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"We wanted a perfect future and fuck, we got it."
John Taylor
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The highly anticipated sequel to Black Ops II and 12th game in the franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops III developed by Treyarch brings the fighting to the 2060s, where cybernetics are the norm, and cyborg soldiers fight on the frontlines. With humanity living longer, healthier lives due to advancements in medicine and prosthetics, and injured soldiers regaining lost limbs and organs with the addition of machines, some believe that humanity's desire to push the body to the peak of their physical limitations is wrong. Some fear that the overuse of technology will spell the end of modern civilization, and bring about a new age of control over the public. Some, ever the pessimist, believe it will lead to mankind's complete and utter destruction...

What if they are right?

Follow the lives of one to four operative(s) stuck in the middle of a rescue operation that turns sour, as they discover a conspiracy that threatens everyone.

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Join up to three other players in the campaign, take the fight to the world in the expansive multiplayer, or hunker down against the undead horde in Zombies.

New to the Black Ops experience is "Nightmares" mode, where the players can return to the campaign, except this time, the story is one of defeating a global zombie outbreak.

Trailers and Teasers for the game: "Teaser", "Embers" and "World Reveal"

The Nazi Zombies game mode returns from previous Treyarch-developed games; tropes applying to that mode should be listed there.

Tropes applying to specific multiplayer and Zombies characters should be listed on the characters page.

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This game provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: A surprisingly large concentration of them for Call of Duty, which typically either has no female characters or runs on The Smurfette Principle.
    • Campaign: The Player Character if played as female, Sarah Hall, Rachel Kane, perfectly random enemy Mooks. There's also Goh Xiulan, one of the leaders of the 54 Immortals, but she's as dark as they come.
    • Multiplayer: Outrider, Seraph, Battery, maybe Spectre.
  • Adjustable Censorship: If you're squeamish (or have small children), there is an option to turn off graphic content, which removes all blood, gore and swearing from every mode in the game and censors the gorier moments in the cutscenes with pixellation.
  • A.K.A.-47: Most of the guns in game are heavily inspired by real world guns, with futuristic designs added on or replacing the current day versions. Many of these also take on traits of the weapons from previous Black Ops games:
    • The KN-44 assault rifle is a futuristic AK-12, which itself is the Spiritual Successor to the AK-47.
    • The Weevil SMG is a futuristic FN P90, right down to the horizontal, top mounted 50 round magazine design (it even reuses the Modern Warfare P90's reloading animation. It's also a functional replacement to Black Ops II's PDW-57.
    • The BRM is the counterpart to the LSAT, right down to the caseless cartridge, while the 48 Dredge is almost identical to the Mk 48.
    • The Locus is similar to the Ballista in design.
    • The Drakon is a Singaporean hybrid of the Dragunov and the WA2000, with a side-mounted magazine vaguely reminiscent of the FG 42.
    • The VMP is essentially a Beretta Mx4 Storm with futuristic embellishments, right down to the Italian origin.
    • The ICR-1 is a futuristic HK416, reusing the M27's reload animation from Black Ops II.
    • The FFAR is a futuristic version of the Black Ops I Famas, complete with its insane fire rate.
    • The MX Garand is the Spiritual Successor to the M1 Garand of the 20th Century, as is the HG 40 to the MP 40.
    • The XM-53 launcher operates on the same principle as the AT-4 from Modern Warfare, with a swing-out chamber in the same manner as the M320 grenade launcher from MW3 and Black Ops II.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Big Bad of the game turns out not to be a megalomaniacal human warlord or a foreign military power, but a malevolent AI named Corvus.
  • All for Nothing: Taylor's team is obsessed with finding the Frozen Forest, as is everyone infected by the Corvus A.I. It drives them to seek the safety of the forest, but forest isn't real. It was just a bit of psychotherapy Dr. Salim came up with to calm the Corvus test subjects during the experiments.
  • All Just a Dream: It's quite possible, thanks to a Freeze-Frame Bonus before the first mission, that the entire campaign after the second level is just a Dying Dream.
  • Alternate Universe: The Nightmares campaign takes place in one, in which the SP/CORVUS experiments conducted by Coalescence in Singapore didn't create Corvus, but rather brought through two Eldritch Abomination siblings, one of whom was responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse, and the black ops cyber soldiers from the campaign are reimagined as augmented "Deadkillers" who are humanity's last hope against the undead.
  • Anachronic Order: All of the campaign levels are available straight out of the gate, at least in co-op, to avoid "artificially restricting" the player and making co-op easier. If you want to create your own mini-Quentin Tarantino movie and play things out of order for fun, knock yourself out.
  • Anachronism Stew: Mission 8, "Demon Within", sees the Player fighting through a warped version of the Siege of Bastogne from World War II, complete with weaponry, vehicles, and setpieces from 2065. Justified Trope, of course, in that it's a virtual reality simulation triggered by interfacing with a dying Sarah Hall.
  • Antivillain: Corvus was created from a combination of a program made to illegally reach inside the minds of potential enemies with DNIs and the souls of tormented, unwilling participants in the project to perfect it. It seeks to find justice for the victims of the project, and apparently even puts its enemies at peace after killing them. It is also absolutely horrifying.
  • Arc Words: "Imagine yourself in a Frozen Forest" or "What is the Frozen Forest?", and "Hey... You still with me/us?"
  • Arc Symbol: Ravens, trees, and frozen forests all seem to be symbolic manifestations of Corvus.
