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Call of Duty and the play-reward-play cycle

It’s been a while – eight years, in fact – since Ben last played a Call of Duty game. What is it about Black Ops III that’s keeping him entertained?

Title overview
Name: Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Release date: November 2015
PEGI rating: 18
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

What I’m going to talk about today is the brilliantly cunning play-reward-play cycle that the Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer has perfected. The single-player campaign and zombies mode can wait for another day. Before I go any further: did you know it’s been eight years since I last played a Call of Duty release? Of course I’m old enough to remember when it first appeared on the PC back in the early 2000s but even then, as I was setting out DVD boxes on GAME store shelves, I don’t think anyone thought for a minute the name would dominate gaming for over a decade.

So how do I know it was eight years? Because I last played when my wife was pregnant with our son, in a group of dads-to-be that had met through classes run by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Said son will be eight this year and no doubt begin to nag about wanting to play Call of Duty too because his mates do; I can’t wait to deal with that one, when it arrives let me tell you.

What it means is that I’ve come into the latest game with a fresh perspective. I don’t have recent benchmarks from within the series to compare it to and I like to think that gives me a relatively objective viewpoint. And from that viewpoint I can tell you that the game excels in three key areas.

There is so much stuff. So much. In multiplayer alone there are dozens of guns to unlock, then dozens of attachments for each gun, then dozens of customisations for each attachment. There are three different classes of perks, each with multiple abilities within. You can add secondary weapons, secondary weapon attachments and grenades to that list too. Oh yeah – and don’t forget the specialist character classes each with (you guessed it!) outfits, emotes, abilities and weapons to unlock too. There’s always something new to earn and try out every time you play.

Multiplayer map design is also superb which you would expect after year-on-year iterations and refinements. Development teams have clearly learned from each other and every layout is full of choke points, open spaces, tight corridors and nooks and crannies for players to use. Double-jumps and the ability to wall-run open up a further suite of attacking options and it forces players to be much more aware of their surroundings and the that threats can come from anywhere within a three dimensional space.

The glue that binds it all together is the speed at which rewards are doled out. Matches don’t last long and the player scores points for everything they do. Points turn in to prizes rapidly and regularly, even at higher levels, which means that every round or so there’s something new to try out. Each reward comes with a screen-filling announcement box to let you know and it’s all clearly designed to give the player a little endorphin rush to keep them hooked. And it works. That’s before you even consider the graphs and stats that pop up after every round showing you how you’ve been performing against your own benchmarks.

Is Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer any good? Yes, absolutely.

Is Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer any good? Yes, absolutely. It’s been refined and perfected over years and years of player testing and annual improvements. The biggest challenge, however, lies ahead. Where do they go from here and what can they bring to the table to make next year’s offering different?

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