You know, I had not played a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare, until I played Call of Duty: Ghosts. After beating its incredibly short campaign and fiddling with its multiplayer, I figured it wasn’t even worth reviewing really. So you can imagine my surprise when suddenly, Call of Duty games have started getting decent again, despite what some seem to believe.
Advanced Warfare was a fresh attempt at a sequel, and as divergent as it may be, it was necessary. A new creative team, kickstarting a new life cycle for Call of Duty. Instead of requiring each entry be made in a year, every new Call of Duty game is actually given three years to be developed. As a result, three different teams (InfinityWard, Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch) are making their own projects with their own storylines and ideas.
The results, if Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III are any indication, are quite interesting. For once, Call of Duty games are branching off into new territory. Advanced Warfare went for a stronger story, increased mobility, and believable futuristic weapons. The EXO suit was a hit, and a paradigm shift for the series’ multiplayer. However, it didn’t completely change the single-player.
This is where Black Ops III steps in.
For the first time, Call of Duty is going to have a four-player co-op focused campaign (that’s not about surviving the zombie/alien apocalypse), with large open levels and a variety of approaches to every battle. Levels are being expanded due to the higher player count, and will encourage you try to different playstyles with a new single-player upgrade and loadout system.
It will be replay focused, with apparently a “layered” narrative making up for the dropped moral choices from Black Ops II. You’ll be able to play as both men and women, and have a variety of abilities. Speaking of, did I forget to mention this game is basically a hybrid of Syndicate and Deus Ex: Human Revolution when it comes to the gadgets? Well it is!
This is on top of having a movement system that combines ideas of Titanfall, Crysis, and Advanced Warfare. By this point, beyond the shooting, controls, and handling, it certainly sounds far from a traditional Call of Duty game; and by no means does that mean it’s jumped the shark. If anything, I’d argue Black Ops III and Advanced Warfare are heralding an age of Call of Duty games that aren’t just iterative sequels. If only it had come sooner.
It’s not like Treyarch is choosing absurd decisions. Black Ops II dealt heavily with themes that set up the situation for Black Ops III, even if it is awfully similar to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with plenty more shooting and way less talking. If anything, the more you look at the actual mechanics and design decisions, the more the sequel feels like just yet another experiment within the traditional framework.
Killstreaks are being reworked as scorestreaks, and will carry over regardless of death. This was an idea that worked great in Homefront’s multiplayer, and evens out one of Call of Duty‘s biggest multiplayer balancing issues.
There are also specific characters you choose to play as, called Specialists, with unique weapons and abilities activated by said scorestreaks. You can only take either their ability (say, turning invisible) or weapon (thermobaric crossbow) into battle, but each is a serious game changer. Do you take the ability to warp back to where you were four seconds earlier, or a gatling gun arm? These are the kinds of choices Black Ops III presents you with, and they are far more refreshing than some other more recent entries.
Now, does this mean it won’t still have Call of Duty tropes? Of course not, this is still a Call of Duty game. It just also happens to feature sliding, wall jumping, the ability to hack robots and drones to remote control them, human cybernetic augmentations, balanced killstreaks, large and far less linear campaign levels, underwater combat (seriously), and a lot more player-driven choice in how you play the game. And I’d say that is a pretty intriguing set of ideas to see done by one of the largest game studios in the industry.
Here’s hoping you knock our socks off Treyarch. I look forward to Call of Syndicate: Advanced Crysis Fall 3!
[Image Credit: IGN, Activision, Technobuffalo, GQ]