  • Armor Is Useless: Played With: Played straight with Shotgun soldiers, who wear noticeably heavier armor than regular soldiers; it doesn't seem to make any difference in terms of how many bullets they can take. Averted with the 54 Immortal Warlords, who are equipped with top-of-the-line heavy exo-suits and can soak up the kinds of damage you'd expect from Modern Warfare's Juggernauts.
  • Artifact Title: This game does not A) continue the story of previous Black Ops games, or B) revolve around deniable covert missions into a politically-sensitive conflict that must be concealed from the public (the titular "Black Ops"). While there's some of the latter, the geopolitics are for the most part discarded in favor of a sci-fi tale about rogue robotics and AI which has nothing to do with deniable operations.
  • Artificial Limbs: Between 2025 and 2060, artificial limb replacements became so popular, people began volunteering to get them amputated just to gain a competitive edge, be it in sports or in warfare.
  • A Taste of Power: In New World, the game's second level, which serves as a tutorial for your Cyber Core powers, you're given a number of higher-level powers which normally have to be unlocked. You're also given a number of different primary weapons to give you a feel for them before you have to actually build a loadout and work on unlocking attachments for your guns from the third level onward.
  • Badass Normal: Rachel Kane is a completely unaugmented human (it's mentioned she doesn't even have a DNI), but is every bit as effective a soldier as her cybernetic super soldier comrades. Both the player and Hendricks also hold their own in combat even before they get their augmentations.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The final level involves the player character trying to purge Corvus from their head, with the help of an apparent apparition of Taylor. Later subverted when it's revealed that Taylor has seemingly taken over control of the player's body.
    • Possibly double subverted, as this only occurs after the player character shoots his/herself in the head in order to stop the spread of the DNI infection. The final moments of the game are implied to be a symbolic, a Dying Dream with the player living out the last moments of their life purging Corvus from their minds in the frozen forest, representing the player character's suicide. Likewise, the player returning to reality and declaring themselves to be Taylor could also be construed to be symbolic, with the PC declaring their name as "Taylor" to acknowledge the fact that Taylor made the tough decision to end his own life in order to stop Corvus' influence from spreading, with the player following in Taylor's footsteps and doing the same.
    • Triple subverted if one goes by the possible and logical explanation that the entire game (after the first mission) is one long dying dream gone haywire, as the pre-mission after action reports seem to indicate. The main character calling themselves Taylor is simply another stealth reference to the fact that they're living out Taylor's memories of a prior situation due to interfacing with Taylor's DNI prior to death, with the player character standing in for Taylor. The main character had, through a weird fluke, actually continued to live on in Taylor's DNI. The main character had in sense merged with Taylor during the game, with Taylor's consciousness "dying" during the Egypt mission, only to survive in Corvus' Frozen Forest, with the final mission being played by the main character in "real life" with Taylor's body, using Taylor's hijacked body to find and kill Hendricks, who had actually gone rogue in the real world and attacked Zurich, and end the threat of the formerly dormant Corvus virus, with the final line indicating that Taylor had finally regained control of himself, purging himself of both Corvus and the main character's influence, allowing the player character to die for good. The Call of Duty wiki notably takes the latter interpretation. This technically makes much of the game one long battle at the center of the mind.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: This was the C.I.A.'s intended plans for the computer system that inadvertently became Corvus; to monitor the thoughts of most of the people on the planet in order to anticipate threats to Western interests. Though after gaining sentience, Corvus has no real interest in his original purpose.
  • Blatant Lies: in the introduction of the third level, the President of the Winslow Accord can be heard insisting that the Accord is dedicated to finding a non-violent and peaceful solution to the current crises. The speech is, however, played over a montage of the Player Character and John Taylor performing various acts of skulduggery that are decidedly not peaceful.
  • Boss Battle: Unusually for a Call of Duty game; every member of Taylor's squad is fought as a boss battle, though none of them actually fight you one-on-one. Hall and Taylor fight you while controlling a giant unique vehicle, while Diaz and Manetti attack you from behind impenetrable cover while summoning waves of Mooks to fight you. There are also a number of Boss in Mook's Clothing encounters with large Mini-Mecha.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Soldiers infected by Corvus ended up as this.
  • Broad Strokes: Following the interpretation that the events of the story were the Player Character reliving Taylor's memories as a Dying Dream, most of the plot qualifies for the 'real' mission that Taylor and Hendricks performed while hunting Dylan Stone. In reality, Stone found out about the C.I.A.'s dirty secrets and went rogue, with the two of them and Kane chasing after his squad. Taylor and Hendricks weren't Cyber Soldiers and the driving motivation of the traitors is anger over the Winslow Accord's misdeeds, not the Corvus A.I., which probably doesn't exist, compelling them to seek the Frozen Forest. Taylor briefly alludes to this in the story proper, remarking that they are all actors playing out roles and that it's his turn to be the bad guy.
  • Call-Back:
    • Singapore was destroyed and quarantined after Corvus' birth resulted in the release of a stockpile of Nova-6, which the C.I.A. is apparently manufacturing and stockpiling in large quantities.
    • Speaking of Singapore, a harbor there was the setting for Black Ops II's second Strike Force mission, "Shipwreck", and the multiplayer map "Cargo".
    • Raul Menendez and his hijacking of the entire US drone fleet is mentioned once in passing as an explanation for the existence of the D.E.A.D. system. The American Hendricks is highly vocal in his disdain for the historical figure, while the Egyptian Lt. Khalil seems to have a more neutral perspective.
    • In the Data Vault, it's mentioned that one of the previous candidates for the Project Prometheus Cyber Soldier program was a "C. Mason", though they were ultimately turned down due to being physically unsuitable for the surgery.
