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

By Gareth F 07.08.2016 2

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

Ask any dedicated armchair warrior that eats, breathes, sleeps, and occasionally plays COD how the experience could be improved and there's a good chance that "More maps… more zombies" will get casually tossed back into the conversation like a grenade through a Nuk3town doorway. Well, life is pretty darn sweet for those guys as Descent, the third and penultimate content drop for Call of Duty: Black Ops III has arrived (following Awakening and Eclipse), and it addresses those rather specific demands head on. If stalking, shooting, blowing up and terrorising a seemingly endless stream of online opponents and/or reanimated corpses in unfamiliar territory without even having to get up off the couch sounds like bliss, then Treyarch has got your back. This digital bundle of death features four new maps set in some wildly varied locales, as well as 'Gorod Krovi,' a stinking slab of decomposed Russian flesh brought back to life for entertainment purposes.

The third chapter in Treyarch's corpse-a-thon zombie mode 'Gorod Krovi' (which translates to 'City of Blood') certainly gets off to a rip-roaring start as the cursed quartet is found hurtling towards the ground at breakneck velocity, each clinging on to the corpse of the same dead airman in the misplaced hope that his back-up parachute will cushion their inevitable collective impact with terra firma. It's a videogame… so it does. Landing in an alternate, battle ravaged Stalingrad that's been subjected to an unhealthy dollop of Element 115, it is clear from the offset that something is slightly amiss. The fact that, upon touchdown, the crew is greeted by the sight of a ruddy great dragon flying around at high speed battling an oversized, steampunk Manticore mech, should be a fair indication of the level of crazy at play here. It's all brilliantly underpinned by Motörhead's 'Ace of Spades' (RIP Lemmy) setting the tone for an ever-so-slightly off-kilter episode seemingly pitched at just the right side of 'WTF?'

Right, well, yeah… more dragons. Treyarch is clearly honing in on that lucrative 'Game of Thrones' market and while it might sound bonkers in theory, it does present an interesting new element to proceedings as flames will frequently rain down from above, roasting any corpse slayer foolish enough to linger too long in the wrong spot. This can be weaponised when rounding up a zombie train as leading them into one of these literal hotspots will wipe out whole platoons of the festering cadavers in one foul scented swoop.

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

Speaking of zombies, there are numerous strains pouring out into the streets and burnt out buildings of Stalingrad and while family favourites such as the electrified and napalm zombies make an unwelcome return, there's also new boy, 'The Mangler,' to contend with. This scary fellow looks like one of the heavily armoured Supersoldaten from the recent Wolfenstein reboot and is armed with a sickle, an energy weapon and the grim determination to relentlessly chase down the nearest squad member unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity. 'Gorod Krovi' provides the usual steep challenge the series has become known for and is jam packed with new guns, traps and secrets to uncover. Sadly, there are still no rear view mirror attachments for the rifles, meaning that death from behind is a constant occurrence, so it's a good job that there are a number of multiplayer maps to fall back on to when the constant dying gets too much.

First up is Berserk, a perfectly preserved mountaintop Viking village frozen in time, possibly inspired by a recent trip to the Jorvik centre in York (a fun, Nordic day out for all the family). Wait… a Viking village? In Call of Duty? As crazy as that sounds… yes, and it's fair to say that it definitely adds an interesting wrinkle on the now obligatory snow-based map. It makes perfect sense really, as sending in a team of archaeologist's to carefully dissect and study a historical site is plain foolish when a squad of heavily armed, bloodthirsty goons will get the job done in half the time.

Ridiculous scenario aside, it's actually a well-designed, peril laden arena with fatal drops at every turn and plentiful Nordic nooks for campers to ply their trade. The presence of a central crevasse, traversable by a particularly solid looking bridge at one side of the map or a forced double jump on the other, regularly proves to be the undoing of some of the more careless warriors. Unsurprisingly, the bridge is often the main focus in objective-based matches and, as such, it's fairly well overlooked from both ends, although brave wall-runners can approach it from a third angle at the risk of leaving themselves at the mercy of crossfire from either direction upon touchdown. Jutting rocks interrupt long lines of view, but snipers somehow always manage to find a spot to annoy their prey, so it's handy that the sizeable, multi-level log cabins can provide a covered path to avoid the few open spaces, if need be.

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

Empire is a perfectly preserved Roman Villa frozen in time, possibly inspired by a recent trip to Italy (a fun, historical landmark strewn day out that may also involve consumption of pasta or ice cream… for all the family). Wait… a Roman Villa? In Call of Duty? Actually no, it's all the work of an eccentric playboy millionaire with flamboyant tastes and a love of classical Roman architecture, which might have been all the more convincing had the collection of sports cars parked at one end of the map not ruined the illusion somewhat. This is actually a re-skin of the seminal Black Ops II map, 'Raid,' which was also a rich boys retreat, if memory serves correctly, although this iteration of a fan favourite has been tweaked to accommodate the chained movement system.

At first glance, it's quite hard to see the similarities between the original and the remix, as they feel like completely different arenas altogether, but once acclimatised it very suddenly clicks into place. It actually feels like a considerably bigger map than the original but the classic layout remains the same, deftly enhanced with a vibrant colour palette that embraces the highly detailed Roman design styles. Empire caters to both the run and gunner and sniper alike, with enough sizeable chambers, multiple sight lines and open spaces (with numerous columns to provide cover) that the flow of play moves swiftly without ever feeling too cramped. The sunken garden in the centre of the map plays an integral part in both Domination and Hardpoint matches and it does seem to be the place where all the cool kids hang out... to kill each other.

