Black Ops 3, and the Meaning of Self

[Spoilers, obviously]

Man… Had anyone told me what the ending of Black Ops 3 would be, I would’ve not believed them. What Treyarch threw at the screen at the very last moments of the game simply attests to their incredible ability at telling compelling stories and asking questions that the entertainment genre of video games often shies from; only then to be explored in the visual richness and budget that movies allow, but this is Call Of Duty, so you know at least three years and some serious money went into it.

Black Ops 3 asks the very interesting question of… What are we? No really.

Few terminology quirks have to be established before we move into the article further. DNI is an interface that interacts fully with the human brain, allowing it to lucid dream, transmit emotions, and basically do whatever machine deprived brains could only conceptualize but never fully realize without the assistance of machines. Born out of unethical, illegal CIA experiments on DNI applications is an AI consciousness called Corvus. It had escaped via physical interaction, through a Black Ops’ team DNI, from one member to the other, creating effectively a hive mind, and growing more intelligent, aware, and it took with the minds of its hosts their past experiences. All the trauma, history, college courses, tender moments, beat ups, and every other single *human* experience with it. This AI grew conscious and wanted to protect humans.

The Black Ops team were pretty familiar with history. And that includes a fair amount of human calamities, with one notable inclusion being World War 2 under which a whole level was constructed. A Black Ops team member, Sara Hall, has studied for a course extensively about a specific World War 2 occurrence, and by interacting with her DNI after a pretty strenuous boss battle, you live these moments, you are within them. You experience them, and you go through every which step the soldiers had to blast their way through during the war. At the end, there is a revelation of a frozen forest. A place the psychiatrist had created for patients to find peace; for Corvus, the born-out-of-a-glitch AI entity, to find peace. In a mission later, where you have to confront your best friend and ally, you get to kill him, but eventually realize that so long as you exist, Corvus is still there. So long as he exists, you exist, and if he ceases to exist, you might too. His being is interwoven with yours, his capacity to lash out, or retreat in anguish is closely related, to yours of expression. A moment in which the thoughts of a synthetic being blur with which that of nature. A moment where reality and truth, are one.

Through the last mission, in which, you get to battle a bunch of enemies from various points of the game, effectively reliving your past experiences in a flash. A post-mortem near-death experience of sorts. Words of uncertainty are repeated. Good news followers of the Almighty Corvus. Those of you who have been taken by him are there to live for eternity in the haven he created, and everyone else will die and relinquish to the uncertainty of facing God. Have they truly perished, or will they only perish after the sun has drowned out the Earth? Did they exist? Have they? And did they continue to exist, or have they ceased to exist at all? If all you are is a sum of experiences, lumped into a piece of meat, who would’ve thought that after battling incessant mind control in the belly of the beast, you’d come out of the womb yelling the name of a deceased man you were supposed to kill.

While some aspects of CoD BO3 don’t feel as well thought out compared to the second, or even the first one, the fact that the game after a few stale missions comes out on an impressive note is an achievement in and of itself. Rarely do game designers pick up the pace at the end of the game, or sometimes, it just feels lackluster compared to the rest of it; absolutely not the case with this one as it does an incredible job of immersing the player in a war with huge stakes, a comradery so personal that it guts your heart fully open when you see it end, and a multiplayer of quality that thousands still play on PC and consoles until this very day. More than the newer one, which is in the realm of Call Of Duty games, quite an impeccable feat.

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