Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 won’t include a traditional single-player story mode, according to sources with knowledge of the project’s status. The shift in creative direction will make Black Ops 4 the first mainline Call of Duty to ship without a standard campaign.
When reached for comment, an Activision spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on rumor and speculation. We look forward to revealing Black Ops 4 on May 17th.”
The sources, who asked for anonymity, said that as Black Ops 4’s release date approached, it became evident that development on the single-player campaign wouldn’t be completed. One source said Treyarch has since focused Black Ops 4’s development on expanding multiplayer and the series’ popular Zombies mode. The source described an emphasis on cooperative modes as a potential stand-in for the typical single-player campaign experience.
Created by developer Infinity Ward in 2003, the Call of Duty franchise initially built acclaim around its single-player campaigns. The studio took advantage of the additional power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 early in their life cycles, producing cinematic, linear and heavily directed missions that stood above the other first-person shooters of that generation. “No Russian,” the controversial mission from 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 involving a shooting at an airport, is one of the most notorious and iconic single-player moments in games, regularly used in supercuts and news packages commenting on violence in video games.
But as the series grew in popularity with each annual iteration, it became increasingly synonymous with multiplayer. With Activision’s support, Call of Duty has become a major esport, filling massive auditoriums and festivals. In recent years, Activision has allowed PC users to download the single-player and multiplayer modes separately.
The Black Ops series has been spearheaded by Treyarch since the original entry in 2010, though Call of Duty games, including Black Ops, are produced with support from other studios, including Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software and Certain Affinity. The Black Ops series has featured an ongoing and largely praised story, extending from the 1960s to the 2060s, mixing Cold War intrigue with not-so-distant future techno-paranoia. Black Ops 4 will make the series the longest-running subfranchise in the Call of Duty series, surpassing the Modern Warfare trilogy.
The tagline for Black Ops 4 is “forget what you know,” which speaks to the series’ fascination with mind control. Though perhaps it also doubles as a message to fans, encouraging them to reconsider what makes a complete Call of Duty game.
Activision is expected to ship one single-player campaign this year in the form of a remaster of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which Charlie Intel and Eurogamer have reported will be released without the original game’s multiplayer component.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is scheduled for release on Oct. 12, 2018, on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Activision will reveal more information on Black Ops 4 during a reveal on May 17, and is expected to share additional info this June at E3.