“Mankind’s greatest mistake will be its inability to control the technology it has created,” ominously opens the new “Ember” teaser for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. While the video doesn’t reveal anything in the way of gameplay, but it does lay the groundwork for the complex themes that the upcoming military shooter will explore.
The bulk of the trailer is a montage of human augmentation’s history, starting with athletic doping scandals in the 90s, through mapping the entire human genome, and the latest advancements in robotic prostheses. There’s even a brief nod to our current wave of wearable technology. From there it projects forward into a future filled with retinal implants, augmented athletes, neural links, and genetic upgrades for the wealthy.
As science fiction has trained us to expect, this all takes a turn for the worse, devolving into global riots against scientists “playing god,” and accusations from a Snowden-looking whistleblower that the United States government is creating augmented super-soldiers (which — let’s be real — they are totally working on). The timeline stops at 2065, which probably means that is when the game will take place.
“Neural control, voluntary limb replacement: this is happening,” opines the trailer’s Edward Faux-den. “The only question that remains is: how far will we allow it to go?” Cut to “III” and the promise of a world reveal on April 26.
This line of inquiry about the technological future toward which we are moving should sound especially familiar to anyone who has played the Deus Ex games. 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and its recently-announced sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, focus on the dangers — technological, social, and otherwise — of giving people cybernetic augmentations that don’t just replace lost functionality, but make people faster, stronger, and more capable than was naturally possible.
It’s a natural theme for video games to explore these days both because it’s relevant to the increasingly sci-fi realities afforded by the progress of science, and because it slots very naturally into the super-powered upgrade mechanics so prevalent in recent shooters. Why run around and shoot at each other from behind walls like real soldiers do when you can punch through those walls and leap over buildings like a cyborg super soldier?
Activision has confirmed that Call of Duty: Black Ops III, developed by Treyarch, will arrive later this year.