Activision and Treyarch recently revealed two new videos for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The first video basically sets the stage for the premise of the game. The second video, the official reveal trailer, showcases actual gameplay footage of the combat for the game. I enjoy playing the Call of Duty games. However, the franchise, in its challenge to be different, seems to be going more into the realm of cyber-punk sci-fi than the classic, gritty realism of the warfare combat and gameplay of the older titles. The latest videos make Call of Duty: Black Ops III look more like the Deus Ex franchise than Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III has a dystopic future setting in the year 2060. The line between mankind and machine is starting blur. Sound familiar? The two new videos that were just released look identical to the recently announced Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. In defense of Call of Duty, these are not original concepts that Deus Ex invented. The themes and ideas have been previously mined for narrative fiction. However, this seems well outside of the comfort zone for the Call of Duty franchise.
Does this mean that Black Ops III will be a terrible game? No; that is not necessarily the case. However, the fact that Call of Duty is being forced to go in that direction is symbolic of a greater problem. Call of Duty is Activision’s big cash cow. In short, Activision has a need to release a new Call of Duty game virtually every year. After the franchise was showing signs of fatigue, Activision took the title in new directions. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare set the game completely in the future instead of a more contemporary present-day setting. It appears that Black Ops III is following suit. After the franchise had sort of done everything it could with contemporary and old-school warfare, it is resorting to the future, sci-fi and cyber-punk themes. As a result, the franchise less resembles Call of Duty than a game that trys to evoke the style of other popular cyber-punk-themed video games.
The solution is to try to milk this franchise as much as possible and release a new game every year. However, for a publisher like Activision that is constantly trying to meet stock and sales quotas, that is not an option. It is dangerous to force a new installment for a franchise every year. Just take a look at Assassin’s Creed and the perceived failures of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is due out on November 6 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.