Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is not a great game. The story is impenetrable nonsense, for one. The game does add some neat science fiction elements (killer robots! cyborg augmentation!), but the game plays pretty much like other current generation military shooters.
What the game gets just about perfectly, however, is co-op.
Our Friday Night Follies (fondly referred to as FNF) LAN gaming group skews older, and we all love good co-op games. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 incorporates four-player co-op through the campaign story, which proved to be a blast. Then, just when you wrap up the main campaign, a new campaign reveals itself, called Nightmare. Nightmare cleverly reuses existing levels and assets to move players through a familiar world, but one now ravaged by zombies instead of human enemies. The developer, Treyarch, used the same cutscenes, but replaced the original dialog with voice overs that describe the new story as it unfolds. Nightmare isn’t a slavish replay of the original campaign, though; maps are in a different order, objectives change, and weapon pickups happen differently.
Then there’s Zombie mode, aka Shadows of Evil. As with previous versions, when you first dive into Zombie mode, it looks like Left4Dead’s poor cousin. In reality, what you experience is considerably different. Once you gain a little experience, and start to unlock more gates, you discover a pretty big city lies beyond where you start. Voice acting comes via veteran actors Neal McDonough, Heather Graham, Jeff Goldblum, and Robert Picardo.
The standard arena-based multiplayer modes exist as well, and there are a bunch of them, ranging from the pretty stock deathmatch modes, through domination, and bomb defusing. Character archetypes which offer some level of customization replace the usual simplistic roles. Setting up matches is simple, including the ability to configure bots. You can make bots spawn only one one side, allowing human vs AI matches (aka “comp stomps”). The bot AI is a little weak, even in the harder modes, particularly in some game levels. But for the most part, it hangs together pretty well, and bots are good enough for our crew of relative geezers.
That’s all well and good, but what Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 gets absolutely right is how co-op is implemented. It’s dead simple to assemble a group, whether private or public. You can choose male or female characters, and unlock appearance customizations as you level up. When you proceed through the campaign, you can pick-and-choose from any previously completed level. This allows you to level your character up, useful for collecting more weapon and ability unlocks. Checkpoint saves are logically placed, and if you suffer a total party kill, all of you respawn at the last checkpoint, avoiding the need to run through the entire level again.
Not all of the FNF crowd are first person shooter fans, but we all universally liked Black Ops 3. Whether playing one of the campaigns, trying to decipher Zombie mode, or just configuring a comp-stomp in standard multiplayer arenas, Black Ops 3 is the most co-op friendly FPS I’ve seen in a long time. While I’ll wish for more games to elegantly and completely support co-op the way this game has, that’s probably a vain hope. But I can dream.