OK Black Ops 3, I’m listening

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It happens every year. A new Call of Duty is announced, and is almost universally derided. Then they start showing it off, with some new feature or high-profile actor and the derision starts turning to excitement. Then reviews hit and the game is lauded – before there’s some sort of minor consumer revolt and the latest greatest Call of Duty, in hindsight, isn’t that great after all. I don’t want to get caught up in that same cyclical trap – but I will exercise a bit of cautious optimism. There’s a lot about the new Call of Duty that sounds…pretty good.

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Yes, it’s got that future imperfect setting that’s been used in countless films, series, books and even games, which is about the least exciting aspect of the game as far as I’m concerned. Players are all augmented in some way, with technological advances allowing for implants and other under-the-skin advancements – include neural implants that allow for players to control tech with their minds.

It seems serviceable. It does, however, give us a return to a co-operative campaign, because the only thing better than killing digital bad guys is killing digital bad guys with friends. It’s a four player campaign built around co-operative play – which means that the usual corridor-based levels have had to have a bit of an overhaul – as is the game’s AI, which usually has little to do other than shoot at you. Now, AI has to play against the entire team.

“You need a larger space for players to move into tactical positions,” says Jason Blundell, campaign director to VG247. “As the space gets larger, you need to bring it to life. The [enemy] AI has to be able to make decisions about not only where one player is, but where other co-op players are in different groups and different spreads across the space. ”

“We have AI-to-AI behaviour,” says Blundell, offering an example of new enemy types. “The bi-pedal robot enemies will move into phalanx positions based on where you are and they don’t worry about self-preservation as much as human AI so they move through the battlefield differently.”

Those implants and other advancements though? You get to customise them. The game, it seems, will have a light RPG mechanic throughout the campaign – with upgraded abilities and a great deal of choice.

“This Call of Duty campaign is all about choice. Your investment in your character is going to mean something more than it ever has before in any Call of Duty game,” Treyarch head Studio Head Mark Lamia says.

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So instead of a grisly white male hero played by Troy Baker, you’re now able to customise your characters – even choosing to play as a *gasp* female if you so wish.

“It’s not just a female head on a male body. It’s a different set of animations for the entire game,” Lamia says, adding that the game’s character interaction will even change based on the protagonist’s gender. “We knew we were going to do fully unique male, fully unique female for all scenes and all the customization that goes for both. “

Suck on that, Ubisoft.

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Of course, with Treyarch at the helm, we see a return of the proper Zombies mode. And it too will be getting a significant overhaul, playing as more of a full game experience than the usual tacked-on one. It’ll have its own distinct narrative, and like the game itself, a progression system.

“Black Ops Zombies will have its own full, player XP based progression system. That will add even more depth and replayability to what was already an inherently and really replayable mode,” Lamia says.

“We know that Zombies is a very easy mode to get into, very accessible. We’ve got to be sure not to sacrifice that while we’re adding depth and replayability to it.

“We’re going to deliver a totally unique, mind-blowing creative. It’s not like anything in the campaign and it’s not like anything in the multiplayer. It’s its own game that ships with Black Ops 3.”

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And then of course, there’s the multiplayer, which is where most Call of Duty fans will be spending their time. Instead of playing as a generic soldier this time, players instead play as a specialist class – of which four have been revealed so far (via IGN)

  • Ruin’s weapons are Gravity Spikes, which allow him to leap through the air and slam down on his target with an area-of-effect shockwave. His power, Overdrive, greatly accelerates all movement for a short time.
  • Seraph’s weapon is the Annihilator, a huge, high-caliber revolver that kills enemies in one shot and has penetration rounds. If you can line up two enemies, you’ll take them both out. Her ability is Combat Focus, which triggers a bonus multiplier to score steak points.
  • Outrider’s weapon is the Sparrow, a compound bow with explosive bolts. Her ability is Vision Pulse, which expands out from the player, tagging all enemies’ locations and allowing you to see them through walls.
  • Reaper is a killer robot. His weapon is the scythe, a minigun that emerges from his arm. His ability, Glitch, allows him to flash back to wherever he was a few seconds ago.

I’ve always appreciated the changes that Treyarch have made to the established Call of Duty formula (Call of Duty 3 aside, of course) though they’re in an unenviable position: They can either make great sweeping changes and risk alienating a fanbase, or make small, iterative ones that and risk the perpetual complaints of copying and pasting.

Treyarch seems to have found a great balance between both – and for now, Titanfall 2 Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 has me interested.

Last Updated: April 28, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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