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‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 3′ breaks its own rules

Just days after gobbling up Candy Crush Saga, video game publisher Activision is ready to release a new installment of a longtime favorite that regularly crushes it: Call of Duty. The surprises keep coming from the No. 1 U.S. game publisher. Late Monday, Activision Blizzard said it would pay $5.9 billion to acquire mobile game maker King Digital, a move that immediately boosts its fledgling portable game portfolio.

Its next surprise: Call of Duty Black Ops III, the latest release in the multibillion-dollar first-person shooting series, breaks a lot of the rules that it created since 2003 when the initial game launched. Treyarch, the Activision-owned studio that developed the Black Ops games, continues the futuristic geopolitical saga with this game, set in 2065. Super soldiers have augmented body parts and built-in data jacks to connect to computer networks.

Beyond giving characters new strengths, such as running on walls and hacking robot enemies, the developers wanted to open up the game so players had more choice in how they make their way through the game. Typically, players must play the story mode solo and in particular order, unlocking the levels or missions consecutively. But Black Ops III lets you tackle missions in any order, in part to encourage up to four players joining together for missions.

Players who’ve gotten farther along in the game can share weapons and perks they’ve accumulated with others who haven’t made it that far. “We wanted to make sure that players who wanted to play together had that opportunity and that the game and the AI (game’s artificial intelligence) would be able to adapt,” said studio head Mark Lamia. The game ($59.99, out Friday for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; also on PS3, Xbox 360 and PCs, ages 17-up) is expected to be a hit. Call of Duty revenue has passed $11 billion, and this new game is the most anticipated title of the season, according to Nielsen.