The last time we checked in with Black Ops III‘s DLC, Treyarch started to slouch a bit. Eclipse was a great add-on all things considered, but it didn’t shine in comparison to Awakening, which had some of the brighter maps in the entire series.
Descent, the third part of the Season Pass, is an even steeper decline.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III: Descent (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Released: July 12, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PC, Xbox One)
MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs)
Rumble (pictured above) is a noble idea, and I’m sure during a pitch meeting it was all the rage. It’s based on some sort of robot monster truck rally/fight, and based on the screens, you’d think it follows through on this conceit. Nope.
Instead, it features a really lame tunnel-based layout that forces cramped indoor firefights, which is sort of summed up by the fact that only half of the actual robot “arena” is playable. It’s probably one of my least favorite DLC maps in Call of Duty‘s history, and although it’s clear the team tried (hype posters for each side is a nice touch), it just isn’t well-executed.
Empire, on the other hand, is probably the best part of the four traditional maps. That’s partially because it’s a remake of Raid from Black Ops II (the posh mansion compound), but in a remarkable turn, it looks nearly indistinguishable from its counterpart. Whereas you can easily tell with a lot of other remakes in the past, even after playing hundreds of matches on Raid, it was hard to pick up the similarities.
This is coupled with a fantastic backdrop of the Italian countryside, and my eyes light up whenever this map goes in the rotation. They outdid themselves with this one, and shuck the idea that a remake map is a “wasted slot” for a Call of Duty DLC.
From there it goes back downhill.
Berserk, like Rumble, is another map that sounds cooler than it actually is. When I read the description and expected to jump into a viking village ravaged by time, I was pretty excited. My hopes were dashed immediately after spawning in. It just feels far too by the books, and outside of one chokepoint on a bridge, none of the zones feel compelling enough to play on a consistent basis. The side roads are painfully generic, with almost no detail present in them, and the sub-zero theme feels like a wasted opportunity.
The avenues are just far too vanilla with high walls to block off unique tactics (invisible walls galore), and the cookie-cutter houses have all been done to death and to greater success. I like the weapons strewn about the ground and the pools of blood scattered across the floor, but they can’t elevate it past its fate as an average map at best.
It’s even worse for Cryogen, which feels like a rejected Advanced Warfare level. There’s one massive set piece in the middle that looks very impressive and even tells a bit of story, but the rest (including the boring, static background) feels phoned in.
At times I feel like I was playing an amalgamation of different maps from the series (most notably Bio Lab), which is not a compliment. Again, I see what they were going for, but when the core game has maps that are more inventive and interesting than a paid DLC, you have a problem.
Zombies of course swoops in and saves the day, making Descent a much better proposition overall. Gorod Krovi takes place in Stalingrad, where dragons have torched the place — it’s a real Reign of Fire vibe and I dig it, as the dead dragons give it a more macabre and dire flavor. The great vertical layout is also more interesting than a lot of the flat zombie levels, and somehow, it manages to add in mystical elements while meshing wonderfully with giant robots and other technological (but not too far future) advancements. Treyarch is at its best when conventions are thrown out the window, and this gametype allows the designers to do just that.
At this point, I’m starting to grow tired of the cast that’s been there since World at War (I still want to see more of Goldblum and company from Black Ops III‘s packed-in map), but the voice actors still give it their all and sell it all these years later. Dempsey is one of Steve Blum’s best bit roles to date. Still, if you aren’t keen on zombies (and many of you aren’t, after nearly 10 years of it), you can probably stay away from Descent.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]