‘Call of Duty’ returns to future with ‘Black Ops III’

Call of Duty: Black Ops III may be a sequel, but it breaks new ground for the billion-dollar video game franchise.

Activision’s first-person combat game always comes with a story campaign and an online multiplayer mode that’s played by millions even years after the game’s release.

This latest release, Black Ops III (Nov. 6, for Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4and PCs), brings a bit of multiplayer to the story mode, letting up to four people play together to explore the campaign. Players can connect online or two can play together on one TV in split-screen mode.

Players of different skill levels can play together co-operatively, so a player that has progressed further in the campaign can share weapons with a new player and take him to levels he can’t access yet so they can play together. For instance, a player who has already played through level 5 of the game can invite a newcomer to join them at that point. “I can actually share my earnings and rewards with you so you can go in and fight with me at this later level,” said Mark Lamia, head of the Activision-owned studio Treyarch that is developing the game.

“We really just wanted to break down the barriers for people who are fortunate enough to find that time together and allow them to connect as easily as possible and enjoy the game,” Lamia said.

Since the first Call of Duty game in 2003, the franchise has surpassed $11 billion globally in sales. The first releases were based in World War II and the Vietnam War. But since then, the settings have moved to the modern day and near-future.

Black Ops III follows the events of the year 2025 in the previous game, during which drone attacks occurred on the U.S. It’s now 2065 and technology is embedded on the battlefield.

Directed energy air defense systems serve as umbrellas over cities to nullify air assaults so ground combat is brought to the fore. Elite Black Ops soldiers have embedded direct neural interfaces that let them communicate with combat robots and Net-connected weaponry. And other cybernetic bio-augmentations such as super-powered prosthetic limbs make soldiers more deadly.

In the game, players can advance to gain the ability “to do things like take over drones and robotics on the battlefield,” Lamia said. “It totally opens up the game.”

While the story campaign is scripted, many battle scenes can play out in untold ways depending on how players want to attack the scenario. “We wanted to create a game where players had more choice,” he said. “And we wanted the players’ investment in their character and the campaign to mean something more than it has meant in any other Call of Duty game.”

A new twist for the multiplayer mode of the game is that players can choose from nine specialists including a female Hawkeye-styled fighter with a bow that shoots explosives and as a military robot with an arm that’s also a machine gun.

Characters will move through the environments more fluidly with the ability to string together parkour-like moves such as a leaping boost, running along a wall and sliding. New customization options include a Gunsmith feature that lets you design and paint your own weapons.

Black Ops III will also include a Zombies game, in which players battle hordes of the undead, a Treyarch trademark.

Black Ops is back and better than ever … featuring a mind-bending story along with the stickiest multiplayer maps and most fluid and intuitive movement system in the franchise, all topped off with a healthy dose of epic zombie mayhem,” said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. “Nearly 100 million people have played Call of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops 2, making it the most-played series in Call of Duty history. And those fans are about to get the best Black Ops game we’ve made yet.”