Now Playing: Call of Duty – Black Ops III (2015)

Yes, another Call of Duty game! Say what you will, but I still love these things. Been playing them since the first game and have never touched the multiplayer in a single one of them. I WAS PLAYIN THAT SHIT BEFORE IT EVEN HAD MULTIPLAYER YO! Seriously though, to me, Call of Duty has always been about the crazy, explosive, well produced blockbuster action/thriller story campaigns and this one delivers on that once again. This one is set in the near future again in a world sort of similar to that of the one we saw in Advanced Warfare, but in some ways a little more advanced in technology. Also much like in Advanced Warfare, your first mission goes really, really well.

Actually, the game’s plot feels way too similar to Advanced Warfare at this point. You get wounded in your first mission, have to receive some cybernetic limbs and implants, and get to join a fancy new squad of soldiers only to find that your mentor figure is actually the bad guy. I was starting to get a little worried, but things turned out to be very, very different than I expected. Things start getting increasingly cyberpunk and surreal until…well, I’ll get back to that. First let’s talk about the shootin!

For the most part the shooting and linear, but extremely detailed and well-scripted levels, are exactly what you’d expect if you’ve ever played one of these games before. What makes this one different is your cyber-abilities and weapon customization. There are 3 different “classes” of cyber-cores, with 7 different powers each. One specializes in physical enhancements, another with destructive powers, and another with control/manipulation powers. You can switch between the different cores between missions or whenever you find a mobile armory in a level. I mostly used the control/manipulation powers to keep hacking enemy robots and drones over to my side or take direct remote control over them.

Fun times. You also unlock new weapons and weapon mods the more you level up. You bring one of your chosen preset loadouts on you each mission instead of the usual way of picking up whatever you find (though you can get a mod to allow you to do that later too). So, yes. Lots of delightful Call of Duty shootiness, as is to be expected.

Now…let’s talk some more about that story. Stop reading now if you don’t want all the twists given away. So this starts off seeming like a standard Call of Duty story where your boss/mentor, Taylor, goes bad and you have to hunt him down and stop his evil plans. Eventually you come to learn that he and his team are not doing this by choice, but were infected and taken over by something they found in a secret, experimental DNI testing lab that they found on their last mission. This something turns out to be a confused rogue A.I. that woke up years ago, killing everyone in the lab and causing a nerve gas leak that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. It was trapped down in the secret lab until Taylor and his team were sent to investigate. So this A.I., Corvus, can infect and control people through their DNIs and is using Taylor and friends to cause trouble with the end goal being to pretty much absorb all life. Unfortunately, in the process of learning all about this, you and your buddy Hendricks also become infected and are both slowly going insane on the way to being fully controlled by Corvus.

So then you guys pick off Taylor’s team one by one until you finally come face to face with Taylor himself, who after a big battle, ends up finally fighting back and ripping out his own DNI, killing himself in the process. Unfortunately, Hendricks is now Corvus and decides to go start more trouble and unleash even more of that same nerve gas from earlier. You track him to the headquarters of the people responsible for creating the DNIs, and Corvus, and all that other fun stuff, and hope that you can take him out and find something there to clean Corvus out of your brain at the same time. Instead you end up killing Hendricks and are about to shoot yourself in the face before Corvus takes over when Corvus sucks you into another simulation in your mind and you have to fight some crazy mental plane battle against him where you learn that Taylor is somehow floating around in cyberspace because he tore his DNI out, so he joins you, but in the process of defeating Corvus you and cyber-ghost-Taylor are somehow merged together. Luckily though, now you know how to wipe Corvus out of your mind just in time, which you do.

Bad news though: it seems that wiping Corvus also wipes your brain leaving only cyber-ghost-Taylor in your body? Maybe? Or did you really win, but also realize at the same time that you’ve been living Taylor’s life? Or something else? You know what? It doesn’t even really matter. I decided to look this up online because the way it was actually presented in the end was pretty ambiguous and unclear and was surprised to find that none of this was even the real twist. Apparently, if you have too much time on your hands and decide to record the random looking wall of classified texts that fly by way too quickly to actually read at the beginning of each mission and play them back in slow motion, they reveal that you, the player, actually died on the operating table while Taylor was in your mind giving you the cyberpunk black ops tutorial back in the beginning, and the entire game after that was all another simulation playing out in condensed time in your mind during your dying moments, built entirely from Taylor’s memories of a similar event with his boss/mentor and embellished with your own imagination by the addition of the entirely fictional Corvus. Looking back on it, there were actually a ton of hints to it (helpfully pointed out here), but at the time they all just seemed like they must be glitches caused by Corvus’ slow infection of your mind. That is one fucked up twist on an already great story. I must say though, it was kind of a dick move on their part to only make this information available through such obscure means. You would never know about this without looking it up. In fact I still have this nagging feeling that there’s still something we’re all still missing about the true ending, but we might never know because they don’t seem to have any interest in explaining one damn word of it. I have no idea why they would do that. Oh well. Still a ridiculously fun game and proof that there is often more to Call of Duty than the mindless blasting of enemies. Confusing delivery aside, it’s one of the craziest, most thought provoking stories I’ve ever seen in a game.

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