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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4: everything we know

Activision and Treyarch place their bets on multiplayer and a battle royale

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Call of Duty is a military shooter video game that, since 2003, has roamed the theaters of World War II and gone into outer space and the future. The latest game in the franchise to be announced is Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, coming in October. This is a cornerstone of pop culture and video gaming, and it’s making some significant changes with its latest version.

Here’s what you need to know about Black Ops 4 and why it’s such a big deal.

What is Call of Duty: Black Ops 4?

Announced May 17, it’s the 15th edition of Activision’s military shooter franchise on consoles. The Black Ops arc of the games has explored an alternate, mysterious realm of stateless conflict and mercenaries in past and future settings since Treyarch started that line in 2010.

When is the release date?

Oct. 12, 2018 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. This is the earliest date on the calendar the Call of Duty franchise has launched since 2005’s Call of Duty 2.


What versions will be available?

So far there are only two standard editions, digital and retail. The only pre-order incentive is access to a beta test whose date is not yet announced.

What’s this game about?

Treyarch originated the Black Ops narrative path for Call of Duty back in 2010, which set the Call of Duty universe in a time of Cold War intrigue before pushing into more futuristic combat. Black Ops 4 is in a “near-future” setting, which allows the multiplayer modes to bring back the unique “Specialist” characters to multiplayer, with different and dazzling weapons and abilities.


Will there be a single-player campaign?

No. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will focus on competitive multiplayer and the zany, cooperative Zombies mode that’s been a part of the series since it was introduced in Call of Duty: World at War (which Treyarch made) a decade ago. That’s not to say players who want a solo experience get nothing. Bot companions will be available in Zombies and there will be single-player challenge missions.

But Treyarch’s developers said when they set out to make the game they had no intention of doing a traditional campaign. “If you look at the Black Ops series and how players have interacted with it,” said Dan Bunting, the studio’s co-head, “it’s being more and more experienced as a social thing.” That means multiplayer.

So what’s new in multiplayer?

In terms of gameplay, Treyarch dumped automatic health regeneration. Players can still recover health, they just have to manually implement it. Designers said they wanted to do this to connect the player to the combat experience and make seeking cover and choosing when to heal a more meaningful part of gameplay. Weapons will be customizable with different attachments and, in terms of physics, will feature “predictive recoil” meaning those who get to know their guns can count on them to behave the same way, in both action as well as look.

Another big change will be a “fog of war” aspect that conceals adversaries on the minimap unless they’re revealed by firing a weapon (or by a Specialist talent such as the Recon’s, who fires a sensor dart that reveals everything.)

Any new modes in multiplayer?

Oh yeah. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is climbing aboard the battle royale bandwagon with an idea called Blackout. That will take place on a map larger than any seen in the franchise — according to Treyarch, the map is 1,500 times larger than the beloved Nuketown from the first Black Ops (and which returned in Black Ops 2 and 3.)

Blackout will include Black Ops characters from the series history — Raul Menendez, Jason Hudson, Viktor Reznov and Alex Mason. Vehicles will figure prominently, allowing users to traverse land, sea and air.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - Zombies chapter ‘IX’ - large boss zombie Treyarch/Activision

And about those zombies?

The backstory of Black Ops 4’s zombies mode always sounds bizarre, but it has always been about straight action and mayhem with some outlandish scenery and guest stars, so Treyarch is still being consistent. There will be three maps at the outset: an ancient Rome-style gladiator arena, an ocean-going liner out in the middle of the Atlantic, and a grisly prison. There will be a mode for newcomers called Zombie Rush that simplifies things for those just coming to the series.

Why should I care about the latest Call of Duty?

If you don’t like the gameplay it offers, sure, this may not be for you, but Call of Duty is a bellwether for video games and a barometer of what’s going on in the industry. The fact it’s following both PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite into the battle royale arena is interesting and understandable. That has big ramifications for the hottest genres in livestreamed video game play at the moment. It’s somewhat like the New York Yankees in baseball or the Dallas Cowboys in football: You may not like the team, but when they’re good, the league is much more interesting, and a lot more people are talking about it.

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