Call of Duty is not going “open-world” – not yet. But with Black Ops 3, the third title in the covert war spin-off series, it is taking a small step in that direction.
As leaked by Call of Duty (CoD) news site CharlieIntel on Friday, this year’s CoD instalment will feature a four-player co-operative campaign mode, allowing friends to take on the story together.
The series is abandoning its highly choreographed “corridor”-style of level design in favour of open environments offering more space and freedom to explore. Players will be able to create and customise their own avatars from the outset, rather than taking control of pre-set characters, while a new XP system allows upgrades to both the soldier and the weapons.
Developer Treyarch, one of three studios sharing responsibility for the multimillion dollar annual franchise, has also introduced a new movement system. Black Ops 3 is set 50 years in the future where soldiers use bio-augmentation and external “cyber rigs” to enhance motion capabilities. Players are able to boost jump in any direction, perform power slides and seamlessly mantle over obstacles – all while maintaining the ability to aim and fire a weapon.
Unlike last year’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which also featured cybernetic enhancements, Black Ops 3 offers players the chance to wall-run along vertical surfaces. Moves can also be chained together so that wall runs can turn into boosted jumps and then power slides. Players can line up moves and change direction on the fly using a system similar to skateboarding games such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Treyarch has added a new “specialist” feature for online multiplayer, which allows players to control and customise one of nine elite spec-ops soldiers. Each specialist has their own unique Power Weapons and Power Abilities, which players call on during matches, when the dedicated meter fills up.
Donnie Walsh, call sign Ruin, is a brute force infantryman whose special weapon is a pair of gravity spikes which he can plant in the ground causing devastating area-of-effect damage to enemies. His ability is a limited speed boost, designed to allow him to quickly capture objective points.
Also announced is Zhen Zhen, call sign Seraph, part of a futuristic militiarised criminal gang named the 54I. She has a one-shot-kill hand cannon capable of taking out several enemies with one bullet, and when her ability, Combat Focus, is triggered she gets a multiplier on kills and achievements, allowing her to reach score streaks faster. Alessandra “Outrider” Castillo is a scout from Brazil who uses a compound bow and explosive arrows, and the ability to scan environments revealing the position of nearby enemies. Finally, players will get to take part as a battle robot named Reaper, whose Scythe weapon transforms its arm into a minigun. He’s also able to flash back in time, apparently by hacking the cybernetic control systems of other players, resetting their internal clocks.
There are five other specialist characters yet to be announced, and Treyarch says that players will be able to select them, then upgrade and personalise their character via a new progression system operated during matches. The power meter is charged during each match, and fills faster when players make kills or perform actions beneficial to the team. At the start of each match, participants have to select whether to use the power weapons or the power abilities – the two are mutually exclusive, and the latter charge twice as quickly.
Plot-wise, it seems the narrative takes place immediately after the events of Black Ops 2. Groups of competing countries have formed two opposing alliances – The Winslow Accord and the Common Defence Pact – and are now fighting over resources as global climate change eats away at available water and energy reserves. Players become part of a cybernetically enhanced Black Ops squad who must investigate the disappearance of a compatriot team at a CIA black site in Singapore.
Treyarch claims to have built a whole new graphics engine for the game, which supports contemporary effects like deferred lighting and particles; the artificial intelligence system has been updated to give enemies the freedom and ability to react to player actions with a variety of tactical options. The studio has also claimed that the PC version is a priority this year, with support for high-end rigs and 4K monitors, as well as scalable options for lower-end machines.
More details on the inevitable Zombie mode, score streaks and Create-A-Class options are due at the E3 games event in LA in June, where Black Ops 3 will be playable on the show floor. A public beta of the multiplayer mode is set to be opened soon for those who pre-order the game.
Tomorrow: more details on the multiplayer and story modes, and an interview with Treyarch on the real-world cybernetic technologies featured in the game.
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Sunday 26th April 2015 18.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010