The game Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a couple years old now, but I have been feeling this quite passionately since I first experienced it this past November at my brother’s house in Grand Rapids. If you don’t want the plot spoiled for you, please look away at this time.
So, Black Ops III is a clunky rendition of the new standard CoD fare: too much tech and too little character bonding time. Being able to take out droids with the wave of a hand makes me think too much about Mass Effect’s biotics idea. Admittedly, Black Ops III keeps to one character (like most of the first volume) and allows one to become emotionally invested when your hero gets their limbs ripped off by some droid things. There is one thing for me that makes the whole story a waste of my time: your player character has been dead since after the second mission. Why am I playing a game where my character doesn’t even save the world? They change nothing in the course of the CoD canon. Menendez pops up once, but Three proves itself to be irrelevant otherwise, which is a shame because it is so darn pretty-looking and the drama does make one buy in through the talented voice acting.
Strike one for me was the futility of wishing your player was actually a piece of history (they aren’t – it’s more like a really long, really awkward wet dream). Strike two is a blow that Treyarch more than likely did not intend or see coming: Black Ops III is the first female player character option of the franchise, period. And, that very first female player character option isn’t even a part of the canon. While if you select the male option you have a bastardized version of Alex Mason running around in someone else’s head, the female character hits harder because she is a she, and an (implied) queer she at that. In other words, the one woman worth a damn in the world of CoD is actually just a replaceable lawn ornament in the actual story of John Taylor, the male protagonist. Shocking. If that doesn’t trivialize the female identity of this franchise, I don’t know what does.
This is not to be confused with an all-out assault on what is, truly, a fun experience: my female player character is the background on my phone, and she is posted with this article (oh yeah, strike three was when they couldn’t even name the player character, or let you pick it: can I get an “amen” from the Mass Effect fandom??). I love her voice acting, her appearance, her dignity and the way that the gender neutrality brings to my mind a sense of true equality between the portrayals of a male or female lead. I do love this game. I was very upset by my character dying, over(the maiming), and over(second mission), and over (third mission onward), and over (the fight with Corvus). I just really wish, in my heart of hearts, that they had saved the dead-the-entire-time plot twist for Infinite Warfare, which I have not played, and probably won’t because there is no female character that I know of that you can play as.