The next Call of Duty is a Black Ops game set during the first Gulf War, according to reports

If rumour speak true, the next Call of Duty game will be another entry in the Black Ops series. It’ll also, allegedly, take place during the first Gulf War across 1990 and 1991, in which a US-led coalition of countries including the UK, Saudi Arabia and Egypt invaded Iraq in response to the Saddam Hussein government’s conquest of Kuwait.

All that comes from Windows Central, who cite a number of sources “familiar with Activision’s plans”. The game will apparently eschew the borderline make-believe tech offered by other recent Call of Duties, and will tell stories about different participants in the conflict, which suggests that it might be another ensemble narrative that flips between perspectives.

As per the existing production cycle, the new Black Ops will reportedly release in late 2024. Hopefully, the game’s developers are having an easier time of it than the creators of this year’s Modern Warfare 3, which appears to have been the product of crunch and mismanagement. Activision are said to be discussing a pre-order bonus for the new Call of Duty that might give you several days of early access for the base game, and possibly even weeks of early access for unnamed other modes – a significant escalation of the pre-order early access schemes offered by the likes of Starfield.

The new Call of Duty doesn’t have a title as yet, the report continues – it probably won’t be called Black Ops 6. Internal codenames for the project include “Cerberus”, according to Windows Central. “Call of Duty: Black Ops Gulf War” is the obvious choice, following in the footsteps of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, but maybe they’ll just call it “Black Ops” and continue Activision’s recent very irritating habit of giving sequels the same names as previous games.

I don’t trust Activision’s pseudo-military forever-shooter to do this subject much justice. The series has a track record for distorting the facts – it has already misrepresented the events of the Gulf War, with 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot blaming the Russians for the US bombardment of Iraqi troops along the notorious “Highway of Death” in February 1991. But if a Call of Duty game is going to do it, I’d rather it were Black Ops, the one Call of Duty subfranchise that actually makes “fucking up history” an explicit narrative preoccupation, though it seldom comes to any conclusions more productive than “oh the humanity”.

The previous Black Ops Cold War was an introspective story about redaction, repression and phantasmagorical spaces such as model towns that portray history as an assemblage of symbols and cliches, always mediated by military technologies. Assuming the rumour is true, I’m interested to see whether Activision are prepared to carry that kind of storytelling forward into a Black Ops sequel that explores the first Gulf War’s pop cultural branding as the first ‘Video Game War’, with smartbomb cameras and the like bringing the bloodshed ‘into America’s living room’.

Mind you, the biggest question to answer here is whether we’ll have to reckon with a CGI Margaret Thatcher.

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