Mafia 3 Review

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It’s been an agonising 6-year wait for the follow up to 2K’s phenomenal gangster sim Mafia 2 – a game that depicted down and out Italian war vet Vito Scaletta’s journey through the ranks of the Italian mafia in a stylish 40’s era New York. Apart from the name and the inclusion of the previous instalment’s considerably more aged protagonist, Mafia 3 couldn’t be further removed from its predecessor, unless of course it followed the politics and power struggles of a bunch of alley cats.

Mafia 3 moves the story to a different time period and location – New Bordeaux – a virtual version of New Orleans in the year 1968. This time around you’re in the shoes of Lincoln Clay, a coloured man on a quest for revenge after your mob and surrogate family are betrayed and massacred by nefarious crime boss Sal Marcano.

Mafia 3 displays an unparalleled level of progressiveness with its depiction of the racial prejudice rampant at the time. Done in a documentary style, the story constantly leaps between past and present, as key figures offer their perspective on events that transpired during Clay’s revenge-fuelled murderous rampage. It’s serious and gritty subject matter is executed in a skilful and, at times, uncomfortably crude yet accurate manner and bears all the styling’s of a silver screen flick.

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Despite the oppressive tone and bleak circumstances that leads to Lincoln going after the city’s most corrupt inhabitants, there’s an obvious effort to make sure the game doesn’t buckle under the weight of its own substance. The sombre tone is brilliantly offset by Lincoln’s cool demeanour, aided by offbeat ex C.I.A agent John Donovan, who uses his intel to inform Lincoln who’s cranium is most deserving of a few holes.

Your time in New Bordeaux is almost exclusively taken up with securing districts from those loyal to Marcano and establishing rackets run by those swearing allegiance to you. After a linear yet delightful starting mission involving a robbery gone wrong, the game’s world opens up and the objective – to take down Marcano’s empire by killing him and his associates is quickly set out. In this world filled with drugs, prostitution, money laundering and other unsavoury endeavours, regrettably it’s the gameplay that establishes itself as Mafia 3’s biggest crime.

Securing rackets quickly becomes a boring and monotonous chore and feels all too much like busywork rather than actual story missions. You’re given information on a racket and taking it down involves causing enough damage to lure out its boss. Put a bullet in him and it’s basically rinse and repeat until the credits roll.

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There are various options when it comes to damaging rackets, but it’s the same few objectives – kill ringleaders, interrogate informants, steal money and destroy property – repeated for each and every racket in each and every district. This repetitive, uninspired mission structure harks back to the first Assassin’s Creed and the same fact rings true; no matter how rich and alluring the narrative and world are, variation in gameplay is crucial in order to truly captivate and excite.

The few cinematic and narrative lead missions that occur when taking out some key members of Marcano’s posse, such as infiltrating a wake dressed as a waiter and drugging the guests Hitman-style or chasing down your target through a rundown amusement park, are an absolute joy and were there more moments like this Mafia 3 could have been something truly special. It’s a shame because the world itself is a skilfully crafted version of New Orleans that offers a remarkably authentic depiction of the time period. The locations, vehicles, soundtrack and atmosphere all seek to engage and the world feels wasted on missions that didn’t use to it its full potential.

Despite the repetitive nature of the gameplay, the combat itself is solid. Enemies are numerous and stealth is usually the best option, at least initially. This is due to Mafia 3’s unforgiving nature; once spotted enemies will quickly hone in on Lincoln, their affinity for flanking and making optimal use of cover makes firefights intense. The lengthy missions with minimal checkpointing, reliance on health kits and loss of half of your income should you be killed makes Mafia 3 all the more merciless.

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Luckily, you’re given bonuses, such as increased health and better weaponry from your underbosses for assigning districts to them, which make life easier as the game progresses. Exactly what perks you receive are dependent on who you assign districts to and the more affinity you have for one the better the rewards you receive. Constantly overlooking an underboss can cause them to turn against you forcing you to think tactfully to get the most useful benefits while also keeping everyone on your side.

