Black Ops 3's Familiarity is Its Greatest Asset

Throwing it back to 2009.


Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 isn't innovative like Advanced Warfare. It doesn't dramatically change any fundamental parts of the gameplay. It scales back Sledgehammer's exaggerated Exo Suit enabled movement mechanics and strips away the sci-fi to return a sense of realism to guns. Its changes are very iterative, and earlier this week another GameSpot editor came away disappointed with the lack of substantial revisions to the game.

When I played Black Ops 3's multiplayer, however, I thought that the game was better because of its small iterations. The great thing about Black Ops 3 is that it feels like a Call of Duty game at its core. It's like reuniting with an old friend: You haven't seen them for a while, but you immediately recognize them and remember why you liked them so much. Black Ops 3 is familiar, comfortable, and just simply fun.

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You don't have to worry about an enemy suddenly jetting out of your sights with an Exo-powered jump. You're not going to get blasted by a laser. You are going to get shot with a gun shooting bullets, or stabbed with a knife. Kill streaks even seem toned back, with games primarily featuring UAVs and remote-controlled cars rather than over-the-top weapons of mass destruction.

From the three rounds I played, Black Ops 3's multiplayer is some good, clean, Call of Duty action. And that's what I want from the next entry in the series. I want to feel like I'm playing Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2 again.

You're going to shoot other players. You're going to customize your guns to your liking. You'll probably face off against some people who are way too good at sniping, or are running around with just a knife. But when you spawn, and you look down the sights of your gun, you'll know that your assault rifle, submachine gun, or shotgun will respond the way it has for the majority of the series.

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I thought that last year would be the last time I purchased a Call of Duty game. But then I sat down and tried Black Ops 3 multiplayer, and something clicked again. I didn't have to dedicate my mind to constantly thinking about mechanics, movement, or weapons. I could just play, I could rely on Modern Warfare muscle memory.

The changes extend naturally into the core of the gameplay; the new, slow jetpack jump is ancillary to the movement rather than front and center, the new character skills enhance but don't dominate games, and the handful of new grenades are simply slight tweaks on old ideas. It's a better game than past Call of Duty titles, but it's not radically different.

Playing Black Ops 3 made me realize that maybe the key to revitalizing Call of Duty isn't to dramatically change it, but rather to jettison some of the accumulated elements that weigh it down. That's what Black Ops 3 does. There aren't an overwhelming amount of different perks or attachments, but rather the exact ones that you want and expect to be there. All of the weapons fit into the Call of Duty mold.

When my demo ended, I said, "Call of Duty is back." And that's what it feels like. Black Ops 3 seems to channel the experience of old Call of Duty games. It's the first time I've ever thought that incremental changes have made a game significantly better. Its small refinements are what make Black Ops 3 so fun.

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