Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a true juggernaut, and one of the best games in the storied franchise. And now, three months after release, we are now in what publisher Activision calls “DLC Season,” where new map packs and other goodies will roll out to support the flagship title.
The first DLC pack, called “Awakening,” was released this past week for the Playstation 4 (Xbox One owners will get in on the fun in 30 days), and if this first pack is any indication where Treyarch is going with DLC season, suddenly that season pass seems like a good buy (unlike other shooter games, especially ones that take place in galaxies far, far away).
“Awakening” comes with four brand new multiplayer maps, and a new full-fledged Zombies game mode. The maps are a mix of locales and environments, and really amp up the fun in their design. Treyarch created overpowered soldiers in the narrative to Black Ops III and it’s nice to see the multiplayer maps taking advantage of those new powers. Players have so many areas to run on walls and launch themselves for epic takedowns, or waterways to swims through to find the best spot to take out enemies. It’s all addressed here.
The new maps are as follows:
Rise – This takes place at a half-destroyed (or maybe half-built) Coalescence Corporation building. There are lots of good places to hide, and tons of nook and crannies to discover. The action here feels like classic Call of Duty. The colors here are also bright, even if the action takes place at night. Call of Duty tends to stay with the destroyed, drab, dull look for its maps, and Rise erases all of that, playing with color and shadows very well.
Gauntlet – This map is unique as it offers three very different environments to play. The blinding white of a snow bank leads into the lush green of a jungle, and the map is finished off with an urban setting. It’s like a Call of Duty greatest hits package in one map. As with the other maps in this DLC, the environments give plenty of options for traversal, including walls to run along an water to swim through. It’s a fun map no matter which section you are playing in.
Skyjacked – Now we’re getting into the meat of the “Awakening” DLC. Skyjacked is in the same family as the original Black Op’s Nuketown, and Black Ops II‘s Hijacked. In fact, this would be the spiritual successor to Hijacked. The action takes place on a vessel, this time one flying through the air. It’s a tiny map that all but forces conflict. Close quarter combat means there’s no where to hide and teams (either in Deathmatch or Domination) are constantly butting heads — in a good way. There is no place to camp, and spawn points could be anywhere. I even spawned right behind an enemy who was trying to use a gadget, giving me an easy kill. Skyjacked breeds frantic chaos, and it is one of the best maps in the game — DLC or core title. But it’s not even the best map of Awakening. That distinction goes to…
Splash – This map is set in an abandoned waterpark, and much like the Aquarium map in the core game, aquatics take a front seat. Firefights erupt inside abandoned waterslide tubes, and pirate-themed stuff is everywhere. The color palette here is the best in the game as everything seems to pop visually, which serves as the perfect contrast to the sheer amount of killing going on in the park. To me, it’s the best of all three other maps mashed together into a fun, smile-inducing visual package. Splash is the best, and even writing about it makes me want to jump in and play again.
In addition to the new maps, Awakening also features a new Zombies mode, Der Eisendrache. This mode is a sequel to Giant and has ties into Black Ops II‘s Richtofen’s Grand Scheme, and the players are left on the side of a mountain in hopes of ending the zombie apocalypse. The environment isn’t as large as Shadows of Evil, nor does it have the Hollywood star power (no offense to Steve Blum), but it is a nice break from both Shadows and Giant and Der Eisendrache seems to build on what has come before and sets up things still yet to come. For fans of the Zombies mode will find a lot to do here.
“Awakening” has a good amount of content for the first DLC pack of the four scheduled. The new maps are fun and fresh, and the new zombies mode serves its purpose. It also does what DLC packs are supposed to do, and that is bring players back and give them something new to experience. I had stepped away from Black Ops III in late November to review other things, and now, coming back, I see that players have unlocked so many new aesthetic feature for their specialists. Visually, multiplayer games sizzle with the cool new characters and outfits, and I swear I was killed by someone dressed like the squids from Nintendo’s Splatoon. “Awakening” is a call back for players to rejoin the fight. And if my experience is any indicator, they will be glad they did.
“Awakening,” the first of four DLC packs, is available now for the Playstation 4 through the Playstation store for $14.99. Season pass holders get it as part of their package. Xbox One players will get access to “Awakening” in March. This review is based off a review code provided by Activision.
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