Video games move fast, ya’ll. It feels both so close yet so far away that Call of Duty: WWII came out. I’m a campaign guy, so that game has come and gone for me. And now it’s time to start talking about what’s next. Sure enough, Activision and Treyarch have announced exactly that, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. WWII just came out late last year, and here we are in March 2018 with a teaser trailer for the new one. But to be fair, we won’t see more until May, when Activision does its big reveal. Of course, we also have a release date already, October 12. Anyway, I’m here today to chat about that teaser trailer. It doesn’t say much, but I feel like it says a lot about what we might expect from Black Ops 4. Specifically, it looks like we might be going back to the storyline of the first game.
Black Ops was Activision and Treyarch trying to get a bit weird with Call of Duty. The first game was set in the 1960s, and was loosely connected to World at War, a more grounded, traditional Call of Duty. But while Black Ops looked at events such as the Cold War and Vietnam, it was more of a wild, character-driven conspiracy story in which protagonist Alex Mason struggles with brainwashing and interrogation by the Call of Duty universe’s usually manipulative US government. It goes to some places, that’s for sure, and due to that and its generally-loved multiplayer, Black Ops is a standout entry in the series.
Black Ops 2 continued the story of Mason, but also continued the new tradition of Treyarch making things weird. The story ping-ponged back and forth to a secondary character from the first game, Woods, and what happened to him after the events of Black Ops. It also followed Mason’s son in the near-ish future, in what would lead to Call of Duty’s eventual push into science fiction territory. So beyond the more creative edge of the weapons and gadgets, the game also played around with player input and multiple endings. So what seemed like the continuation of a really involved story ended up a bit muddled because of it. So it’s no surprise, then, that Black Ops III was less concerned with that story, opting to make the protagonist a fully customizable avatar.
The trailer for Black Ops 4, a teaser mind you, spends a lot of time sifting through imagery from the first two games and completely ignoring the third. But it also doesn’t really linger on anything from the futuristic portion of the second game. It’s more interested in Mason and Woods’ parts, and of course is peppered with multiplayer and Zombies stuff as well. This tells me, that if we’re taking the teaser at face value and assuming these images are being shown for a reason, that A) there will be some Zombies and multiplayer present (natch), but more importantly B) we’re going to be rewinding time quite a bit.
We all know by now that Call of Duty is in the middle of turning back to its roots after the science fiction stuff didn’t go quite as planned after a few entries. Turns out the military shooter fanbase is much more interested in past and present settings than jumping around like in Titanfall. There’s a time and a place for both of course, and it seems like Call of Duty’s times and places are going to stay rooted in historical fiction for the time being. So, I’m expecting a return to Woods and Mason in Black Ops 4. There are certainly more stories to tell, namely filling in the gaps between what happened in the past and the present day, and perhaps the gaps between the present day and that near future setting. Black Ops 2 was set in the 1980s and 2025. There’s a huge chunk of time in-between.
That’s it for now. The teaser trailer is only about half a minute long, after all. We’ve heard the “boots on the ground” thing bouncing around in the rumor spaces, which of course means no sci-fi. Other than that, there’s no official word on the setting. It could very well be a new story, but the teaser goes out of its way to remind us of the old games’ chain of events. If Black Ops 4 isn’t connected to the first two, what’s the point?
The Call of Duty series has struggled a bit to do a bigger scale storyline since the Modern Warfare trilogy, and this could be Treyarch trying to turn back the clock and retcon a definitive storyline into Black Ops. Making it a prequel of sorts will help the team not have to deal with Black Ops 2’s multiple endings, and also let them explore uncovered swaths of time without going to the future. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet.