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

By Gareth F 06.10.2016

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

The time has finally come for Treyarch to release the fourth and final content drop for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and it's fair to say that over the course of the past year it's been a pretty wild ride, all told. Zombie lovers kicked off the proceedings battling the undead in a drafty old castle in the Austrian Alps, only to later turn up on a small Japanese island, unsurprisingly populated by… well, more undead, and most recently ended up battling dragons and mechs in addition to yet more undead in a wartorn Stalingrad. The rapid locale flitting wasn't just exclusive to the Zombie mode, either, as regular online combatants embarked on a tour of duty that took in ancient Rome, a floating airport, a Viking village and a volcano-heated base, amongst others. Does the Salvation DLC continue down the vaguely wacky, out-of-character path laid out by its predecessors, then? Of course it does.

Stalingrad was a pretty tough day in the office for our quartet of zombie magnets, what with the airborne fire breathing lizards and the steampunk manticore adding further to their woes. Somehow, though, they managed to scrape through to the other side in one piece and amazingly are yet to stop for a sleep/square meal/toilet break. Heroes in the truest sense. Those looking to Revelations (the name of this final chapter) for some semblance of a rational answer to the ongoing zombification of humanity… well… keep looking - you won't find it here.

While it starts off sedately enough in a small cottage in the countryside, the daft-o-meter quickly gets cranked up courtesy of the sudden appearance of Dr Monty, the Gobblegum guru himself; ably played here by Malcom McDowell. Monty proceeds to spin a yarn about the cottage being part of the perfect world, created as a refuge from the forces of evil, and it's here that the souls of the four protagonists existed prior to finding themselves in their current form, destroying the inter-dimensional transporter sounds like a feasible way of stopping malevolent forces from polluting this fragile oasis. However, due to some nefarious trickery, a previously inactive summoning key pulls through an entity known as the Shadowman. Trouble is a-brewing.

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Richtofen, Dempsey, Nikolai and Takeo have little choice but to face the root cause of the undead apocalypse head-on, as the Shadowman forces them into a deadly showdown. Revelations takes place in a dimension called 'the infinite,' a floating, trippy environment that incorporates fractured but familiar strands from all the previous chapters and links them via teleporters and portal doorways. It certainly does a great job of messing with geographical perception, as reuniting with a wandering party after getting separated can be an ordeal in its own right.

The shuffling rotters prove to be as unwavering and tenacious as ever, although this time they are joined by a powerful new enemy known only as the Apothicons; one time keepers of the summoning key that have become corrupted by dark Aether. To be honest, the story is needlessly complex and hard to comprehend, so it makes more sense to just ignore it, shoot everything that looks vaguely hostile and maybe look into growing a pair of eyes in the back of your head. Needless to say, there's a ton of new weaponry to find, a few new Gobblegum flavours to chew on, and enough Easter eggs to shake an assault rifle at. Up to the challenge? No? Well, maybe the four new multiplayer maps will be of more interest.

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

First up, Citadel sees Treyarch praise the sun with a map that looks like it was lifted straight out of Dark Souls itself. Set in an abandoned Medieval castle strewn with the armour-clad remnants of its previous inhabitants, it makes quite a formidable setting for chasing idiots around with a tactical shovel (yes… that's a thing). There's an uncluttered spaciousness that seemingly flies against the traditionally cramped design traits of a typical COD map, with plenty of uncharacteristic wide corridors and open spaces that take full advantage of the chained movement system. The central drawbridge leads to the sizable courtyard, which seems to be the natural congregation point for a good natured ruck, but jumping into the moat itself reveals secluded underwater tunnel entrances into the castle on either side - perfect for a surprise flanking manoeuvre.

A fourth route into the fortress involves taking a shortcut through a cave, followed by a wall run over a waterfall, which makes this one of the most unsecure castles in existence. The elevated spot on the ramparts does provide the perfect vantage point to oversee any attempted entries into the castle, but a stalled mobile assault tower across the moat levels the playing field for those attempting to crash the party. Cue the snipe off. It's certainly one of the nicest looking maps that COD has seen in quite some time, with the cold stone of the castle walls offsetting the ambient lighting from the many candles and flaming torches perfectly.