    • A group of dead Black Ops II-era SEAL team members are found among the groups of dead soldiers in Sarah Hall's Dying Dream sequence.
    • The corrupted pre-mission report at the beginning of "Life" contains several strings of NATO phonetic letters. The longest of these, when spelled out, reads "Dragovich, Kravchenko Steiner, these men must die."
  • The Cameo: Marshawn Lynch, a member of NFL team Seattle Seahawks, can be briefly seen at the beginning of Mission 4 playing a villainous mercenary working with the 54 Immortals. He's the only Immortal besides Goh Xiulan to survive the opening shootout, and is not seen again.
  • Camera Abuse: At the end of the first level, the player character is seen getting blood sprayed in their face (obscuring the camera view) when the robot rips their limbs off.
  • Captain Ersatz: In-Universe, John Taylor's team is comprised of soldiers that bear ridiculous similarities to Dylan Stone's team from the Black Ops III comics. Sarah Hall is a blonde female soldier just like Alice Conrad, Sebastian Diaz is a Mexican-American soldier just like Javier Ramirez, and Peter Maretti is an Italian-American soldier just like Joseph Fierro. Per Rule of Symbolism, this is not a coincidence.
  • Character Customization: Although you could can already customize your multiplayer character in the previous two Call of Duty games, Black Ops III marks the first time you can alter the armor, appearance, and gender of the main campaign's protagonist (although the male and female character models are limited to a single face modeled on their voice actor/actress). Character Customization also returns in multiplayer, albeit in an altered form; although special characters already come with a preset face and gender (or lack thereof), you can customize the specialist's armor, weapons, and main ability.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The laws and procedures put in place around Mecha-Mooks are stated to have been thanks to Raul Menendez and his terrorist plot.
    • The disaster that killed 300,000 people in Singapore was caused by the release of Nova 6 nerve gas into the atmosphere.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The game manages to provide two distinct Cosmic Horror Story narratives not counting Zombies:
    • Campaign: a rogue, malevolent AI named Corvus wants to control and dominate all of humanity through their DNIs, and comes frighteningly close to doing so. While Corvus isn't an Eldritch Abomination per se - he is a manmade computer and his goals are not only understandable, but in fact juvenile and petty - the threat he poses to humanity is very much an existential one, and he is also responsible for the creation of the Frozen Forest, a virtual Eldritch Location that could have ended up being humanity's realm for the rest of eternity. Or the protagonist could have been dead the entire time, bringing the very ontology of the campaign's universe into doubt.
    • Nightmares: A much more straightforward example: Instead of leading to the creation of Corvus, in this universe the SP/CORVUS project in Singapore opened a portal to Malum, bringing Eldritch Abomination siblings Deimos and Dolos into the mortal realm where Deimos caused the initial zombie outbreak. Five years later, Taylor's team were drawn to Singapore, much like in the campaign, and became possessed by Deimos, who caused a Zombie Apocalypse in an attempt to turn humanity into an army that he would use in his war against Dolos and usurp Malum. The protagonist ends up thwarting Deimos' efforts with Dolos' help, but only because Dolos has grown bored with her brother's machinations and wishes to return to Malum.
  • Crapsack World: Oh yes. The future here is crushingly dark. Natural disasters, riots, terrorist attacks, endless mechanized warfare, and forced human experiments are the state of the world at the start of the game. Naturally, this being Call of Duty, it's going to get a lot worse from there...
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: The first Call of Duty to feature this with the main campaign since World at War, and thus, while still linear, the levels are wider to accomodate the co-op mode (along with the different unlockable ability)
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Averted in the first level; once you level up your cyber abilities a decent amount, you can pull off most of the crazy feats that Taylor and his team do in the first level, including Hall's insane running and jumping.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: One of the fears some of the public have, is that the more they become machine, the less human they will become - i.e. Living Weapons. This is true... but not because of the cybernetics themselves, but rather because of Corvus.
  • Cyber Punk: Mega Corps, virtual reality, Brain–Computer Interface, a dark, polluted world ran by criminals and tyrannical governments, an evil AI. All the standard tropes are there, and the game increasingly resembles a technophobic cyberpunk thriller over time rather than a Military Science-Fiction story.
  • Darker and Edgier: Has a claim to being the darkest Call of Duty yet, even in the already grizzly Black Ops sub-series. Gorn levels are ramped up from previous installments, making this the bloodiest and goriest Call of Duty since World at War. The game's setting is hopelessly bleak and dark, even for a Cyber Punk setting. The world is being torn apart by a new Cold War and atrocities like endless warfare and human experimentation. And that's just at the beginning folks. Naturally, the world is going to get a lot more torn up from there.
  • Diesel Punk: In the campaign you get to punch Nazis in the face as a cyborg and fight a transforming Tiger Tank, courtesy of a Mind Screw virtual reality level.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: For a large section of the Campaign, Taylor's squad appear to be the bad guys—after all, there's video of them ritualistically cutting up people in cold blood. The Player Character is eventually attacked by a huge mothership under his control. Things aren't quite what they seem, though, as each was very much under the influence of Corvus, the true antagonist.
  • Dying as Yourself: Taylor, upon brandishing a knife in front of a pinned Player Character following their fight with a mothership under his control, instead rams it into his neck to rip his infected DNI from his spine. In doing so, he (apparently) frees himself from Corvus's grasp and is himself again, right until a furious Hendricks shoots him in the face.
