Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 29.02.2016

Review for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening on PlayStation 4

Paying a third party game publisher to deprive the competitor's platform of content even temporarily has always come across as being a bit mean-spirited, yet it seems to be an increasingly common business practice in the modern-day gaming industry. It's a tactic that was pioneered by Microsoft with this very franchise and, as such, has ensured that the Xbox brand was always heavily associated with Call of Duty. Until now, that is. Sony's runaway lead in the current console race has brought with it many new partnerships and resulted in the high-profile snatch of the Call of Duty marketing rights from Microsoft. Amongst other things, this ensures that the PS4 gets the new DLC packages a good 30 days before the Xbox One. Karma? Probably. Time to reap the benefits of this fresh union with Awakening, the first content drop for Black Ops III, featuring one new zombie chapter and four new multiplayer maps.

It's good that Treyarch are now at the stage with the zombie mode where they can introduce a fire breathing dragon with a taste for the undead to the gameplay and nobody bats an eyelid. Yes, the Awakening DLC features another new, over-the-top zombie episode entitled 'Der Eisendrache' continuing on from the bonus 'Giant' episode that was bundled in as an extra for season pass purchasers. Set in a sprawling, creepy castle high up in the Austrian Alps, it's the perfect setting for a Nazi zombie infestation and feels very reminiscent of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Where Eagles Dare in the best possible way. Starting off at a cable car station, the luckless survivors are forced to fight their way into the depths of the castle in a bid to bring the power back online and discover the source of the horror.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening on PlayStation 4

Success will almost certainly rely on good teamwork, as the countless zombies, Hellhounds, and heavily armoured Panzer Soldats (think Big Daddies from BioShock) are relentless and quick to take down any stragglers that stray too far from the pack. As usual, there's a wealth of secrets and Easter eggs to uncover, as well as a number of super-weapons and a Wundersphere to construct, with the latter acting as a quick travel system between areas. For example, the aforementioned Dragon is actually a statue that transforms into a ravenous, fire-breathing reptile when a zombie is killed in its immediate vicinity. Feeding several zombies to each of the three dragon statues located about the castle helps create the Wrath of the Ancients, an explosive bow that can be upgraded and is fairly efficient at despatching the shambling hordes.

It's not all about popping the heads off the undead, though, as the Awakened pack also includes four new multiplayer arenas in which to participate in the die/respawn cycle repeatedly:

Splash is a fast-paced map set in a supposedly abandoned water park that looks suspiciously like it's still up and running, judging by the vibrant colour palette, lack of litter and the fact that it's actually still full of clean water. It's a long, narrow(ish) map with multiple routes, chambers and waterslides, flanked on one side by a beach and by undergrowth-obscured billboards on the other - perfect for a sneaky wall run into enemy territory. The central area probably sees the most foot traffic, with campers tending to set up shop in the raised pipes at either end, overlooking the action, though doing so leaves them vulnerable to attack from behind. Swimming trunks aren't necessary for those wanting to take a dip, though the water can be pretty dangerous this time of year given the number of gun-laden goons in the habit of using the interconnecting underwater tunnels as a shortcut between areas.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening on PlayStation 4

Gauntlet is an initially confusing proposition, as each of its three lanes sports a completely different environment, which proves to be slightly disorientating upon first contact. Depending on which route is taken, it can mean battling through a lush, verdant jungle, a drizzly, urban setting or a frost-layered arctic zone, with the outskirts of the map betraying the illusion with its facility-like appearance. Slapping these three seemingly disparate locales under the collective guise of a 'training compound' means that Treyarch get to hit that quota early and cleverly tick these now standard map types off the checklist in one fell swoop. It's the largest of the four maps on offer, with the majority of the action taking place in the central area, which tends to be a hotspot when playing the likes of Hardpoint or Domination. Wall-runners can traverse the bridged chasm in this area with relative ease, though it goes without saying that slightly misjudging it runs the risk of falling to an embarrassing death.

Rise is billed as 'an ongoing construction site for a massive subterranean Coalescence research campus set in the snowy outskirts of Zurich'. Sound pretty exotic? It's just a building site. It could be in Swindon...nice try, Treyarch. While it lacks a hook or gimmick to make it stand out as one of the classic CoD arenas, it still does a good job of promoting a circular flow of action, which helps prevent combatants from settling in any one area for too long. Snipers in particular might have a hard time setting up shop due to the piles of bricks/machinery/masonry cluttered about, creating natural cover by obscuring most usable lines of sight. This is a good thing, as everybody hates snipers. All paths lead to a central chamber, making it the go-to hotspot for those wanting to rack up the kill streaks. If camping is the preferred tactic, then this is the place to do it. The site also seems to be partially surrounded by water, which makes stealthily swimming between areas as viable an option as taking the ever-so-slightly more dangerous route above ground.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening on PlayStation 4

Skyjacked is the final map of the four and is actually a remake of Hijacked, a much-lauded map from the second instalment of the Black Ops trilogy. While getting an old map repackaged this early on in the DLC schedule might throw up a few warning signs to the more cynical CoD fans in shooter land, given the original's popularity, it makes perfect sense for Treyarch to get Skyjacked out into public rotation at the nearest opportunity. Run 'n' gun practitioners will find that it's still an absolute blast to play and the perfect setting for fast-paced games of Domination and Hardpoint. Originally set on a luxury yacht, this re-imagining takes place on a VTOL floating high above one of the many building sites of Zurich, and for the most part, the layout is near enough identical. It does feel like it's slightly wider than the original build, though this is likely to accommodate for the new moveset, as neither boost-jumping into the higher, overlooking cabins nor wall-running along the outside of the craft were options in Hijacked. There's also a huge, gaping hole that's been blasted into one side of the VTOL, which adds a further entry point to the lower hold via a cheeky, if slightly perilous run across the exterior.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Awakening on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

After the undead Exo-based antics of Advanced Warfare, and the more recent Cthulhu-inspired 'Shadows of Evil', it feels like the zombies mode has gone back to its Nazi roots with 'Der Eisendrache'. This, combined with the four new multiplayer maps, ensure that Awakening is a solid first entry to Treyarch's planned content that should keep the armchair warriors busy until the next scheduled drop.

Developer

Treyarch

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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