Call of Duty Black Ops III – Ember Tease made me doubt myself

Black Ops 3In case you missed it, Black Ops III just released a lengthy cinematic teaser trailer entitled, “Ember“. It’s a three minute long, live action, well directed and well edited piece of video game hype. I’ve already called for veteran gamers and fans of Call of Duty to walk away from the franchise, or at least refuse to buy the next release until sufficient game reviews have been written. This trailer, however, has me hopeful that at the very least we are in store for a really innovative story and campaign. The creative story arc in the teaser is absolutely brilliant as it is tethered to our modern world and the trajectory of our own technological advancements. To a certain point I wish this was a trailer for an epic movie instead of a video game, which is a testament to how good game companies are getting at hyping and drawing in would-be buyers of their product. I was a nay-sayer when I saw the newest Call of Duty title was not going to be a return to the World War era, but this trailer has me doubting my position. Don’t worry, I haven’t placed the entire bait hook in my mouth, I’m just taking a few nibbles.

Holy epic story, Batman!

If there was something I consistently praised Advanced Warfare for it was the solid campaign, story, and acting. Yes, it had a few plot holes and story elements that felt rushed or forced, but overall it was one of the most exciting and fun campaigns in a Call of Duty to date. I agree that too much seemed borrowed from Titanfall and that the Exo-suits didn’t add enough verticality or impact in the campaign, but in general, I think the single player was the best aspect of Advanced Warfare. Because I’ve already written and made a video explaining why PVP shooters aren’t fun anymore it might be time to look to single player for my enjoyment of the franchise, and hopefully the inclusion of co-op since it’s been absent from the campaign since World at War. This trailer proves that creativity and innovation exist within the space of the creative teams behind Black Ops III, and hopefully all that energy gets extended beyond flashy trailers and marketing hype. So since it is the biggest draw of the franchise, what are some ways they could improve multiplayer?

What multiplayer should add

First thing, without question, the absolute must, the deal breaker for any serious gamer should be to demand dedicated servers. The outdated net code and peer-to-peer methods of matchmaking need to go away, permanently. My biggest and most consistent gripe with Black Ops 1 and 2 as well as Advanced Warfare was the inconsistent and laggy game performance. It is incredibly frustrating to be on the good end of the connection one game and feel like everything runs as it should, only to have the next game turn you into a target dummy who seems to have blanks instead of bullets. Titanfall and Battlefield Hardline had, in my experience, almost no issues with the connection. I got consistent performance and hit detection in both of those titles, and it is largely due to the dedicated servers. If I decide to buy Black Ops III, and if they refuse to give us dedicated servers, I will only play multiplayer to document and review the continued lack of stability and smoothness we should all expect and demand from next-gen titles.

Second, I’ve already outlined numerous times how I think player behavior should be properly incentivized by changing the scoreboard, scoring mechanics, and achievements with respect to objective based game modes. If you are playing an objective focused game like Domination, then the scoreboard should only track stats, award points, and give achievements for behavior that is in line with the objective. Call of Duty is the father of selfish PVP gamers, and it’s time to bring some order. They need to de-incentivize turning everything into a strange version of team deathmatch, where everyone just goes for kills while ignoring and leveraging the objectives to make getting kills easier.

What multiplayer should avoid

I’m sure every fan of Call of Duty has a list of things they would like taken out. Rather than focus on specific perks or kill streaks, I want to speak broadly. Obviously from the trailer we are going to see an infusion of new tech enhancements and body modification that will make players look like hybrid humans, part man, part machine. This is where many players might be justifiably concerned as a lot of fans did not like the verticality and movement mechanics that came from the Exo-suits in Advanced Warfare. Even though I enjoyed the expansion of the engagements in Advanced Warfare, it can all start to feel a little cheesy and a little “Titanfall-wannabe”. My recommendation would be to weave the body enhancements and tech into the perk system, and go back to a more simplistic approach. Want to move a bit faster? Here are some tech enhanced legs to give you faster movement or extended sprint. Want to reload quicker or have snappy aim? Here is a perk to give you robotic hands with lightning fast reflexes. You can already see how, even though they are adding lots of technology to the ethos of Call of Duty, they could still strip down and simplify the customized class building and create a solid ground and justification for all the unrealistic and fast movement. If the multiplayer just becomes a hype machine where they throw too many options or too many advances at us, it will probably struggle to be balanced or even feel like Call of Duty. In general the game needs some semblance of a return to the basics that got the franchise to be so loved instead of continuing to dilute and dumb down everything with the “better, stronger, faster” mentality. The irony is that by adding so much to the franchise they have become less distinguishable as a AAA title and don’t have the distinct identity they once had. Hopefully we get, at the very least, dedicated servers and a good campaign with solid co-op, but time will tell.

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One thought on “Call of Duty Black Ops III – Ember Tease made me doubt myself

  1. Arrrrgh! I don’t want to be sucked in again :/ I haven’t really enjoyed any of them since Modern Warfare 2, but I keep getting excited every time the trailers start coming out… *sigh*

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