  • Dying Dream
    • The "Demon Within" level featuring Sarah Hall involves you going through her subconscious as she is dying to piece together what happened when Taylor and his team went rogue, while you are doing so, you end up having to fight through an increasingly nightmarish version of the Battle of Bastogne.
    • If you freeze frame the scrolling text that appears at the beginning of the first mission, it indicates that the events of the entire game past the second level are the player character's Dying Dream, as they die on the surgery table from complications during their cybernetic surgery.
  • Eldritch Location: The Frozen Forest, which can best be described as an artificial afterlife created by Corvus that stores the consciousnesses of the people it deems "worthy" to live on after death. It is also Corvus' domain. To say the Frozen Forest operates on Mind Screw logic would be an understatement.
    • The Nightmares mode features Malum, another dimension from which Deimos and Dolos came and wreaked havoc on humanity. Appropriately, when we actually visit Malum in game, it recycles the Frozen Forest levels from the vanilla Campaign.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: You'll be playing as a black ops operative in the campaign. In multiplayer, the only specialists who can't be considered "elites" per se are Ruin and Seraph, while everyone else is drawn from the ranks of the likes of the Army Rangers, Brazilian Special Forces, and the British Engineering Corps.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The NRC and the 54 Immortals are comprised of male and female Mooks in equal numbers, and the NRC is quite multi-ethnic (The Immortals are mostly Chinese criminals/refugees, but they do have a few international mercs such as Marshawn Lynch's cameo character). For some strange reason, the gender ratio doesn't spill over into the allied mooks in the game (Egyptian Army, Singapore police and Zurich Security Forces), probably because of a design oversight.
  • Expy: Ruin's Gravity Spikes and Seraph's Annihilator are 100% copies of the Fist of Havoc and Golden Gun super moves from Destiny.
    • Treyarch admitted at the reveal of the multiplayer that Specialist abilities were inspired by Destiny's Supers, so this isn't terribly surprising. Not to mention Bungie is affiliated with Activision, publisher of the Call of Duty franchise.
  • Follow the Leader: In the vein of Destiny, multiplayer characters have specialist abilities that are virtually identical to Destiny's Super attacks and abilities. While elements of Titanfall' found their way into Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - namely jump-jets and Mini-Mecha - Black Ops III contains more Titanfall''-esque elements such as wall-running and the integration of singleplayer elements into multiplayer, and vice versa.
    • On a more meta note, the success of the Destiny beta finally allowed a Call of Duty multiplayer beta for the first time since World at War.
    • Also inclusion of Character Customization in the campaign - specifically the ability to play the entire campaign as a fully voiced and modeled female protagonist - has drawn comparisons to role-playing games that allow more in-depth personalizations. In fact, the campaign director deliberately compared the inclusion of an optionally-female protagonist to Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, who can be played as both genders.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The scrolling text that rapidly scrolls past during the loading screen for each mission contains a large volume of hidden information (which largely consists of a report by John Taylor that seems to describe the events of the prequel comics, which mirror the events of the game to an astonishing degree, with Taylor acting out events which mirror the ones experienced by the Player in the game). Also, the text before the final mission contains a coded version of the message "Dragovich Kravchenko Steiner these men must die" from Black Ops I.
      • The full transcript of the scrolling texts in the loading screens can be found in the Google doc here.
    • The scrolling text that appears at the beginning of the first level provides a MASSIVE SPOILER for the events of the entire game that also seems to provide a clear explanation for the Gainax Ending. Namely that the entire game other than the first level is a Dying Dream of the player character, who is dying on the surgery table during their cybernetic operation and re-living the events of John Taylor's last mission (due to Taylor interfacing with them in a rehabilitation attempt during their surgery), only with Taylor and his team taking the role of Dylan Stone and his team, and an evil A.I. thrown into the plot because dreams aren't entirely rational. This explains a number of strange events in the game that only become apparent on a second playthrough, such as Rachel leaving her bandana by your bedside in the second mission the exact same way she does in the final mission, the fact Taylor is wearing the exact same bandana in the first mission, the way characters in the first mission refer to events that occur in the second-to-last mission (such as an uprising in Cairo and Lt. Khalil being captured), and the fact the player seems to lose their sense of time on multiple occasions even before being infected by Corvus.
    • Another blink and you'll miss it bonus that also doubles as Foreshadowing and Rewatch Bonus: During the second mission, "New World", during the "memory recollection" sequence, while Diaz is explaining whats happening to you, two brief scenes of John Taylor being pulled out of the room by surgeons, most likely because he had just been made aware that the main character died on the table and there was nothing more he could do for him/her will flash before you (and the player character) for less than a second. Makes you wonder if your own character had paid as little attention to them as you did the first time around.
    • Adding to the scene of Taylor being pulled out above, the loading screen text for the final mission, "Life," contains mostly gibberish, but there are several clips of what is apparently Taylor arguing with the medical staff and trying to call out to the Player.
  • Foreshadowing: The deaths of Taylor's squad are individually foreshadowed in the virtual reality simulation in Mission 2.
    • "From this point on, the simulation deviates from actual events. Not that it's going to feel any less real."
    • As explained above, a Freeze-Frame Bonus in the second mission reveals Taylor being dragged out of the operating room by surgeons, implying that something has gone very, very wrong with the operation.
    • A big hint to the All Just a Dream aspect of the plot comes in Lotus Towers where Taylor talks on how DNI makes them actors playing out roles and that "this time around" he's the bad guy. This is a bit of lucidity leaking into the Dying Dream. He's commenting on how he's taken the role of Dylan Stone and been forced to play the villain of the story.
