I'm going to start this Black Ops III preview by saying something maybe a tad unconventional: I'm the guy who cares about Call of Duty's singleplayer campaigns. It's me. I'm the one. Activision builds out these six-hour blockbuster action circuses for me and me alone. And probably like, a few thousand other people.
I say this though because I want to be clear where this preview is coming from. I did not try Black Ops III's multiplayer, nor do I have any real desire to. From what I saw in the E3 trailer it looks like Titanfall Redux but that is literally of no interest to me. When I'm playing a multiplayer shooter nowadays I'm reaching for Battlefield or Red Orchestra or Rising Storm or any of a dozen other slower, even slightly more tactical shooters. And that's fine.
But few shooters do singleplayer spectacle like Call of Duty, and ever since Infinity Ward kind of collapsed in on itself post- Modern Warfare 2 it's been Treyarch's Black Ops series that's taken over as crown jewel of Call of Duty.
The first game's Cold War-inspired paranoia not only took us to locations that are relatively untouched by the FPS genre (Cuba, Kazakhstan, the Vietnam War) but drew on the era's pervasive espionage to create probably the most thrilling Call of Duty story since the original Modern Warfare. Black Ops II took a similar tack, with a dual narrative taking place alternatively in the latter part of the Cold War and, for the first time, the near-future of 2025.
Let's do the time warp again
With Black Ops III, we're apparently jumping even further into the future. Far into the future. 2065, to be exact. I took an extended look at the campaign last week during E3, although if you saw Sony's press conference you already got the flavor of my demo--it was basically a half-hour version of the same section Activision/Treyarch pulled the five-minute trailer from.
And I'm left with one pervasive, slightly-disappointed question: What happened to Black Ops?
Now, as always, this is an opinion based entirely on pre-release footage. I mean, I could make a joke and say that based on the average length of a Call of Duty campaign, the half hour I saw is about 1/12 of the games length. I could say that. Wink.
But jokes aside: I haven't seen much. Certainly not enough to cry doom and gloom.
I have to wonder though if there's more to Black Ops III than what we've seen. As a Cold War buff (Seriously: It's the era I wrote my undergrad history thesis on), I really loved Black Ops. It took an interesting look at some conflicts that previously were thought of as "off-limits" for the shooter genre by striking a balance between the typical Call of Duty bombast and something slightly more self-reflective and shadowy. Similarly, I loved the 1980s portion of Black Ops II, which somehow crafted a compelling shooter from the morass of late-era Cold War posturing--Noriega, the Russian war in Afghanistan, the US aimlessly throwing money at guerrillas.
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