Call of Duty continues to be a cultural phenomenon, but often with a negative connotation. It sells like hotcakes sure, but I have trouble tracking down people in my actual life that play those games. At this point, the series has started to overstay its welcome with previous hardcore fans that were hooked by Call of Duty 4, and the fatigue and general awfulness of Ghosts didn’t help matters.
But I constantly hear the same thing from people: “Treyarch’s still got it.” Whether they still play the series or not, reverence for one of the three Call of Duty studios is palpable; that couldn’t have been more evident with Black Ops III, which packed in a Jeff Goldblum-ridden Cthulu zombies mode and an old school arcade shooter with chicken love.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III: Eclipse (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Released: April 19, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PC, Xbox One)
MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs)
Much like the first DLC’s “Splash” map, Knockout is a visual feast. Looking off into the distance, players can see islands and birds flying about, and even the dock below is visible. Cherry blossom petals dot the arena on a vibrant map that eschews the typical shooter-brown hues.
As a mostly outdoor affair, the layout is a tad scrunched, and sadly, the indoor areas are too tight-knit for their own good. Having said that, there’s plenty of character afoot, including a Bruce Lee Game of Death nod and a funky disco room.
Rift, on the other hand, is the obvious weak spot of the Eclipse DLC as it feels like a map that’s already packed into 2014’s Advanced Warfare (specifically, Horizon). It’s your typical symmetrical layout packed with horizontal tunnels, despite Black Ops III‘s general focus on verticality.
There’s still some semblance of effort here, because despite the generic layout, it has a cool theme. As a giant raised platform over a hellish landscape, it’s neat to look down at the impending lava below and watch the trains go by on the sides. In other words, it’s not a complete disaster.
With one of the wildest layouts to date, Spire is amazing to walk around and look at. An airport that is housed entirely above the clouds, it’s littered with futuristic paraphernalia like suitcases and even departure and arrival interfaces. It’s very sleek, almost like it belongs in a sci-fi film.
The layout consists of a series of high walls that lead to chokepoints, making it perfect for objective-based games. I’m not crazy about it now that the wow-factor of fighting in what is essentially an azure Bespin is gone, but it’s a great level that I’m happy to play when it comes up in the rotation.
Then there’s Verge, which is a remake of Bonzai from World at War. Where bringing back maps as part of a $15 DLC is usually a punch in the gut, the game is nearly 10 years old at this point, and this one was worth re-creating as it’s near unrecognizable.
Treyarch went all out here, framing the level around two tribes that fight over a single water source, Mad Max-style. I love that there’s even a tiny hint of story involved, as you don’t typically see this sort of effort put into say, Halo maps. There’s also a lot of cool artwork in the form of tags across the arena, and a central cave that makes for some tense firefights.
And what would a map pack be without a zombies stage? Zetsubou No Shima steps up to the plate here, as a “mysterious island off the Pacific.” Stop me if you’ve seen this before, but Shima really deserves credit for committing to the jungle theme. Players will have to slash through webs and cut through vines instead of merely opening doors, and a weird bucket filling/seed planting mechanic will keep you invested beyond seeking out the drive of exploration and combat.
It’s not as impressive as Der Eisendrache or the aforementioned Shadows of Evil though. This is mostly due to fatigue from the same cast that has been around since World at War, as there’s only so many times you can hear Steve Blum call a zombie a “freakbag” before your eyes start to roll in the back of your head. I really liked seeing Heather Graham kick Lovecraftian ass in the base Black Ops III map.
Let’s see more of that Treyarch.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]