Optional side missions can also be completed to raise affinity with an underboss and gain access to better perks, however, these prove to be an almost never-ending string of the same mission type for each character and the extra benefits aren’t really worth the lofty time investment.

The vast divergence from the formula of its predecessor is the result of a change in developer. No longer in the hands of 2K Czech, Mafia 3 was created by Hanger 13, the studio’s first project, and the end result sadly highlights its lack of experience. There’s no denying Mafia 3 is a well-thought-out game with an intriguing premise, engaging characters and an encompassing world, but the lack of ingenuity and diversity with missions means that fatigue will inevitably set in regardless of your affinity for the former.

6/10

Mafia 3 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. For more information visit https://mafiagame.com/

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Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour Teaser Demo Impressions

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Once seen as the pinnacle of survival horror, it’s fair to say that the Resident Evil franchise has somewhat lost its way thanks to its recent action-heavy entries. The unveiling of Resi’s seventh instalment came courtesy of a short trailer at this year’s E3 which showcased a radically new direction for the zombie-slaying series. The most notable change is the viewpoint; gone is the now signature over the shoulder camera, with players instead witnessing the inexorable horror from a first person perspective. There’s also a clear emphasis on the series’ long-awaited return to horror, albeit in a much different, more serious, tone than what fans are used to. Clearly Capcom has been hard at work on this overhaul for some time as they’ve already locked down a release date and, better still, it’s a mere 7 months away. On top of that, they’ve also seen fit to release a demo giving players a taste of what to expect ahead of the game’s launch early next year, oh Capcom, you do know how to spoil us.

No context is given for the situation or circumstances surrounding the protagonist’s predicament in the demo, but the objective is clear and simple – get out of the house. We’re only too willing to oblige as the aforementioned abode is a dark, grotty, run down residence and the smearings of blood and rotten remains give the distinct impression that something horrid has unfolded here. A back door – our means of escape, can be found just down the hall from the starting location, but of course, it’s locked (where’s the ‘master of unlocking’ when you need her, eh?) giving us no option, but to further explore this eerie dwelling. The atmosphere is terrific with tried and tested horror tropes like flickering lights, television static and strange noises making exploration genuinely unnerving. The first person viewpoint profoundly adds to the atmosphere, making the sense of horror more immediate and intrusive.

Gameplay is notably minimal with player interaction resigned to opening doors as well as examining objects and picking up the odd useful one. There’s absolutely no combat leaving us to speculate whether it’ll be a run and hide affair like Outlast. As well as Red Barrels’ commendable indie title, comparisons with this and last year’s E3 horror demo offering P.T. are unavoidable. While Outlast had the shock factor thanks to its creepy setting filled with terrifying monsters and jump scares, P.T relied on more subtle horror to give players the heebie-jeebies, but both offered fresh experiences that reignited a then somewhat stagnant genre. The problem is that Beginning Hour is retracing steps already well-trodden by those titles without offering anything new or even expanding upon what has come before.

Also rather concerning is that, apart from the name, there is no indication that what you’re playing is even a Resident Evil game. There’s no cheesy B-Movie dialogue or familiar characters, hell there aren’t even any zombies! However, Capcom has confirmed that the section playable in the demo isn’t part of the main game so, like P.T, this could be representing a very different experience to how the final product actually plays.

Capcom reinvented the franchise before with the release of Resident Evil 4 and the gamble of overhauling a popular formula vastly paid off as it was, and still is, one of the best horror experiences in gaming. Perhaps this will do the same, but with the absence of any real staples of the Resi series like puzzles, item management or infected, coupled with the lack of any real innovation from a brand that effectively established the survival horror genre, there’s just not enough evidence at present to suggest that Resident Evil 7 will be anything more than a mediocre contemporary horror title cashing in on the legacy of a once great series.

