Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Blop Blop Fizz Fizz

I don't hate the Call of Duty franchise.  Nor do I think that it deserves the hate that it does.  A few months back I picked up Call of Duty:  Infinite Warfare along with Modern Warfare Remastered.  I spent my "realistic" shooter time with Medal of Honor and Rainbow Six so I missed out on MW the first time around.  As far as MWR went, I liked it.  It was the direction the R6 franchise ought to have gone rather than going the direction of Lockdown and it's linear, arcadey play.  MWR had very good story and structure depth with great characters - characters you care about when they meet their grim ends.  In particular, Sgt. Jackson's death after a nuclear blast was a ballsy move for a game aimed at the Gung-Ho crowd.  I'm actually tempted to wonder if that was a nod to the parts of the novel Starship Troopers wherein the army unflinchingly admits bad shit can happen to you when you sign up.

Infinite Warfare, being at the other end of the franchise wasn't quite as good.  It's kind of like a gaming equivalent of a ham sandwich.  A really good ham sandwich, mind.  Wonder bread, fresh cold cuts and American cheese, French's spicy mustard and precisely two Claussen dill pickle slices (NB:  I'm open to sponsorships!) but a ham sandwich nonetheless.  The story is also middling, kind of like a late-career John Wayne film.  Less like The Searchers and more like The Green BeretsIW's biggest story flaw is that the creators failed to grasp that you can have your Black and White, Us or Them Gung-Ho morality and still have deep, interesting characters on both sides.

And then, There's Black Ops III.  I have to admit to being a bit unfair to this sub-franchise, having missed the first two.  From the reviews I've seen, they look a bit more avant-garde than the main COD franchise and that appeals to me.  If they were having JFK packing heat or a Latin American revolutionary jamming with Dragonforce then there must be something like that in 3, right?

Nope!  Maybe it's that I'm more familiar with sci-fi than with army stuff, but I was genuinely shocked at the cliches that were lazily chucked into the mix.  Give IW it's due.  However bland and predictable it might have been, at least an effort was made to have a clear and cogent narrative.  With BO3, there was virtually no world-building, no real context added to inform the player as to who was doing what, where and why.  Again, maybe this is the Black Ops-verse and the creators are assuming the player already knows enough but still, there should have been a more thorough recap. 

And the worst part is that there was so much potential.  There are little glimpses of brilliance and ideas of medical ethics, emergent AI, duty versus conscience and digitally altered perceptions.  All those little glimmers - all together or any one individually - might have been explored to make a truly memorable and lasting story...but no.  There are only so many hours in the day and those zombie modes don't program themselves (not yet, anyway) so...let's just pull cliches out of the hat and call it a day.

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