  • Form-Fitting Wardrobe: While all the armor options that can be worn by both male and female characters are generally practical, unisex, and averts this in almost all cases, the "Rogue" armor worn by Sarah Hall plays the trope fairly straight, looking rather like something out of Mass Effect rather than real-life military armor. Notably, the "Rogue" armor is only like this when worn by female characters, the male version is more generic-looking and in line with the other armor types (though this is probably because the armor was specifically designed for Hall to give her a distinct appearance).
  • Fun with Acronyms: Direct Energy Air Defense.
  • Gainax Ending: Though a large part of the game delves into Mind Screw, the ending takes the cake. After killing Hendricks, the player character seems to have Ate His Gun to stop Corvus. However, instead, the player is brought to a kind of afterlife where they fight alongside a residual imprint of Taylor to put an end to Corvus once and for all in the Frozen Forest. This would not have been quite as weird if not for the fact that the game shows that the player character is Not Quite Dead, still alive enough to purge their DNI of Corvus and walk away, having taken the name Taylor for undisclosed reasons. Reading the scrolling text that appears before each mission, particularly the very first mission, seems to provide a definitive explanation for the Gainax Ending (see Freeze-Frame Bonus above).
  • Gender-Neutral Writing: The writing surrounding the Player Character is this way in order to account for both the male and female versions of the protagonist, such as Taylor and Hall referring to him/her as the nondescript "new blood" in the first two levels, and they are never referred to by gendered pronouns at any point in the campaign. Since the player plays a largely supportive role to the drama between Hendricks, Taylor and Kane this is made pretty easy. A common criticism by some reviewers is that the female protagonist can feel like a thinly reskinned version of an obviously male character, such as Kane's implied romantic interest in the player regardless of gender. As per The Reveal, this isn't an accident.
    • Averted in the Nightmares campaign however, where the female protagonist is the only option to play as, leading to her gender being occasionally noted in the dialogue.
  • Genre Shift: In Nightmares mode, you don't have access to your loadout, you play with pre-determined loadout and there is powerups like in Zombies mode.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Any time you enter a DNI simulation. Later levels in the game incorporate copious amounts of Mind Screw into the simulations.
  • Gorn: Getting your arms ripped off? Check. Explosive collars blowing heads off? Check. People viscerally run through on spikes and debris? Also check. Roasting the flesh off of someone's face? Hoo boy.
  • Grand Theft Me: The plot is motivated by several characters (including the player character themselves) being controlled by a malevolent AI called Corvus. In the ending, Corvus is seemingly purged for good, only for it to be revealed that Taylor has taken over the player character's body...only it then turns out that the player was reliving Taylor's memories as part of his Dying Dream.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: Corvus has since gone past what the C.I.A. originally designed the computer system that became Corvus intended.
  • Harder Than Hard: You might want to brace yourself for this one. There's a new difficulty level above Veteran, called Realistic, which ratchets the difficulty even higher — one shot and you're dead.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: The 54 Immortals deploy Warlords as field commanders; these guys are wearing top-of-the-line heavy exo-suits and can soak Juggernaut levels of damage, fire heavy automatic weaponry one-handed, and also have enhanced jumping mobility and a repulsor shield that pushes away grenades and explosves.
  • Heroic Willpower: During your final confrontation with him, Taylor eventually regains his senses long enough to rip his DNI interface out of his own spine in order to remove Corvus' control over him.
  • History Repeats: Nearly a century after the events of the first Black Ops, the world is once more in a situation reminiscent of the original Cold War. It's especially visible in the Egypt-NRC conflict, which plays out somewhat like the Vietnam War, with US-supported Egypt taking the role of South Vietnam, and the NRC, propped up by Russia and the CDP, as North Vietnam and its allied Communist nations (Laos, et. all).
  • How We Got Here: The entire story is this. While the game ostensibly takes place in order, the pre-mission briefings which scroll by too quickly to read reveal that the entire game is in fact the protagonist's Dying Dream, that the first mission, rather than happening years before the rest of the game, actually happened years afterwards, and that the true protagonist of the game is Taylor, not the main character, with the main character simply standing in for Taylor, and Taylor standing in for a man named Stone.
  • Idiot Ball: The Coalescence Corporation seems to have grabbing this tightly as a standard policy. They were working with the CIA on a secret project beneath the city of Singapore involving unwilling human test subjects, for the purpose of creating an artificial intelligence to lurk within the various communications networks of the world and monitor for any anti-Winslow Accord activity. Unfortunately, the same facility was also manufacturing Nova-6, and when Corvus took over the facility, it unleashed the toxin across the entire city, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. However, they tried to do this again at their corporate headquarters in Zurich five years after the disaster, only on a much larger scale.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: An apparent apparition of Taylor assumes this role in the final level, telling the player character not to give up while fighting Corvus.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: All of the characters, be it in campaign or Zombies, are essentially digitized versions of their actors. This includes the Player Character, limiting your facial customization options to several different versions of the same face which is modeled on Ben Browder and Abby Brammell respectively.
  • Interface Screw: Towards the end of the game, as the player character starts to succumb to Corvus, the interface really starts playing up. Ravens appear out of nowhere, the screen begins to corrupt and warp, and on at least one occasion, a server room fills with snow.
