Last week, it was time for PlayStation 4 owners to take aim with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 with the first opportunity to play around with the game's multiplayer. The beta period is a significant moment for Treyarch, simply because it's one of the first times that a Call of Duty game has offered this kind of early hands-on with its multiplayer. There were clearly high hopes and there are definitely encouraging signs for fans of the series, while there are also a couple of areas to be concerned about.
The first thing to note is that the idea of Specialists offers an intriguing wrinkle to what's otherwise largely been a reliable formula. Because I've had previous hands-on time with the Specialists, I opted for someone a little different this time around. For the majority of my time with the beta, I went with Battery, one of the two new characters revealed last week.
Battery's special weapon plays quite interestingly, especially for those dying to get off a lucky shot. The War Machine is basically bouncing grenades, so when it becomes active and you're in a closed space, it's easy to just let a bunch of them loose and wait for them to hit a hapless target. This is especially effective in closed areas, where the grenades will bounce several times before detonating. There are limited rounds, but considering that Battery loses the War Machine if killed, it's easy to envision the average player spamming these grenades for dear life. The bullet-deflecting Kinect Armor was tempting, but I only used it on a limited basis, given that Black Ops 3 games still tended to lean towards grenade fests.
And boy, was it easy for games to devolve into grenade spam, given that many of the maps used during the beta felt smaller than average. Combine and Evac both felt like tighter quarters, to the point that getting plugged in the head seconds after spawn became a regular issue. Hunted attempted to alleviate this somewhat, since this map featured different paths, like an indoor lodge and a dark cave, as well as an underwater area to traverse these areas quickly. It definitely felt the most open of the initial beta maps, but overall, those looking for more strategic team-based play may see that go out the window.
Despite that, however, Black Ops 3 felt like a smooth ride. Infantry movement was far more fluid than expected and the boost jumps and slides were very responsive. Wall running can take some getting used to, as it took a while to get the hang of getting back on the ground. Even with more complex movements in play, I never felt like any of it got in the way of aiming for my target, so the action never slowed down.
Of course, the overall experience wasn't perfect. Some users reported frequent disconnections and while I did not experience that during my time with the beta, I did notice latency issues and rubber banding at several points. This feels more brutal than ever before now that responsiveness is a heightened necessity to stay alive. If Treyarch can sort these issues out before launch, it should feel like an overall faster Call of Duty multiplayer experience than previous installments.
For PlayStation 4 users, the beta period is over. They'll have to wait until the game releases on November 6. For Xbox One and PC users, however, their opportunity at the beta comes later this week.