After years of Microsoft getting dibs on the Call of Duty DLC — first on the 360, then on the Xbox One — it feels strange to be taking Awakening, the first map pack for Black Ops III, out for a spin roughly a month after PlayStation owners. As has been the case for many years now, the standalone cost is $14.99, or you can pick up the Season Pass containing all four add-ons for $49.99.
Packed with the usual content (four adversarial maps and a new chapter in the Zombies saga) let’s see how well Awakening kicks off Black Ops III‘s DLC offerings.
Are we sure this map is even included? Seriously, it comes up about 10 percent as often as the other three maps. When it does actually find its way into the rotation, Gauntlet is a solid map that takes the familiar three-lane approach and makes each lane a different environment (jungle, urban and snow). It doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities for elevated approaches, but not every single map needs to cater to that style so I never minded seeing it come up.
While there are a couple of unique elements, such as the underwater section, Rise feels very familiar and never distinguishes itself compared to dozens of previous maps. It felt like an awful lot of time was spent just running around trying to engage the enemy and most of the action happened in really specific areas — like maybe things were designed to encourage heading to one area a little too much. It’s not a terrible map, but it was my least favorite of the bunch.
A remake of Black Ops II‘s “Hijacked,” Skyjacked puts a few twists on the classic to take advantage of the ability to run across walls and take flight, but the action remains largely unchanged. It’s still a big oval with multiple ways to get from one side to the other, either via the sides or by going underneath the action, and lots of quick deaths in the central hub (which always makes Capture point B a fun one).
I don’t remember exactly when it was decided that every Call of Duty map pack was going to contain at least one ridiculous gimmick location, but Splash is one of the best that they’ve come up with. There are lots of different ways to approach fighting, plenty of unique features and a generally enjoyable flow that seems to accompany each match. It also just looks really good with bright colors and a distinct flavor that none of the other maps really approach. Good stuff.
Zombies: Der Eisendrache
Rather than moving forward with Shadows of Evil, the zombie subset of the main game, Awakening launches a new storyline starring the characters from way back in World at War. The location, a castle ripped straight from the fiction of Wolfenstein, features more open space than I’m accustomed to seeing from the mode, and the gameplay is all the better for it.
Seasoned zombie players will no doubt be doing a deep dive in the new location, scouring for all manner of hidden Easter eggs and other secrets, ensuring hours of zombie-killing mayhem. It’s admirable how much mileage Treyarch has managed to get out of what started off as little more than an endgame bonus for World at War players.
While Awakening landed in a bit of a tough spot with The Division coming out, its lineup is largely high quality, which makes it a smart buy for those still firing up Black Ops III on a regular basis.