Resident Evil 7 will launches January 24 on PS4, Xbox One and PC, with support for PlayStation VR also confirmed. For more information visit: https://www.residentevil.net

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Final Fantasy XV – Platinum Demo Impressions

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The development time of Final Fantasy XV has been so long it’s beginning to spiral into Duke Nukem Forever realms of ridiculous. Having been originally announced in 2006, practically everything about the game has been overhauled since then, including its name. Originally starting life as Final Fantasy Versus XII, a spin off to Lightening’s ill-received adventures, expectation for this now canon entry is at an all-time high. Square Enix has once again seen fit to drip feed us morsels of playable gameplay, perhaps to improve the finished product or maybe as something of a peace offering to the fans that have been waiting a decade for an actual release.

The Platinum Demo is the second Final Fantasy XV demo that’s been released, but it feels like a much earlier, more stripped back version of the game; like an early tech demo. This would be fine except for the fact Square Enix already released Episode Duscae, a lengthy demo that showcased the sprawling world, intricate combat mechanics and quirky characters of Final Fantasy XV. The Platinum demo does none of this bar demonstrate the change to combat, a move which arguably isn’t for the best.

Attacking is now mapped to the square button instead of L1 which makes combat a bit more accessible, but gone are the automatic weapons switches during combos. These are now mapped to the d-pad and weapons can be selected on the fly akin to the Devil May Cry series. However,blocking felt much more delayed and sluggish and timing attacks and defence during the demo’s climatic boss battle took planning and practice.

The demo shows a young Noctis entering a dream world where he meets a fox-rabbit creature known to Final Fantasy players as Carbuncle. The pair explore several locations including a forest and citadel. All are graphically impressive, but painfully linear. Scattered throughout the demo are plates that have different effects when stepped on, such as changing the weather and time of day, some even turn Noctis into a fully functional automobile. These serve no real purpose to progression, but instead showcase the game’s mechanics.

The Platinum Demo is in essence an elaborate and imaginative tutorial done in a playful way. However it’s a strange move by Square Enix to offer this up now when Episode Duscae granted players considerably greater depth and variety, offering an experience that’s presumably much more indicative of the final product.

No items or experience for the Platinum Demo carry over to the full game, but you can christen your fox-rabbit companion with its very own unique name which, after using all the creative genius at my disposal and coming up with a near endless list of potential names for the furry fellow, I decided to call Carbuncle.

Final Fantasy XV finally arrives on PS4 ,Xbox One and PC on September 30.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 Map Reportedly Leaked

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Last week a NeoGAF member posted a picture online of what appeared be the map for a new Red Dead Redemption game.

The user, who goes by the name of Mideon, declined to reveal how he came by the picture and many questioned the legitimacy of the material.

However, TechRadar has now added fuel to speculation that it might be a bona fide representation of the map for Read Dead Redemption 2.

The site released a clearer version of the image, saying that it had been “confirmed by an independent source”.

The same source stated that it’s also a prequel to Red Dead Redemption and that the area shown on the map is slightly east of the area depicted in the original game.

Just how far before the events of Red Dead Redemption this entry will take place remains a mystery, but here’s hoping we see original protagonist and oh so charismatic cowboy, John Marston, tearing up the wild west during his outlaw days.

Red Dead Redemption was released back on 2010 for PS3 and Xbox 360. Rumours surrounding a sequel have long been in circulation with Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick all but confirming as much, saying during an analyst conference that. “It seems quite obvious that Red Dead is a permanent franchise”.

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Why the PS Vita deserves more love

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5 reasons why the PS Vita is a little bit of awesome.
The current handheld market is tough. Not only does PlayStation Vita have to contend with its long-time rival, the Nintendo 3DS, but it also has to compete with mobile gaming, which has seen an increase in popularity so vast it now rivals the console market itself.
Unfortunately, the Vita is seemingly stuck in a catch-22. In order to get sales, it needs exclusive games. But in order to get devs to work on exclusives games, the system needs to be selling well. The Vita is a powerful and well-designed machine that offers a host of benefits for both developers and players. Here’s why we should all show the little guy more love…

Sticking it to the man

Despite the Vita’s predecessor undergoing numerous redesigns, it never incorporated what fans were crying out for – a second analogue stick. That mistake was not repeated with Vita. The handheld is able to provide more intuitive and user-friendly games, particularly when it comes to shooters and 3D adventure games, thanks to its controller-like dual analogue setup. The twin sticks coupled with the system’s graphical prowess make this little machine capable of bringing a blockbuster console experience to players on the go.