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

Micro often makes finding refuge in a crate of beer a tactical necessity rather than a lifestyle choice, although that's not to say that choosing both is a bad thing. Yes, Treyarch has finally succumbed to 'significant shrinkage,' with a map that could have been based on a long lost Rick Moranis movie entitled 'Honey, I Shrunk the Gun Toting Maniacs.' It looks uncannily like a level from the recent PS+ title Table Top Racing, with a vibrant art style that seemingly clashes with pretty much every other map on the Black Ops III roster. Just think about it for a minute... Heavily armed mini-soldiers... fighting on an abnormally long picnic table. Crazy, right?

It's quite the spread, too, which really doesn't help when playing with the munchies. Hiding from a deployment of descending R.A.P.S in a bowl of beans, taking cover from the crossfire behind some sizzling wieners, or even camping in an ice bucket full of cold suds - all options that no self-respecting COD player thought would ever be a possibility. In terms of design, it's a classic three-lane map with plenty of hiding places, shortcuts and clear lines of sight over the central area, although, strangely, it does seem to be a level surprisingly bereft of wall-running opportunities. The presence of ants and wasps buzzing around does a great job of messing with your peripheral vision during play and really adds to the picnic vibe.

Outlaw is the first of two remakes in this package and sees the classic 'Standoff' from Black Ops II receive a rootin' tootin' Wild West remix. Once again, another strange stylistic choice from Treyarch, who appears to be taking a more playful approach here by channelling the spirit of John Wayne as an inspiration for this arena. Fair enough, churning out identikit military compounds no doubt takes its toll after a while, and there's no disputing that the seminal 'Standoff' actually lends itself particularly well to a Western themed conversion. Replace the key buildings in the original with the archetypal bank, undertakers, stable, saloon (complete with self-playing pianos) and train station, then scatter a few stagecoaches about for added cover. Job done.

It's a fast-paced, mid-sized map, rich in period detail that keeps the flow of play moving fairly quickly around the outskirts and through a few of the key buildings. The central thoroughfare is overlooked by numerous strategically placed elevated points (aka the second floor windows of assorted establishments); perfect positions for any sniper's intent on gate-crashing the stream of high noon showdowns occurring below. It's a shame, really, that Treyarch didn't toss a few complimentary cowboy outfits into the mix, given how much the regular garish/dayglo armour sticks out like a sore thumb in this setting.

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

Last but not least is Rupture, the second recycled map of the bundle, with a reinterpretation of the old family favourite 'Outskirts' from World at War. Oddly, it feels like this is the only map of the four that properly belongs in the Call of Duty universe, which isn't to detract from its design in any way, but is more a reflection on the glaringly disparate themes of its Salvation companions. Rupture takes place in high tech facility engineered with the express intent of repairing the Earth's atmosphere, which, in itself, sounds fairly impressive, but in practice, involves little more than firing cool lasers into the sky as some kind of hypnotic Stargate-like thing rotates slowly. No doubt any good work done at this facility is getting countered by the excessive carbon footprint emanating from the tooled up, environmentally hostile gimps firing off rocket launchers like they were children's toys below.

It's fair to say that this is probably one of the largest arenas to ever appear in a Call of Duty game, although, as a result, it lacks the level of detail that some of the smaller maps enjoy, making it feel a bit bland in comparison. It comprises of a lot of modular styled buildings that naturally create plenty of nooks and crannies for those seasoned loiterers to hang about in. However, its main focal point is the monorail station that plays home to a tower providing an elevated 360-degree view of the entire map, making it a flame to the moth-like snipers. There are numerous armoured mechs scattered about the facility that can be commandeered for some fairly slow paced but heavily shielded encounters; a bit like Titanfall if there was a 'wading through treacle' based level.

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

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Given the imminent release of Infinite Warfare, with its lofty ambitions of taking the franchise to a fresh new territory, Treyarch's steady DLC output over the past year provides plenty of reasons to schedule regular return sorties to the Black Ops III killing fields. Salvation rounds off the collection nicely by providing a conclusion (of sorts) to the chaotic Zombie narrative, as well as four well-varied arenas to peacock and flex those e-muscles in. Those considering a PS4 Pro purchase will also get to enjoy upgraded visuals via a day-one patch, which, if nothing else, goes to show that there will still be plenty of life in the old girl going forward.

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   

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