7 Reasons Why Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Is a Huge Disappointment

Printing money by pandering to dullards.

byJohn Sciarrino|
Culture photo

Every year, when Call of Duty launches a sequel, Activision takes a moment to pat itself on the back for having accomplished something new and special. Just a few days after the launch of Black Ops 3, press releases began rolling into my inbox announcing that the game had reaped an astounding $550 million in worldwide sales its first weekend, beating out Jurassic World as the biggest entertainment launch of 2015.

Coincidentally or not, both Black Ops 3 and Jurassic World are products of formulaic franchises designed to mill blockbusters, and whose cheap tricks continue to smash records. This kind of success boggles the mind when it comes to Black Ops 3. Here are a few reasons why:

Reason 1: Black Ops 3’s campaign is a ho-hum, 10-hour affair with only the occasional spike of entertainment among the mindless, run-and-gun gameplay. It’s a 12-mission yawnfest with the exception of one standout level, which I’ll tackle below.

Reason 2: The game shoehorns in sci-fi superpowers, which might get a pass had the franchise not used the exact same approach in last year’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. As it is, the superpowers seem like an admission that Treyarch, the studio responsible for Black Ops 3, is out of better ideas.

Reason 3: Treyarch has forsaken its Black Ops roots. Until now, the series under the COD banner was an over-the-top slaughterhouse, like the best kind of Eighties action flick, delivering spectacular sequences but never taking itself too seriously. But when your main character has his limbs ripped off by a robot in the first 20 minutes without any sense of humor, as happens in Black Ops 3, you know it’s gonna be a long ten hours.

Reason 4: The game includes a lazy cooperative gameplay mode for up to four people. It’s exactly the same as the solo campaign only with even more repetitive, robotic enemies that we’re already bored of killing.

Reason 5: Black Ops 3 flaunts a character customizer...as long as you choose one of a handful of cookie-cutter defaults. And for the first time, you can even be a lady! Someone told Activision that was important, though judging from the lack of options they appear to have no understanding of why.

Reason 6: The game’s online competitive matchmaking is broken. Black Ops 3 time-sucked 75 million hours from gamers in its first weekend. That’s nothing to boast about when 25 percent of those hours were likely spent waiting to enter a lopsided six-on-eight match.

Reason 7: COD’s online community still sucks. If I wanted to spend my free time being verbally abused by pre-teens who just discovered “your momma” jokes, I’d finally pursue my nightmare of being a substitute middle school teacher.

And now for the one bright spot: Zombie mode. It’s the crown jewel of Black Ops 3, the part of the game that actually “gets it” and builds on Treyarch’s pedigree of combining action, parody and celebrity. Zombie mode is less than a third of the game but has 300 percent more celebrity talent than the rest. Priorities!

Black Ops 3 is the first product of Activision’s new three-studio approach to the COD series. The extra time Treyarch had to make Black Ops 3 resulted in them biting off more than they could handle. Someone should have shared the wise words of Ron Swanson with Treyarch: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”