One world – many realities

Augmented or virtual reality in gaming has been on everyone’s lips since Microsoft revealed HoloLens, but many are unaware that the Vita also launched with AR capability. The impressive tech is perhaps the most overlooked element of the Vita. Sony initially released a sampling of enjoyable (yet basic) titles, such as Cliff Diver andFireworks to show what the platform could do. But the AR functions were never an avenue explored by developers, despite the obvious potential for creativity it yields.

Can touch this

The Vita has the potential to deliver the same experience that mobile and tablet players have, thanks to its touch screen. The function can also be integrated into the more traditional handheld games. This hybrid of touch screen and buttons can act as a stepping stone, simplifying the controls for those adverse to complex button combos. Its rear touch screen can also be incorporated as a gameplay mechanic, providing an experience that’s unique to the Vita.

Keeping it in the family

With a dash of technological magic, the PS Vita can be transformed into a miniature PS4. Well not literally, but it does support a feature called Remote Play that allows the handheld to stream data from your PS4 via your wireless internet connection. So should you be unceremoniously usurped from the living room TV, you can continue saving/destroying the world via the handheld. Cross-Buy is also heavily incorporated – meaning that, for many titles, when you buy it on console you get the handheld version at no extra cost. And who doesn’t love free stuff?

Games, Games, Games

Watching last year’s Sony E3 press conference, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the existence of the PlayStation Vita. With all the hype surrounding the return of The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy VII remake and Sony’s move into virtual reality, there wasn’t much of the limelight left for the handheld device. But Sony did present a highlights reel, showcasing some promising titles including exclusives Severed and Persona 4: Dancing All Night. Add this to the sizeable amount of titles already released and the ability to play PSP and PS1 downloads on the handheld, and you’ve got an extensive library ready to play. PS Plus members can also get two free games for the platform every month.
At this point in the lifecycle, more adopters and more games are crucial. With so much potential for new experiences, courtesy of its unique design and technical prowess, it would be a shame if the Vita were left behind before it’s had the chance to reach its true potential.

 

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Game Series That Need a Comeback

While some series are milked to the teeth with yearly entries, some of the best have been missing for far too long. Here’s a list of franchises I hope to see making a comeback in the near future.

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Legacy of Kain

The last time we saw Kain & co was in 2003’s Legacy of Kain Defiance. The game was a blend of both the Blood Omen and Soul Rever series with play switching between the ghostly Raziel and his arch nemesis the vampire Kain. Following disappointing sales of Defiance, publisher Eidos put the series on hold.

Recently, we’ve heard that a very different take on the series had been in development by Climax, the British studio responsible for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, but this was cancelled by Square Enix due to concerns over how the game would perform financially.

However, the multiplayer element does live on in multiplayer game Nosgoth. Although set in the same world as LoK, it bears little semblance to the legendary series outside of that. The world of Nosgoth is so rife with lore and atmosphere and in a time that release schedules are overcrowded with zombie titles isn’t it about time vampires were given the spotlight?

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Prince of Persia

Back in 2003, there was a Prince who was the golden IP in the land of Ubisoft. However, the Persian Royal was usurped by the powerful Assassin’s Creed. In the years that followed, Ubisoft established the open-world stealth series into a yearly franchise. Perhaps this has left the developer giant with limited resources to focus on bringing PoP back to its former glory, or perhaps they’ve simply run out of ideas as to what to do with the series.

After a successful trilogy, a strange artsy addition and a lacklustre prequel that exists solely to cash in on Hollywood’s take on the series, the Prince has seemingly taken up residence in Ubisoft’s deepest darkest dungeon never to be heard from again. It’s a series that may have lost its way slightly, but the time travelling acrobatics, stellar platforming and engrossing Arabian nights feel of the earlier entries is definitely something that shouldn’t be forever lost in the mists of time.