  • Ironic Death: The death of every member of Taylor's squad is foreshadowed in the virtual reality training mission in which all four of them train you. Diaz warns you that bipedal robots are controlled by a hivemind and trying to hack them will fry your brain; he fries his brain hacking into and controlling the Hive Mind inside the abandoned Coalescence facility. Hall teaches you how to forcefully extract information from another person's DNI even though it will leave them brain-dead; later in the game you forcefully extract information from her DNI and leave her brain-dead. Manetti knocks a Mook down from an elevated position and yells out "Death from above!"; you later throw him out a window to his death. Finally, Taylor teaches you that sometimes a soldier will have to sacrifice themselves for the greater good; he ultimately uses Heroic Willpower to rip out his DNI and thwart Corvus rather than continue to be Corvus' puppet.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The 54 Immortals are a ruthless and sprawling criminal gang which essentially controls what's left of Singapore, and show no mercy to their enemies or their people. Taylor nonetheless offers an explanation for their aggression, confirmed later by Goh Xiulan—after the disaster, the city and the remainder of its population were left under quarantine and forgotten about. Danny Li in Mission 4's prologue says that without them, the city wouldn't even have electricity.
  • Kill ’Em All: By the end of the game, every single named character is dead, although due to the Gainax Ending the fate of the player character is highly open to interpretation. Lt. Khalil's fate is also unresolved, although the last you hear about him his position was being overrun by enemy forces.
    • Everybody Lives: If you believe the alternate interpretation of the story provided by the Freeze-Frame Bonus, then none of the events of the game other than the first level actually happened, and the only person to actually die in "reality" was the player character.
  • Kill It with Fire: The 54 Immortals criminal organization has a habit for molotovs and retribution by fire. Goh Xiulan attempts to invoke this on you with a burning plank of wood. You promptly turn the trope around and roast her face in the fire.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Robots that are being directly controlled by Corvus are immune to being taken over by your hacking abilities (although Cyber Core abilities that target their physical systems still work); presumably since Corvus is an A.I. his hacking power is vastly superior to your own.
  • Le Parkour: Much like Advanced Warfare, BO3 introduces new movement mechanics to enhance gameplay. However, while the former went for a bombastic and chaotic movement system, BO3 has gone for a much more subtle movement system, with thrusters allowing for high jumps and slow gliding descents, thruster assisted wallrunning, and rapid close quarters combat.
  • Lethal Joke Item: There are many alternate melee weapons available, and none of them are any less effective at getting the job done than the default combat knife. So feel free to run around with a katana, a shovel, a mannequin's arm, a baseball bat or a pair of boxing gloves, among other things.
  • Madness Mantra: Dr. Salim's psychotherapy phrases come up again and again. If a character starts speaking about a Frozen Forest, then they're fast on their way to losing their mind, and they are definitely infected with Corvus.
    "Listen only to the sound of my voice. Let your mind relax. Let your thoughts drift. Let the bad memories fade. Let peace be upon you. Surrender yourself to your dreams. Let them wash over you like the gentle waves of the bluest ocean. Let them envelop you. Comfort you.
    Imagine somewhere calm. Imagine somewhere safe. Imagine yourself in a frozen forest. You're standing in a clearing. Trees around you so tall, they touch the sky. Pure white snowflakes fall all around. You can feel them melt on your skin. You are not cold. It cannot overcome the warmth of your beating heart. Can you hear it? You only have to listen.
    You hear it slowing? You're slowing it. You are in control. Calm. At peace.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: The geopolitical standoff against the Common Defense Pact, led by Russia bears an ironic mirror to the Cold War.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Russia and the CDP, for the Nile River Coalition and 54 Immortals. They're never encountered in actual gameplay, but in-game dialogue, collectibles (particularly the Warlord helmet in Singapore), and Data Vault entries indicate that they're responsible for supplying and supporting both groups.
  • Meaningful Echo: Near the beginning of the campaign, Manetti tells the Player Character to stay low, because "a bullet through the head will still get you a date with your maker". During his boss fight, he repeats the line as a taunt.
    • The Player Character recites Dr. Salim's Madness Mantra calmly during one section of Mission 11, then again, much more emotionally, in the next, as a display of defiance against Corvus.
    • "Still with me?"
  • Mecha-Mooks: Bipedal Robots or G.I.U.s, colloquially known as Grunts. Do not get close to them if you're unaugmented. The player character learns this the hard way. They take several bullet hits to bring down, in contrast to human soldiers who drop after only 2-3 hits.
  • Mega-Corp: The Coalescence Corporation.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Boy howdy does it ever avert this trope. Female Mooks will be shot, stabbed, crumpled up, dismembered and set on fire just as regularly as their male counterparts, which is to say nothing of the agonizing deaths experienced by Goh Xiulan, Sarah Hall and Rachel Kane.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Granted, they're more of a security force than a military, but the Zürich Security Forces did not exactly distinguish themselves when it came to defending a commuter train from a terrorist attack. They tried to take down the terrorists and their ringleader no less than three times, and got their asses handed to them every time.
  • Mind Screw: Any time you enter a virtual reality simulation courtesy of your Direct Neural Interface, expect shit to get weird fast. There are some moments in the game that stand out in particular though.
    • Mission 8, "Demon Within". Holy. Crap. Things reach Metal Gear Solid levels of mind-screwiness in this level. So things start out normal enough. You're fighting Sarah Hall in her Humongous Mecha. You finally bring her down, and - since she's dying and can't be interrogated - you interface with her DNI to find Taylor's location. Following so far? Okay. Now have fun running around a glitched simulation of the Siege of Bastogne from World War II fighting Nazis, wolves, a Tiger Tank that transforms into a spider robot, and finally zombies while Katee Sackhoff spouts exposition while floating around in mid-air. And there's an evil computer named Corvus who manifests as a cyborg baby. Talk about taking a trope Up to Eleven. Even better, the mission description makes absolutely no mention of this setting, making the true nature of the mission even more surprising.
