This post has been updated. Please see below for details.
The future-set “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” makes some bold predictions about combat in the decades to come. Soldiers, for instance, will be outfitted with robotic arms, giving them super-human strength. Additionally, women will be just as prevalent on the front lines as their male counterparts.
The Treyarch-developed “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,” due Nov. 6 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, is the first in the blockbuster franchise to allow fans to play as a female character for the entirety of the campaign. Or even play as a whole mini-squadron of women, as “Black Ops 3” will blur the lines between single and multiplayer games and allow up to four people to play the campaign cooperatively via an online connection (or play split-screen with a friend).
It’s a move that aims to capitalize on what many believe the “Call of Duty” franchise does best — multiplayer gaming. Previously, the story-driven campaign portion of the game was built for a single player, but the decision to expand the narrative to include multiple soldiers will allow for more detailed character customization. It will also bring added diversity to the battlefield.
“It really adds something to it,” said Jason Blundell, an executive producer and the game’s campaign director. “It’s a no-brainer, and we were at a point with the story that we could do it justice to explore that level of customization.”
There’s also a reality that “Call of Duty” could no longer avoid.
Added Blundell: “As we talked to people about the shape of military organizations going into the future, we were predominantly hearing that you were going to see far more women in the battlefield, and female operatives as well. We had to be true to that vision of the future. It’s a natural path. Not only are there female player characters, there are female combatants as well.”
It’s far from being the only change for the game, which was in development for three years and will be published by Santa Monica-based Activision. Fans will still be able to play the campaign solo, but now can be joined by one, two or three others. Once invited into a game, players will enjoy more freedom in how the world is explored. If a friend, for instance, has advanced much further in the game, one can get a peek at what’s to come.
The “Black Ops 3” world is a cynical one that plays up some long-held sci-fi tropes. Man and machine, for instance, are increasingly becoming one, but it also has some topical nods, as events in the game are set off after an intelligence leak. Set in 2065 after “Blacks Ops 2,” the game takes place in a universe in which a large air-defense system, designed to nullify drone attacks, has placed a newfound importance on foot soldiers.
Soldiers in this landscape are outfitted with a technology that allows for direct interface with electronic equipment. Said soldiers are also likely to have some cybernetic additions — a robotic arm or leg, for instance.
As Blundell explains it: “The cutting-edge piece of technology of the day is called DNI — or Direct Neural Interface. This technology connects directly into the soldier’s brain and spinal column, and it allows complete control over the host’s physiology — his adrenaline, his healing factors — and also control of machinery or mechanics on the battlefield. This allows unparalleled control and seamless integration with computer systems and cybernetic enhancements with the body.”
As far as the story goes, players will slip into the role as a member of a secret cybernetic-enhanced military unit. Part of the team is sent to Singapore to investigate a CIA black site, only they themselves fall off the grid.
“But that’s not the end,” Blundell said. “What follows is the largest leak of intelligence in military history, which leads to the collapse of covert operations worldwide, creating utter chaos. Your mission is to go behind enemy lines to find your brothers and uncover the truth about what truly happened.”
The game’s competitive multiplayer aspects will tie in to the main story. Many play a “Call of Duty” game solely for the multiplayer battles, and this time they’ll get to choose from a selection of nine military “specialists,” including a woman with mighty-robot strength (Seraph) and a straight-up robot whose arm turns into a gun (Reaper).
“Specialists are unique black-ops soldiers, each with a unique look, each with a unique voice, unique personality and unique back-story that extends the game fiction of our universe,” said game director Dan Bunting.
Only four have been unveiled at this point, and each comes with a singular weapon and ability. A solider known as Outrider, for instance, can fire a bow with explosive bolts, while her peer, Ruin, is outfitted with “gravity spikes,” which create instant shock waves.
These moves will allow every player, regardless of skill set, to experience brief moments of power, said Bunting. “Black Ops 3” also learned some tricks from other modern shooters such as “Titanfall,” as the game will now allow for wall-running and players can jump and glide to rooftops and never stop shooting.
The new philosophy, said Bunting, is one of “gun’s up,” as players will no longer have to stop shooting to, say, climb a ladder. What’s more, players can now shoot underwater, as multiplayer maps will include an entire subterranean battlefield.
Despite all the changes, the game’s core mission hasn’t changed. “This is a story about combat,” said design director David Vonderhaar.
For the Record, April 26, 2:36 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the game is set in 2025. It is set in 2065.