BloodRayne

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BloodRayne is another vampire game that deserves to rise from the ashes. Set during WW2, the original saw half-vampire Rayne going up against mutated Nazis and other unseemly beasts. Revelling in the extremity of its scenario, gore, and feisty main character, Bloodrayne was an over the top thrill ride. Its sequel, Bloodrayne 2, ended with the revelation that the Brimstone society, the shady organisation whose business Rayne’s been carrying out for the last 2 years now want her pretty red head on a pike. The game ended with Rayne proclaiming that “the next few years are going to be very interesting.”

Unfortunately, they weren’t.

A hard-as-nails side-scrolling platformer that had absolutely nothing to do with its source material, a comic series and some of the worst video game-to-film movies known to man, made the years since Bloodrayne 2 distinctly uninteresting if not downright appalling. Its intriguing premise and captivating femme fatale make Bloodrayne a worthy candidate for a revival, not least to help distance its association with franchise-butcher Uwe Boll.

Jade Empire

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Before there was Dragon Age, before there was Mass Effect… there was Jade Empire. The game drew heavily from features established in BioWare’s previous game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Players could choose their gender, romantic interest, and moral affiliation. There was also a choice between six different characters, granting the player different attributes, such as a focus on strength or magic. Battles were a refreshing blend of spells and martial-arts-infused action RPG combat.

The game was set in a fantastical kingdom that drew its inspiration from ancient China to breathtaking effect. A host of NPCs, a wealth of decision making that had a direct influence on events, and a beautiful world to explore, all make Jade Empire essential even seven years after its initial launch. It remains a prime candidate for a world that’s definitely worth expanding on with a sequel.

Primal

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Strong female leads are a dime-a-dozen these days, but who remembers the form switching, no nonsense Jennifer Tate from PS2 action game Primal? Having the ability to transform into not one, but four demon forms, take on all manner of otherworldly beasts with an enviable rock-chick coolness, save her boyfriend as well as various realms, there’s little this lady can’t do… well, except produce a sequel.

Shortly after the game’s release, preliminary work did begin on a follow-up that would star Jen’s boyfriend Lewis. However, this would never see the light of day as developer SCE Studio Cambridge obtained a licence to produce a video game based on hit TV show 24. Development on Primal 2 ceased, the imaginatively titled 24: The Game was released in 2006 and sadly the studio has never looked back. In a time when console exclusives are more important than ever, Sony should look to revisiting this stellar single player co-op action adventure.

Shadow Hearts

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Perhaps… no, *definitely* one of the most underrated RPGs in existence is Shadow Hearts. The original was a skillful blend of horror, inherited from its prequel Koudelka, and turn-based role-play. Both Shadow Hearts and its sequel Shadow Hearts: Covenant showcased genuinely fascinating plots and a host of memorable characters. It’s a series that had a commendable uniqueness in its atmosphere; one minute it had you bewildered by its goofiness and the next reaching for the Kleenex as it delved into themes of love, loss and sacrifice that cut right to the bone.

Another aspect that set Shadow Hearts apart from the flock was its battle system. Dubbed The Judgement Ring, in order for a character to attack they had to hit specific areas of the ring, miss and the character didn’t get to take their turn. This engaging method tested player’s reflexes and made battles in Shadow Hearts harsh yet satisfying.

2006’s Shadow Hearts: From the New World was more of a spin-off than a sequel, keeping the combat mechanics established in previous games, but foregoing the dark atmosphere of its predecessors. The game was met with a less favorable reception and poor sales of the series led to developer Nautilus closing its doors in 2007. This is a series that deserves a revival or at the very least an HD collection, if only to garner it some degree of the recognition and success it so justly deserves.

Dino Crisis

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Dear Shinji Mikami,

Can you please explain just what incarnation is going on in your latest horror game The Evil Within? Why is it so disjointed and why the heck does everyone keep ending up in baths?! On second thoughts, could you just get back to making the phenomenal Dino Crisis.

Yours sincerely, Every Gamer Ever.