Cryogen, on the other hand, doesn't feel like a map that has been frozen in time at all, although it does sport a title that hints at a sizeable room full of ice cubes somewhere on the premises. Close enough. Billed as an isolated prison compound off the Dead Sea coast holding a selection of the world's most dangerous criminals in frozen isolation, it certainly sounds like the kind of location that sits well with the average COD fanatic. Unfortunately, its bland aesthetic comes off as being incredibly generic when propped up alongside a Viking settlement and a Roman retreat, making it the weakest of the bunch, by default. The compound itself is elevated way above ground level, making falling off backwards while trying to shoot down a UAV an embarrassing possibility (speaking from experience here, unfortunately).

It's a fairly claustrophobic map with the external areas perfect for wall running and sniping (some of these kids can do both simultaneously… so annoying), while the interior is all about tight corridors and chambers of varying size. There's plentiful low lying cover for some of the more irritating campers to take advantage of if preventing access to the central area is the goal (again, speaking from experience); however, there is an alternate route that involves wall-running a number of cylindrical Cryogen tanks in quick succession. Needless to say, one wrong foot and SPLAT!

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

Finally, Rumble takes place in a large entertainment arena used to stage giant robot battles. The complete lack of Craig Charles in any capacity is immediately noticeable, although despite Treyarch's missed opportunity to deploy a genial, Scouse stadium announcer it would probably result in puzzled bemusement by anybody outside of the UK. Ah well. Considering the setting, there's nary a brawling bot to be seen anywhere in the complex as they all seem to have been powered down, but this inactivity is redressed by the presence of two gun-toting teams of iron men (and women), intent on creating a bloodthirsty show of their own for the few punters that bothered to turn up.

It's very much 'Access All Areas' as the combat flows at a rapid pace from the hospitality areas to the... erm… toilets, with numerous tight corridors opening up to mid-sized chambers, creating pockets of activity in key hotspots. The main arena is a haven for those type of snipers that like to dig deep and set up shop with their sights trained on one of the three main entrances. Boring but effective. A small central tower on the pitch hides interconnecting tunnels that run beneath the playfield, allowing for a few alternate approaches during objective-based matches. The inexplicable drop into nothingness on one side of the map might be a Health and Safety nightmare waiting to happen when considering the public foot traffic, yet it does provide a couple of blind wall-runs into the main stadium for those looking to get the jump on the opposition.

Some of the more eagle-eyed regulars in the Black Ops III universe may have noticed that Treyarch has sneakily slipped a new game type into the already bulging Core playlists. 'Fracture' is actually an excellent addition to the roster and is basically the COD take on Red Dead Redemption's 'Gold Rush' or the 'Head Hunter' skull collecting variant from Halo Reach. It plays a little like a cross between Hardpoint and Kill Confirmed in that both teams are competing in a race to collect 75 cores, one of which appears whenever an enemy foe is downed. Merely picking up the core isn't enough to claim the point, though, as both teams have to deposit the collected soldier chunks in the same Fracture that flits around to different locations on the map at a fairly brisk rate.

There are no limits to how many cores can be carried at any one time; however, leaving it too long to make that deposit greatly increases the chances of losing the lot as everything gets dropped upon death. The cores themselves are colour coded, so red (enemy) can be picked up by any nearby teammates who might hopefully do a better job of dropping them off at the fracture than the recently deceased, and blue (friendly) can be collected to deny the opposing team of the points. Needless to say, Treyarch adding new modes that aren't walled off to Season Pass holders is a good thing that should be celebrated by popping off a few rounds into the nearest enemy combatant.

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

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Some of the content in Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Descent may or may not be the direct result of giving the work experience lad a bit too much sway when brainstorming for multiplayer locales, but credit where it's due, as it does add some much needed variety to the map rotation. While the selection is decent enough, Empire's vibrant splendour serves only to emphasise Cryogen's generic aesthetic, in the same way that Berserk's highly detailed, sprawling Nordic layout makes Rumble look fairly sterile in comparison. Fans of the shuffling undead will soak up every rotten second of the particularly strong 'Gorod Krovi' chapter, but it still remains a steep challenge for the lesser skilled zombie hunter who will likely never progress far enough to discover and enjoy its many secrets.

Developer

Treyarch

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

2

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I have the season pass but my interest has been fading recently. These maps definitely sound worth a go though, it's nice to inject a bit of something different in there. Rehashed or not, it's easy to get sick of the current stack of maps. 

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ Cubed3.com ]
RufDog Racing: Team Cubed3 | Current C3 Sim-Spotlight Feature | Follow RDR on Twitter |     

I think COD is quite an easy game to get burned out on if you're not careful and when you do get to that point it's likely gonna take more than a few new maps to get you back in. Taking a break from it definitely helps though.

Whenever it gets to the stage were I'm getting destroyed in every game then I know it's time to play something else for a while, start chipping away at that backlog … maybe make a reappearance the next time they have another Double XP event Smilie
 

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Flynnie, Gabriel PVJ Jones, mudskip, Ofisil, Renan

There are 5 members online at the moment.