As with every annual Call of Duty entry, Black Ops 3 is looking to be one of the biggest games of the year and the most ambitious of the series to date. So much so that the game, developed primarily for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, won’t feature the campaign mode on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
“The ambitious scope of the 1-4 player co-op campaign design of the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions could not be faithfully recreated on old generation hardware,” publisher Activision explained in a statement released in September.
Following up the rather disappointing news, Treyarch’s Jason Blundell, director of campaign and Zombies mode for Black Ops 3, spoke with Eurogamer to explain exactly why the campaign has been omitted from the last-gen systems.
“We being Treyarch, we’re only looking at the current-gen stuff, so PS4 and Xbox One. And when we hear the old-gen stuff start having to take things away to be able to make it perform on those machines… they’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to have to lose this, and lose that, and bring this back in,’ from a purely selfish point of view, I completely agreed with Activision’s decision to cut the campaign, because I don’t want you to get a second-rate experience. So I agreed on that level.”
Blundell continued: “It took us three years to make this thing and craft that experience. I would hate for someone to get something that isn’t true to the vision. That sounds a bit arty, but that’s how I feel about it. I agreed with Activision’s decision on not going there. I don’t think they could have faithfully conveyed some of the concepts I wanted into the campaign experience.
“If we took something and started cutting it up into pieces and taking those bits away, that would have made me more upset, to be honest.”
Blundell attributed the core problems of trying to run the campaign on the last-gen systems to the implementation of co-op play in the story mode, as well as the levels just being too large to render on 360 and PS3.
“Every level is bigger than any previous level we’ve done,” Blundell explained.
“We take advantage of longer draw distances. So certain scenes you just couldn’t do. You’d have to bring in the clipping distance and do some fogging. I’m trying to give you a feeling of size and scale. On the previous generation you’d have to do a bunch of smoke and mirrors to convey the idea.”
Black Ops 3’s levels have also been designed with increased verticality in mind. The idea is a team of four players work together to defeat the computer-controlled enemies, with one player, perhaps, trying to reach the high ground to mark enemies who then appear on other players’ heads-up displays.
“We’ve got these big arena-like experiences you can approach from different angles,” Blundell said.
“A lot of those concepts would have to have been cut, or you would have lost sections of it, because it would have been too much weight on the system. You’d have to dumb it down so much you wouldn’t get the graphical fidelity you’d need to convey certain lighting feels. There are certain levels where the lighting complexity sets a certain mood or a vibe of anticipation.
“But you just couldn’t pull it off – all of the elements at the same time, anyway. You’d have had to have given something away. It’s a real shame.”
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is set to launch on Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 6 November 2015.