Last seen in 2003, with its last decent entry going back as far as 1999, this is a series that’s almost as extinct as the ferocious reptiles it features, well give or take several million years. The point is that technology has advanced so much since the early Resident Evil-style survival horror featuring the fixed camera angles and tank controls of the series heyday.

Were the series to be revived now with same atmosphere that made the first two so intense, HD graphics and the kind of radical overhaul in gameplay seen in Resident Evil 4, we could have something very special indeed.

Crash Bandicoot

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You would struggle to find someone who played games in the late nineties who didn’t play Crash Bandicoot. Long before Naughty Dog developed the blockbusters it’s known for today, it was home to the humble bandicoot. Platforming was king in the early days of PlayStation and Crash was a prominent mascot for Sony’s original console.

But as platforming fell out of fashion, so too did this series. After four instalments, development of Crash games was split between Traveller’s Tales, responsible forCrash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex and Crash Twinsanity, and Vicarious Visions, who created a number of handheld games for the series. However, neither of these studios quite managed to capture what made the originals so enjoyable and addictive. More recently, the development of Crash has been the responsibility of Radical Entertainment, who rather drastically altered the character for Crash of the Titans.

Poor Crash hasn’t been seen since 2008’s Crash: Mind over Mutant, despite rumours that both Sony Computer Entertainment and Naughty Dog may bring the series back. Let’s hope so as there now exists a generation of gamers who know one of gaming’s most iconic mascots as nothing more than a washed up has-been.

Onimusha

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Another Capcom franchise that has been tossed to the wind, Onimusha was Resident Evil minus the zombies and with a lot more Samurai and who doesn’t love Samurais right? Apparently Capcom, as they’ve seen fit to leave the series in limbo since 2006. Well, unless you count the browser-based card game Onimusha Soul released in Japan in 2012… but it was awful, so we’ll forget that happened.

Depicting legendary figures from Japanese history and retelling their stories with a supernatural twist, the Onimusha series always adapted and evolved, providing a new and exciting experience deviating from anything the franchise had produced previously. Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny wowed with its intricate player choice and new lead character. The third entry pushed the series even further, into modern day France in fact, and featured French actor Jeno Reno kicking some Genma demon butt.

Originally conceived as a trilogy, the popularity of the series spawned a follow- up Onimusha Dawn of Dreams on 2006, modernising the series with its fully 3D environments rather than the pre-rendered backdrops used in the earlier entries. Almost 10 years later and there is still not even a rumor of a revival. Come back, Nobunaga, all is forgiven!

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Multiplayer Hands-on

Black Ops 3 Beta

Another year, another Call of Duty with a multiplayer offering destined to relieve you of countless hours of your existence. Unbelievably, it’s been seven years since the first Modern Warfare introduced us to its revolutionary brand of competitive killing. While the essence of the multiplayer has remained the same throughout, tweaks and changes have been added to every new iteration of the phenomenally successful shooter series, with Black Ops 3 providing perhaps the biggest advancement since the feature’s inception.

The biggest game changer comes from the most unlikely place – character selection. Previously, players were limited to controlling generic military men whose physical appearance bared no consequence on proceedings. With Blacks Ops 3, Treyarch has introduced a new feature called Specialists. These are characters (both male and female) with unique appearances, personalities and, most importantly, skills. Initially players have access to four Specialists, with the potential to unlock five more through level progression.

The starting quartet is Ruin, Outrider, Prophet and Battery. Each Specialist has one unique weapon and ability, but only one of these can be equipped at any given time. For example Ruin’s weapon; Gravity Spikes, can be slammed into the ground to create a powerful shockwave that kills enemies at close range. He can also temporarily move faster thanks to his Overdrive ability. Of all the base Specialist skills, the Outrider’s bow proved to be by far the most enjoyable. With it, lightning fast explosive arrows can be lodged into an enemy with force, sweeping them off their feet and blowing them into oblivion leaving a nasty pile of body parts and blood. There’s a seldom felt sense of sheer satisfaction that comes with having a perfectly placed arrow reducing a long range target to mush in a split second.

