go back to the Destiny beta from last summer. It speaks to their understanding that launch is more important than ever with these multiplayer heavy games, and there’s been plenty of rough launches lately. If they can have a solid launch on November the 6th, that could go a long way towards winning the fall for shooters. The fall is starting to look like the old days with shooters this year – we already knew Halo 5 launches October 27th, and Star Wars: Battlefront is November 17th – now we add in Black Ops III. That’s a busy few weeks right there, not even looking outside of the genre, AND we’re still pre-E3. It’s going to be a crazy fall this year.

We got a few details out of the trailer that I think show a different focus for Black Ops III. First, the campaign is going to be four player co-op. That’s a first for the series, with any number of players. Add in the branching paths that are returning for the campaign, and you have a pretty strong possibility for replaying with a party. Customization is always a big part of the Call of Duty experience – especially in multiplayer – and it looks like it’s returning in a pretty big way. The campaign character is custom now – including female characters – which makes sense with the co-op aspect. Gunsmithing though is a new feature – based on what we know so far, it seems like a logical next step from the weapon variants found in Advanced Warfare.

One last thing that I think is huge, but I don’t see a ton of chatter about. Call of Duty: Black Ops III will only appear on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This is the first in the series to completely move on to the current-gen consoles. That’s huge – Call of Duty is probably the biggest franchise in gaming today. For them to move on completely really shows that we’ve probably hit the end of the road for 360/PS3 support. Which makes sense, we’re two years in now, I think the crossover period really has reached its peak. At this point we’ve probably hit the wave of “normal” adapters moving on to the current-gen consoles. I don’t like to ever fully retire a console, but for practical purposes, the 360 has hit its end.

There’s still a lot of information that Treyarch is keeping in hand still. We have E3 in about two months, and beyond that there’s Gamescom to look at, which is where they held the mulitplayer reveal last year. They haven’t said when exactly the beta will be, but best guess is probably right around E3 – June-July makes a lot of sense. It does mean early pre-orders, which I don’t usual recommend, but this is probably a safe bet.