How Black Ops 3 Had Me, Then Lost Me

Treyarch has been on the better side of Call of Duty in recent year. The first Black Ops was a fantastic game that blended WWII with a twisted mystery/thriller story that still stands as one of the franchise's best. Fast forward to Black Ops 3 - a game that releases among heavyweight titles such as Tomb Raider, Halo 5, Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront.

With so much competition I wasn't certain I was going to dig into Black Ops 3, but I caved as a few of my friends said they wanted to give it a go. I had hated Ghosts with a fiery passion and Advanced Warfare's only appeal to me was Kevin Spacey being a part of the campaign. In all honesty, I've been chasing the high that Modern Warfare 2 had me on, and no CoD title since it has hooked me quite as good as it did. The same can be said for Black Ops 3 - a game that finds some way to balance every positive with an overwhelming negative.

For the positives: the campaign has a few decent moments amidst a muddled narrative and boring characters. BO3 borrows from Advanced Warfare's thrust-movement system and marries it with Titanfall's free-run mechanics in a decent result. This varies up gameplay SOMEWHAT, making it a blast to kill enemies while wall-running. Multiplayer remains mostly the same as previous CoD games, for better or worse. Zombies has its own campaign - may be the best version of any CoD game. Lots of depth for customizing weapons and unlocking extra player items.

The negatives: Several MP maps fail to meaningfully incorporate playable areas that allow you to use walls as methods of travel. Many times I found myself trying to jump over rubble or objects in-game but hit invisible walls. This eventually lead me to stop trying, knowing that the "if you see it, you can use/climb it" mantra from Titanfall is in no way adopted here. MP maps are a bit thin @ launch and playlists rarely incorporate the bonus Nuketown map. Servers are not truly dedicated and instead are a hybrid of player-hosted and dedicated (no idea why), which leads to some noticeable laggy matches at times. Servers are horrific @ launch, constantly booting players and dismantling pregame parties and forcing players to re-sign in to CoD's servers (after being taken "offline"). The graphics don't wow me whatsoever, looking as good as Advanced Warfare and never better. Wall-running isn't as fluid as it could be, constantly reminding me of how much better Titanfall was in this department.

The last part of my negatives is the killer. Black Ops 3 works well enough that I was willing to get back into Call of Duty after ditching both of the last games after just a couple weeks of playing them. That ground that the game earns back for me is completely lost, though, upon the nightmare that is online play. Every single day I've played I have witnessed complete breakdowns of matchmaking services. One match things work great, the next I'm teamed up with only 3 other players and forced to play against 8 when the gametype only allows 6v6. Other times I'm matched with as many as 7 other players, facing another full team (that's 14 players in a 12-player game). When running with a squad of 6, we had to leave matchmaking after 80% of our games because at least one person was getting kicked from the game and had to either reboot Black Ops 3 or re-engage the online servers to join back up. Other times open parties were un-joinable and hosts couldn't invite to their parties (failure notifications were sent upon trying to invite players). The complete meltdown of the backend services kills the experience. No ifs/ands/buts - this game simply doesn't work, and it's not an isolated incident but a global issue among both Xbox One, PS4 and PC players (someone says PC is more stable, but I couldn't verify that).

The outcome of all of this is me wanting to pawn this game off for a small loss and buy another game that I know is going to work. First on the list is Fallout 4, with Tomb Raider being a close second. But the fact that Black Ops 3 is suffering from significant technical failures, some of which plagued Black Ops 2, is astounding. For a game this big it's not acceptable for this to be so bad. If you're wondering how it compares to other poor launches, it's close to being as bad as The Master Chief Collection during its first few weeks (before the game was eventually fixed and now runs perfectly). As my title suggests: Black Ops 3 had me, then lost me.