Black Ops 3 Outrider

Of course you can’t run around with these superpowers indefinitely; access to them is restricted to a meter on your HUD that fills up over time. Once full simply press R1 and L1 and the advantage is yours until the meter runs out or you get killed. Even the initial eight ability/weapon choices on offer add a real sense of diversity and excitement to matches and having a potential eighteen to choose from is guaranteed to make for some thrilling and creative carnage.

Combat isn’t the only thing that’s changed, Black Ops 3 also introduces a host of new movement abilities. Players can now run on walls, Prince of Persia style, and use thrusters to propel themselves high in the air. These new additions have vastly affected the design of the maps, with a newfound focus on verticality. No longer do you have to run around aimlessly looking for the stairs to backstab that pesky sniper, now you can simply jump up to his perch and rain bullet-fueled justice upon him. Wall running requires the surface to be approached at an angle and takes quite a bit of getting used to – let’s just say mistakes were made. It’s a surprising, if somewhat unnecessary, feature, but the open, easily traversed nature of the levels has seemingly coaxed out the local camping population and for that it’s a godsend.

The new soldiers also have an unlimited sprinting ability. This means no more mandatory slowing down to allow the polygons to rest, giving an immediacy to the action and upping the momentum of what was already a fast paced shooter. Swimming is now also possible, with weapons working as efficiently underwater as they do on land. Players will have to be mindful of their oxygen meter though or risk sleeping with the fishes.

Black Ops 3 Swimming

Four maps have been unveiled so far; Combine is small, maybe not Nuketown small, but compact enough to add high intensity to competitive modes like Domination. Hunted, featuring a big game hunting lodge with surrounding mountain area, offers more open terrain that’s perfect for snipers and long range combat. Evac, an abandoned quarantine zone, provides a disorienting labyrinth of paths while Stronghold mixes close quarter combat with large open areas in and around a high-tech Swiss chateau in the snowy Alps. Each level has been designed to take advantage of the soldiers new acrobatic abilities, with the larger levels providing the best opportunity to put those increased speed skills to good use, ensuring that you’re never too far from the action.

Old favorite game modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag and Kill Confirmed are present with an entirely new one thrown in for good measure. In Safeguard, players take turns in escorting a non-combative robot into enemy territory. If the robot takes too much damage it shuts down, costing precious time as it reboots and continues its march through the map. The robot only moves when a player is beside it, fail to deliver it before the time runs out and you lose. Things start off pretty well, but trying to get your bolt-buddy those last ten feet when he’s on the doorstep of the enemy spawn point is a real test of skill, strategy, and teamwork. It’s an enjoyable addition, but with one major flaw; points are awarded for kills rather than completing the objective. With more points awarded per kill than Team Deathmatch there’s an annoyingly large amount of people who completely disregard the objective in favor of boosting their score. It’s an unfortunate situation and ruins the fun for those that want to play the game properly.

Black Ops 3 Safeguard

There’s an inherent sense of balance that hasn’t always been present in previous games – remember the unstoppable, round-ending nuke from Modern Warfare 2? The Scorestreak system from Black Ops 2 makes its return, rewarding players based on their points rather than how many kills they get. A hike in points needed to use these means players will have to demonstrate significantly more skill in order to get the advantage over their opponents. For instance players now need a hefty 425 points, equating to 4 kills and an assist, before they can call in a UAV, making them a lot less common and maintaining more of an even keel on both sides. Victory relies more on each member’s individual performance rather than one team dominating through constant use of Scorestreak rewards.

Solid servers showed no sign of buckling, providing virtually lag free matches, something that will hopefully transfer to the final release. With its film-noir style, 40’s theme and Hollywood-grade voice acting – including the brilliant Jeff Goldblum – Zombies mode will likely steal the stoplight when Black Ops 3 launches. It’s nevertheless commendable that Treyarch also dedicated so much effort to keeping its competitive offering fresh. Providing the same addictive experience with exciting new features and better balance than ever before means it’s a welcoming battleground for veteran CoD players and new recruits alike.

Black Ops 3 launches November 6 on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.

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