Tech

Black Ops 4 ditches single-player campaign, adds battle royale mode

Enlarge / Black Ops 4's Blackout mode will replace the traditional single-player campaign in the upcoming game.Treyarch

At a community reveal event today, developer Treyarch confirmed previous rumors that the upcoming Call of Duty Black Ops 4 will be the first game in the series without a traditional single-player campaign. Instead, the new game will launch on October 12 with a focus on a new "three-pillar" structure of traditional multiplayer modes, alternative zombie-mode side missions, and a new battle royale mode called Blackout.

"It's all about having fun with your friends," Treyarch Chairman Mark Lamia said at the end of the event. "More fun than you've ever had. Black Ops 4 doesn't have a traditional campaign; we're weaving narrative into each of the modes."

For those who might prefer playing alone, Lamia promised "unique ways to play solo in multiplayer and zombies [modes] regardless of your skill level," without going into further detail. "Those of you who just want to ramp up on your own, we've got you covered, too," he said.

While multiplayer modes represent an overwhelming majority of the hours spent on previous Call of Duty games, the single-player campaigns have their devoted fans as well. Treyarch team members even highlighted many of the characters and moments from previous Call of Duty campaigns in the hype-heavy Black Ops 4's reveal, highlighting how much of a gap the removal of this Call of Duty pillar will leave.

The move away from an explicitly single-player story mode in one of gaming's most popular franchises highlights just how much the gaming market has shifted in recent years. As recently as 2012, Lamia told Kotaku explicitly that a single-player campaign was "what we want to do… what we want to create" for Black Ops 2, arguing that single player provides a complementary emotional state to the popular multiplayer modes.

"When you're playing the campaign, you're sitting down to have that sort of epic and cinematic experience, right? You want to have that first-person role in that experience," Lamia said at the time.

Last October, EA's Patrick Söderlund identified the industry-wide move away from these "story-based, linear adventure games" as "fundamental shifts in the marketplace." That move helped stymie a Star Wars project at the now-shuttered Visceral Games. While such story-driven, single-player adventures are far from dead, the industry's biggest publishers seem to see more earning potential in focusing heavily on the never-ending, keep-them-coming-back multiplayer competition found in multiplayer-centric hits from Hearthstone and Rocket League to Dota 2 and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege.

Blacking out on Battle.net

This short trailer was the only hint we got of how the new blackout mode would look and feel.

Treyarch Director David Vonderhaar didn't bother to hide the fact that Black Ops 4's new blackout mode is a direct response to the success of last-man-standing multiplayer shooters like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite. "I don't have to describe to you how battle royale works," he said, "[but] for us to even consider this kind of experience, it had to be unique and done in a way that only Black Ops can do."

The blackout mode itself was only shown in a brief "freeze frame" trailer highlighting many playable characters from the Black Ops universe's past, and the new mode wasn't available to test at a hands-on event after the announcement. But Vonderhaar said the mode would take place on "the biggest map we've ever made, 1,500 times bigger than Nuketown." That map will integrate "the most iconic parts of your favorite maps" from previous Call of Duty games, he added, along with the ability to "navigate with land, sea, and air vehicles."

Vonderhaar also announced that Black Ops 4 would be the first Call of Duty game running on Blizzard's Battle.net online platform for the PC. Activision subsidiary Beenox will be working on a version of the game that's "custom-built for the PC," Treyarch co-studio head Mark Gordon said.

PC players will get dedicated servers for "performance and security," as well as uncapped frame rates and support for 4K HDR ultra-wide monitors. The PC version will also feature tightened gunplay and customized weapon knockback tuned for mouse-and-keyboard controls, much like that seen on Destiny 2's PC port.

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