Black Ops 3 – A tale of two betas

Black Ops 3 betaThe Black Ops 3 beta has had rocky and mixed results. The PS4 seemed to have a fairly smooth launch and even got an extension due to the first day having some issues. I already wrote my thoughts about the beta on the XBOX One, and it was overly positive. The biggest issue we dealt with on Thursday and Friday was periodic lockups and freezes when creating or exiting lobbies as a group. While I was pretty disappointed in such ground level features not working properly, it largely made me thankful they were doing a beta. Then the weekend arrived, and everything changed. In my first impressions I said my fear was that lag compensation and in-game lag could be patched in later as my friends and I were having a similar experience of dominance that we had in MW2 and MW3. I think the primary reason things ran smoothly before the weekend is the smaller player pool and that we were playing so early in the day. So what happened?

I shot first!

The biggest problem I dealt with in Black Ops 2, Advanced Warfare, and Ghosts was the lack of consistency with hit detection and connection. One reason I was so pleasantly surprised with the Black Ops 3 beta was how smooth everything was running. I was honestly not expecting to have a good experience, so the first few days were why I said I was hesitantly excited for this game. Unfortunately once the player pool filled up when the beta was opened to the public, everything went drastically downhill. I had an almost identical experience as when I walked away from both Black Ops 2 and Advanced Warfare. To sum it up succinctly: I go from having games where my bullets hit and I have 2/1 and even 3/1 kill death ratios to games where most of my gun fights feel like I’m shooting blanks and I can barely go even with my k/d. When we discussed this on a weekly podcast that I’m on a few people attributed it to lag and that we should expect that in a beta.

It isn’t lag

I have been playing online games for over 15 years now, so I’m pretty familiar with what lag feels like. The jumping, skipping, and freezing is pretty easy to spot, especially in today’s landscape of graphically impressive and smooth performing games. Lag is also impactful enough to make people stop playing, and when bad or consistent enough, it can even be game breaking. What is happening in Black Ops 3 that I refer to as lag compensation just feels like you are being robbed of countless gunfights where you get the drop on the enemy. Now, someone made a great point that XBOX has a significantly larger Call of Duty community, so the player pool was much bigger and maybe causing inconsistencies and bad connections. I’m not going to hold my breath about this given the experience was so identical to what I had when I played Black Ops 2, which is why I ultimately stopped playing.

A long time coming

Call of Duty has continued to devolve into a watered down quick twitch shooter with a continual drop in sales due to them focusing on accessibility over substance. The quality of the game resides in the illusion of skill, which is why so many veterans have walked away. This is also why the sales have continued to drop. Even an unskilled player will get better at the game with enough time. And they like so many other players will suddenly realize how inconsistent and rigged the game is. And I get it, it’s a business decision. Someone somewhere thinks this is the best way to sell lots of copies, but I’m surprised these problems are still present both after the drop in sales and during a beta that was opened to the public. Lots of us are locked in with digital pre-orders, and I’m fine with it because I’ll play it for a few weeks and review it to see if anything has improved. But a lot of players got to play for free with friend codes or after the beta went public, and the overwhelming response I’ve been hearing about the XBOX One beta has been a lot of people saying they won’t buy the game. I was previously predicting this would be the highest selling Call of Duty to date, and that may still happen with Zombies and the PS4 exclusives padding sales. But with XBOX holding the lion share of the community, this poorly launched and low quality beta may result in another lack luster sales year for Call of Duty. And no, I’m not saying the game will flop, because it will almost assuredly sell millions of copies. I do think, however, what we are looking at is the death of a franchise that was once the dominant force in the shooter world. Be sure to check back for my review once the game launches, and if you were on the fence about this game I can’t say this enough: stay away until week one reviews start pouring in.

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