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Call of Duty: Black Ops III had a challenge during its release, and that's the matter of revolutionizing a game from one console generation to the next. Did it fail in doing such a thing? Let's find out! The developer of the game, Treyarch, took the Call of Duty franchise in bizarre (new) directions with the Cold War conspiracy in the first Black Ops back in 2010, and in 2012 it picked up the slack left by the series originator Infinity Ward's implosion, taking the lead with Black Ops 2. It wasn't that Black Ops 2 was perfect, but it had ambition leaking... from... certain places, changing what people could hope for from a Call of Duty campaign while introducing the first major changes to the series' world-dominating multiplayer system. With Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Treyarch shifted direction again, with a major investment in cooperative play in the game's campaign and the introduction of new flexibility and character creation tools. But in its efforts to bring player decision to more of the fundamental gameplay aspects of Call of Duty, Treyarch has made a game that doesn't really excel at any one aspect. Call of Duty: Black Ops III takes place in the same world that Treyarch's previous Call of Duty games have, though that doesn't make much of a difference. It's another futuristic world teetering on the brink of destruction, where the lines between military and corporate significance are clouded. For the first time in the series, the campaign allows you to create a character, with a variety of ethnicity options represented. In another first for the series, you also can elect to be a male or female protagonist, each of which is fully voiced and acted within the most cutscene-driven Call of Duty campaign ever! The story starts with some strong potential, featuring a top-of-the-line performance by Christopher Meloni as he explains how vital total informational awareness is, and reveals the power and necessity of the cyber rig, a set of cybernetic enhancements your character quickly finds themselves dependent on. But Black Ops III strangely fails to capitalize on the big narrative beats of the series. All of Treyarch's world-building does serve to set up changes to some of Black Ops' fundamentals. Black Ops 3 tosses all of its predecessor's narrative and mission choices, returning to the linear structure of previous games. In their place, Treyarch introduces a host of new flexibility and offensive options courtesy of the aforementioned cyber rigs. This starts in the most promising way possible, in a virtual reality training mission that gives you basically every possible cyber upgrade at once. It was a lot of fun learning to exploit the environment there, hacking turrets, running on walls, double jumping with aplomb — but then Black Ops III threw all of that away, introducing a trio of skill trees in its place. As you play through the game, you'll earn cyber cores — including extras for better performance, which is tracked via a campaign scoring system — which can be used to upgrade your rig and unlock and improve those cyber abilities. You can't have every ability at once (that blows) — until, that is, you reach level 20 on your campaign profile, which I hit on my hardened difficulty on my playthrough of the game. This is where Black Ops III's other big addition comes in: full co-op support. Every mission in Black Ops III supports up to four players, each of whom can outfit their soldier as they would in multiplayer, complete with weapon attachments and an array of the popular Pick 10 system introduced in Black Ops 2's online component. But throughout the campaign, the goal of accommodating both cooperative play and player customization has as many negative side effects as it does positive conclusions. Everything is better with more people, and Black Ops III isn't going to ruin friendships. But the occasions where true tactical engagement required multiple people felt minimal. Usually, my partner or I would pick things off at a distance while the other did whatever there was to do at a spot on the map. Often, this was shooting a weak point somewhere (that my buddy and I missed), or doing the sorts of timed button press activities Call of Duty is kind of known for. Wrap-Up: At its heart, Black Ops III's multiplayer is still very much Treyarch's take on Call of Duty. It's fun — Call of Duty and Black Ops found a basis for solid, competitive multiplayer that worked almost a decade ago, and it still resonates here and there. But I'm surprised by how familiar, how recognizable it all feels, which is even more disappointingly the case with its campaign. Black Ops III's biggest point of recommendation may be the breadth of content there, and that's a valid point of view. But Treyarch doesn't meaningfully move the series forward with this game. Final Note: Although the game exists on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, it should be noted that the campaign doesn't exist on those platforms due to the technical limitations of the older platforms. Editor's Score: 7.5