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Black Ops 4 multiplayer brings back near-future, ‘boots on the ground’ combat

Call of Duty multiplayer returns to modern combat

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Treyarch is going back to the future — but not too far — for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s competitive multiplayer mode.

The narrative setting for Black Ops 4, which is primarily a multiplayer-focused game and will not include a traditional single-player campaign, is near-future modern combat. Black Ops 4 will be set between the events of Black Ops 2 and Black Ops 3, sometime between 2025 and 2065. There will be some futuristic technology in play, but players won’t be fighting as or against robot soldiers.

Players also won’t be running along walls or double jumping with thrusters. Like last year’s Call of Duty: WWII, which signaled a return to more traditional Call of Duty multiplayer, Black Ops 4 combat will focus on “boots on the ground” action, Treyarch said.

Black Ops 4 will see the return of Specialists, the class-based characters Treyarch introduced in Black Ops 3. Each will have its own set of abilities, including newcomers like Crash, a medic class soldier who can heal allies, and Torque, a “master at disrupting [combat] flow” who can lay down razor wire and pop up improvised cover for his team.

Many Specialists will return from Black Ops 3, including Seraph, Ruin and Firebreak, Treyarch confirmed, though they’ve been “totally reimagined” with new abilities. A few additions to Call of Duty that Treyarch is known for, including swimming and flamethrowers, will also be back.

While Black Ops 4 looks like a refinement of Treyarch’s previous multiplayer outing and the Call of Duty competitive formula. But Treyarch’s Dan Bunting and Dave Vonderhaar say Black Ops 4 is its most refined, most ambitious attempt to date. The developer is aiming for an authentic, grounded, “100 percent boots on the ground” combat experience.

Changes to the multiplayer experience come in smaller tweaks, like a new “guns up” approach to weapons. That means that when players throw grenades, call in scorestreaks or vault over objects, their gun will always be up and at the ready.

Treyarch is also changing the way that Call of Duty’s minimap works. In Black Ops 4, the minimap will now include a “fog of war” that will keep enemies hidden, unless they give their position away or one of the game’s Specialists reveals them. Recon, a multiplayer Specialist, can fire a sensor dart that clears away the fog of war on the minimap.

Players will be able to familiarize themselves with the game’s Specialists in Black Ops 4’s solo missions, “fun and fast-paced [single-player] trials.”

Weapons are also changing in Black Ops 4. Treyarch says it has overhauled weapons’ animation and attachment systems, including a new attachment called an Operator Mod. One of those mods adds a suppressive fire mechanic to guns, blurring and distorting the vision of the enemy on the receiving end of that gunfire. Treyarch also announced that guns will have predictive recoil patterns, an addition that will let players make micro-adjustments to their aim and master how guns fire.

Healing in Call of Duty is also changing. There’s no more automatically regenerating health; instead players will heal themselves with an injector via a dedicated button in Black Ops 4. Treyarch called the addition of manual healing “an important part of the gameplay loop” that offers more tactical choices about when and where to take cover and heal.

But perhaps the biggest change coming to multiplayer is an entirely new competitive mode: Blackout, Treyarch’s battle royale-style mode. Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode will include characters, weapons, vehicles and locations from the entire Black Ops franchise, all on one massive map. Treyarch said that Blackout’s map will be more than a thousand times larger than the standard Call of Duty multiplayer map — 1,500 times larger than Nuketown, Treyarch says. Read more about Call of Duty’s foray into battle royale gameplay right here.