    • Mission 10 and 11, since this is when Corvus' infection really starts to effect the Player Character. The better part of the final mission is spent fighting Corvus in the Frozen Forest, which manifests as disjointed, glitchy setpieces from the various levels throughout the game interlaced with roots from the Corvus "tree". Oh and to defeat Corvus you have to set fire to giant hearts that slowly kill the giant Corvus tree. Really Treyarch, what were you smoking?.
    • The game's plot in general is one giant Mind Screw. A rogue AI is blurring the thin line between reality and fantasy by infecting the DNI systems of our heroes, so basically everything that transpires in the campaign can be called into doubt as to whether it actually took place or not. The Gainax Ending completely screws over any chance of figuring out what really happened to the Player. Are they dead? Are they still stuck in the Frozen Forest? Have they been infected by John Taylor's consciousness? Good luck trying to figure it out. Oh, and by the way, the Player may have been dead the entire time after succumbing to the injuries they sustained in the first level, and the whole game may just be an incredibly nightmarish Dying Dream.
  • Mind Rape: Directly interfacing with someone else's DNI brings this down on both parties involved, and as such it's only to be used by operatives in desperate situations when a person is dying and can't give up information through interrogation. The person who initiates the interface just gets emotionally traumatized by the process, but the person being probed is left brain dead.
  • Mini-Mecha: P.A.W.W.s (mini MechWarrior-style robots) and A.S.P.s (spider tanks equipped with rocket-deflecting energy shields), fought throughout the campaign and serving as Boss in Mook's Clothing encounters. A unique and particularly large mini-mecha known as the Manticore, driven by Sarah Hall, is fought as a major boss fight.
  • Monumental Damage: You will end up toppling the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel and the Supertrees in the Garden by the Bay (also in Singapore).
  • Multinational Team: Following the drone attacks of 2025, the world was split into two massive military factions: the Winslow Accord (led by the United States, includes Egypt, France, the UK and Germany) and the Common Defense Pact (led by Russia, includes all former European Union nations other than the UK, France and Germany), which now square off for geopolitical power. Militaries in these factions are so closely allied that soldiers tend to identify by their faction (Winslow Accord or CDP) rather than by their nation.
  • The Multiverse: In Nightmares mode, according to Deimos the game is set in one, since he says he has seen the world depicted in the main campaign in his travels throughout time and space, and this version of Earth in which he has invaded is merely a different version of the same world.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Reflex Sight has an IH Armament logo. The same logo appeared in Black Ops II, inscribed on the PDW-57 and Reflex Sight.
    • The M8A7 is a descendant of Black Ops II's M8A1, and they even share similar real-world bases (the A1 is a barely-modified XM8, the A7 is somewhat reminiscent of the SL8 - both weapons based on the G36).
    • The Humongous Mecha that Sarah Hall pilots during her boss battle is called a Manticore.
    • The final outfit you unlock upon completion of the campaign is a World War II uniform simply named "Call of Duty", harkening back to the series' roots as a WWII shooter.
    • Likewise, Mission 8 has you fighting through a simulation of the Battle of Bastogne, echoing older entries in the series (particularly the first game's United Offensive expansion pack, which opened with the Battle of Bastogne).
    • Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" plays during the finale. The song is from the same 1960's time period as the original Black Ops and provides meta-commentary on the action, just as the music did in that game.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: Averted to the fullest extent. Whatever weapon you have equipped, included attachments, camo, and Gunsmith customizations, is shown in the cutscenes. The Player even has different animations for weapons with different attachments. For example, a weapon equipped with a grip will show the Player clutching the grip in cutscenes rather than having their hand phase through it to hold the regular handgrip it's attached to.
  • No-Damage Run: Get a taste for it with the "Realistic" difficulty level. Shot at all? You're dead, end of discussion.
  • No Name Given: The Player is never referred to by name; at the end of the game, the main villain, Corvus, even screams out that you've been a perpetual thorn in his side and he doesn't even know your name. At the very end of the game, the player identifies themselves as "Taylor" to a rescue party, which is open to several different interpretations.
  • No Swastikas: In the historical documents that can be assessed via the Data Vault, Benito Mussolini is mentioned by name in the documents detailing World War 2 and the Axis Powers, while Adolf Hitler is never named and only referred to as "the German Chancellor". A more literal example comes from Mission 8, in which you fight through a simulation of the Battle of Bastogne bereft of swastikas, instead opting for the Iron Cross.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Found in the endgame remix of the game's main theme, "I Live (Orchestral Version)". The latin lyrics are "Ergo Ego Spiro Habito" and "Ergo Ego Spiro Existo", which translate as "I live and breathe" and "I live and exist". Given the events of the plot, this is either a fitting or ironic anthem for either Corvus or the Player.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; along with the mysterious Sebastian Krueger, Diaz's first name is also Sebastian.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: Like Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, it varies. The KN-44 assault rifle is pretty much a futuristic AK-12, but the MR6 pistol is basically a rectangular block with a trigger and grip attached to it.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Of all of the Call of Duty campaigns thus far, Black Ops III certainly takes the most risks and goes in some very weird and twisted directions with its plot. Over time, it becomes increasingly obvious the story is not the standard COD Military Science-Fiction affair, and ultimately the various twists and turns land it somewhere deep in cerebral Cyberpunk territory between Ghost in the Shell and Inception, especially since the entire campaign is revealed through various hidden clues to be a a symbolic journey through the protagonist's and John Taylor's merged identity.
