Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sam's Take: Black Ops 3 - Awakening First Impressions

In its entirety, Awakening has 4 new multiplayer maps - Splash, Gauntlet, Skyjacked, and Rise - as well as one Zombies map, Der Eisendrache, which you will now Google Translate the name of. This seems a little steep for £12, but depending on how compulsive a COD player you are, you could get quite a few hours out of it.

Gauntlet is quite easily the pick of the bunch. Set in a training facility, Gauntlet takes the usual 3-lane map system and puts a twist on it by seperating the map into 3 zones - urban, jungle, and tundra. What’s so great about it is the verticality - there are plenty of opportunities to wall-run, swim, and crawl under gaps, which can make some pretty cool set-pieces if you’ve got some friends to coordinate with. Because of its structure, Uplink and Domination play excellently on this map.

Splash, meanwhile, is supposed to be the “fun” map, one to show how cool and hip the guys at Activision are before adding microtransactions and a £40 season pass to a £50 game. With waterslides, paddling pools, and lazy rivers, Splash places you in a Californian water park, and while the bright, sprightly colour scheme makes a nice change to the constant brown we often see in shooters, it sadly can’t disguise some major bugs in the map - namely one that allows players on top of a castle on which they can see pretty much the whole map. This means that pretty much every game of Splash starts off as a race to the castle and then carries on as one man slaughters team after team, making Splash horrible to play in kill-oriented modes such as Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed, as well as escorting and protection modes such as Safeguard and Hardpoint.

Skyjacked revive’s everyone’s favourite Black Ops 2 map - come on, we all have one! - Hijacked, but changes the setting from a boat to a air-superyacht flying over Zurich. Not much has been changed dynamically, bar the obligatory wall-run location, but the small size of the map does make it a lot of fun, since you don’t have to run far to get into a battle. Still, occasionally it can still feel like a chore thanks to the close-quarters combat leading to constant deaths and respawns, but play it smart and you can have a good time with Skyjacked, mostly on traditional modes such as Team Deathmatch.

Lastly is Rise, which is somehow more bland than prequel Anakin Skywalker coated in vanilla ice cream with a sprinkling of unbuttered toast. There’s really nothing special about Rise, with even its wintery military base setting having been done before many times, and it's as formulaic as formulaic can get. There’s a central hub area which is the hotspot for shootouts, and plenty of side alleys and shortcuts to go through, but ultimately there’s no real reason to play Rise at all - it seems to have been made just to fill a quota.

Der Eisendrache, however, is easily the best Zombies map on Black Ops 3, despite it not having staunch competition. The story takes off from another season pass map, The Giant, in which younger versions of Dr Richtofen, Takeo, Nikolai, and Tank are in a giant robot chasing a scientific group who have a clone of Tank which they’re preparing to launch from an Austrian castle - in which the map is set - to their secret moon base. In 1945. Yes, we’re not sure either.

As well as adding new Gobblegums, which you’re probably not going to use unless you have a huge surplus of points, Der Eisendrache introduces two new unlockable Wonder Weapons, which you’ll have to unlock by going on quests in the map. The Wrath of the Ancients is essentially a re-skinned Sparrow from the multiplayer, a mystical bow and arrow that is unlocking by feeding various iron dragon statues with zombie corpses, while the Ragnarok DG-4 also has a multiplayer influence, acting very similarly to the Gravity Spikes, and is unlocked via another complicated quest.

The latest Zombies outing has easter eggs and side missions in spades, and it takes a while getting used to. Thanks to the new Panzer Soldier (a Nazi in a mech suit, essentially) the map can be quite challenging the first few times you play it, but if you’ve been playing the Zombies series for a long time, these new concepts can be learned in no time.

The map itself is full of teleporters, transport devices that send you to other places in the area, and a multitude of rooms - including one in which zero gravity can be turned on, for some reason - and the consensus is that Treyarch have really gone balls-out crazy this time around. The outlandish concept, maze-like map, and long-winded, insanely nonsensical quests and easter eggs makes Der Eisenrache one of the best Zombies maps yet, but it’s hard to know if it will hold up until the next DLC comes around.

Overall, I've had quite a good experience with Awakening thus far, though we'll have to see how well it compares to future DLCs once they come out.

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