Video Games: 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 3' a probable return to form

The "Call of Duty" series returns for the 11th consecutive year on Nov. 6 with “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,” the third installment in the “Black Ops” sub-series developed by Treyarch. (Courtesy/Sledgehammer Games)

Gaming’s flagship cash cow, the “Call of Duty” series, is currently on its first losing streak. 2013’s “Call of Duty: Ghosts” was a profoundly bland misfire, while last year’s “Advanced Warfare” brought interesting ideas to the table, but didn’t know how to use them.

The series returns for the 11th consecutive year on Nov. 6 with “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,” the third installment in the “Black Ops” sub-series developed by Treyarch. The game represents a strong chance for the series to return to form.

Treyarch has consistently brought the freshest ideas to the “Call of Duty” table. With 2010’s “Black Ops,” they told a loopy but entertaining Cold War story that could have come from the mind of David Fincher while also innovating in the multiplayer arena. Two years later, “Black Ops 2” introduced futuristic technology and branching storylines to the series alongside the most balanced “Call of Duty” multiplayer offering to date.

“Black Ops 3” leaps even further into the future, envisioning the year 2065, in which technology allows the development of robotically imbued human supersoldiers. Treyarch promises to tailor its narrative to the effects these advancements have on the people themselves. Considering how well the “Black Ops” series has understood character motivations in the past, this could potentially be an extremely compelling campaign if the gameplay stacks up to “Call of Duty” standards.

For all of the smart changes “Black Ops 2” made to the structure of the campaign, it did not deliver the memorable moments that fans have come to expect. Treyarch is taking a different approach this time around, tailoring the campaign to support a four-player cooperative experience. This could create exciting interplay between friends, but may potentially eliminate the jaw-dropping set pieces that put a singular protagonist right in the middle of a Michael Bay scene. It’s best to take a wait-and-see approach, as Treyarch has delivered on massive changes like these in the past.

The most impactful effect that the technology in “Black Ops 3” has on the series’ trademark run-and-gun gameplay is the introduction of a momentum-based movement system reminiscent of the one in last year’s “Titanfall.” Players will be able to leap from wall to wall, boost through open windows, and slide into action while chaining all of these moves together in one fluid motion. This could lead to a dangerously steep skill curve in the multiplayer mode, a problem that “Advanced Warfare” fell victim to last year.

The multiplayer mode will also introduce a character system called “Specialists,” which will afford players special abilities. Each of the game’s nine specialist soldiers has their own special ability, which range from a powerful ground pound to an explosive crossbow. Judging from the way these abilities performed during the game’s beta, they will introduce an important wrinkle into the traditional “Call of Duty” multiplayer ecosystem.

As is tradition for Treyarch installments, “Black Ops 3” will feature the return of zombies mode, which made its exciting debut in 2008’s “Call of Duty: World at War” as an after-credits bonus level. The mode took off through immense fan support, spawning multiple downloadable maps, and has appeared in each “Black Ops” title.

This year, zombies mode will attempt to tell a more cohesive story than before, introducing four new characters for a narrative called ‘Shadows of Evil.’ As usual, Treyarch has not divulged many more details, preferring fans to be surprised upon playing the mode for the first time.

In a crowded holiday marketplace, a Treyarch-created “Call of Duty” game is a safe bet to deliver an exhilarating bang for your buck. Despite being surrounded by “Fallout,” “Halo,” “Star Wars” and many other big names in the action genre, “Black Ops 3” should do just fine. If you’re looking for a shooter this fall, think Treyarch.


Tyler Keating is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.