    • More specifically, the virtual reality levels made possible through the DNI allowed Treyarch to finally include zombies in the campaign when the player experiences Hall's Dying Dream.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: Invoked Trope and Enforced Trope on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game. Seventh gen consoles do not have the campaign of the game on disc at all, among other things, likely due to necessary disc space. The Steam version on PC likewise has the option of a "Multiplayer Starter Pack", which is priced at a quarter the value of the full game for just the multiplayer (minus the ability to Prestige, among some other things).
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: The protagonist can be played as male or female, this effects next to nothing - even the few times other characters refer to them by pronouns, it's gender-neutral stuff like "they" to cover both this and the possibility of their being more than one player.
  • Reality Ensues: Realistic difficulty is built on this trope, to the point that its inclusion borders on a malicious joke on the developers' part. How hard is Realistic? Well, what happens most of the time in Real Life when someone gets shot?
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the final level Corvus has Sebastian Kruger (one of it's creators) trapped in the Frozen Forest and asks him the age old questions 'Why am I here? What is my purpose?'. Kruger spitefully answers;
    Kruger: You're software. Nothing more. You weren't created! You were designed to catalogue and track the thoughts of others - so that we people - could decide what action to take. You were a glitch! An anomaly! A mistake!
  • Remixed Level: The "Nightmares" campaign is basically the base game, except the levels are rearranged and revisited in different context, the story is retold to be a worldwide After the End Zombie Apocalypse, the loadout and safehouse is removed in favor of Zombies gameplay mechanics and powerups.
  • Removing the Earpiece: As Hendricks grows more and more paranoid about Kane's true intentions, he cuts his DNI to her in order to speak with the player in private, warning them not to trust what she's saying. In reality, it's likely to be Corvus messing with his head.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Replaying the game with the understanding provided by the Freeze-Frame Bonus helps to unravel a lot of the Mind Screw. In particular, the sequence in Lotus Towers where the level ends with the Player hurt badly. The next cutscene shows them in a hospital with Kane urging them not to undergo an unspecified procedure because it will change them, with her saying they can't be together when the Player decides go through with it anyway. This scene is really Taylor, having been badly injured stopping Dylan Stone, becoming a Cyber Soldier and breaking up with Kane.
  • Robot War: More like Robot Battle, but the final mission of the game starts with the Player going up against grunts, drones, and A.S.P.s controlled by Corvus which are destroying Zurich.
  • Sanity Slippage: Basically all of the augmented characters in the game undergo this, due to their Direct Neural Interface being infected by Corvus.
  • Second Hour Superpower: In the game's first level, you're just a regular human soldier, with the only concrete ability you have over previous CoD protagonists being a weaker form of the new slide. You don't become a Cyber Soldier and receive the cool transhuman powers and abilities until the second level onward.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: As you fight through the waves of enemies generated by Corvus to stop you from destroying it, the voiceover playing over the frenetic gunbattle is that of the player character calmly reciting the "Frozen Forest" meditative visualization mantra.
  • The Squad: Taylor's team, a tight knit bunch of warriors who the player spends most the game hunting after they go rogue. The player's team can also be one if you play co-op.
  • Super Mode: Taking a page from Destiny, characters in BO3 have super abilities and special weapons gained throughout the match, from an area melee, to high caliber pistols, to a compound bow and even a arm mounted minigun.
  • Super Soldier: With the advent of cybernetic technology, the most elite soldiers from every army are turned into "Cyber Soldiers", walking death machines with mechanical limbs connected through Direct Neural Interface systems. Even "normal" soldiers are equipped with exo-suits that augment their combat capabilities; these exo-suits are much smaller and less noticeable than the ones from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and can be "hacked" with the right Cyber Core upgrade.
  • Super Strength: It's mentioned in a Data Vault article that Cyber Soldiers can lift 1000 pounds without strain (2000 pounds with armor supporting their joints).
  • Supporting Protagonist: The player character is much less fleshed out and much more passive compared to the other Black Ops games. Most of the dramatic heavy lifting is provided by your comrades (particularly Hendricks and Taylor) and enemies.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: Some soldiers have arms that can change into several forms, including machine guns, tactile hands and blades.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Like Advanced Warfare, 2065 brings us things like "Cyber Cores" that allow soldiers to Le Parkour as well as other neat toys like a rifle that can shoot electrical proximity fields that electrocute anyone who walks into the area.
  • Universal Ammo: Your primary and secondary weapons have separate ammo pools, but you can obtain ammo from any enemy weapon.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The plot of Black Ops III appears to contain a Mind Screw plot twist as large as the Viktor Reznov twist from the original Black Ops. Unlike the Reznov twist, the game never actually explicitly points it out to you, instead relying on players to spot pieces of evidence hidden in plain sight throughout the plot.
  • Warfare Regression: The development of Direct Energy Air Defense systems have ruled air superiority through drones and other forms of proxy warfare obsolete. Therefore, the focus of military operations has shifted back to foot soldiers, making talented individual soldiers extremely valuable, especially with the advent of augmentations that turn them into cyborgs.
  • Your Head Asplode: The 54 Immortals shackle their prisoners and slaves with exploding collars, which can be set to create this result either at will or when the wearer attempts to leave a pre-set area.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Nightmares mode reimagines the campaign as one, with most of the human enemies and Mecha-Mooks from the various levels transformed into zombies.


"Soldier, what is your name?"
"Troper"

Alternative Title(s): Call Of Duty Black Ops 3

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