Okay, this is weird. Not long ago, I was writing about coming to terms with playing a Call of Duty release, brand new (sorta), without multiplayer. Of course I’m talking about Modern Warfare 2 Remastered, so the context there is important. But now, people who know people are saying that Black Ops 4, an actual new Call of Duty coming in October 2018, is about to be launched without a campaign. Literally half the appeal of these turgid shootybangs is just going to be… gone. Now, I’ll admit I’m part of the camp that prefers the campaign over the multiplayer generally. But even if I didn’t, it feels especially egregious that this is happening with a new Black Ops.
The Black Ops series has been, overall, the most fun in terms of Call of Duty’s over the top campaign antics, with Modern Warfare 2 really being the biggest competition. While most of the series has been more about self-serious Hollywood blockbuster sort of fare, Black Ops went to much sillier heights, with a multi-game storyline about mind control and conspiracies that spanned multiple generations. It even went so far as to, in the second game, toss canon out the window in favor of multiple story paths that would lead to multiple, distinct endings. Black Ops 3 moved away from the original storyline as a result, but Activision and Treyarch’s early teaser for Black Ops 4 used lots of imagery from the first two, seeming to imply we’d be revisiting those characters.
Now, that very well could have been the case. The way the narrative has been presented by the likes of reporters at Kotaku and Polygon, is that removing the campaign wasn’t a decision made from the get-go. Treyarch was certainly working on a campaign, but the word is that the development team was not meeting the pace needed to finish the campaign by Black Ops 4’s launch date. Delaying the annual Call of Duty is likely not on the table, so instead Treyarch seems to have pivoted to focus entirely on the multiplayer modes. We don’t know what this means explicitly for the multiplayer as it has usually been over the years, but part of the concession seems to be an added presence of cooperative modes, perhaps a bigger Zombies mode, or even additional kinds of scenarios that would see players working together against the AI instead of other human players.
Something in the Kotaku report that wasn’t in the original Polygon report was also the upcoming, inevitable addition of a Battle Royale mode. While AAA juggernauts jumping onto the PUBG and Fortnite train is a foregone conclusion, this mode will likely also serve as a, “yeah, but we have this now” form of deflection if the lack of a campaign is in fact a real thing that’s happening. A Battle Royale mode actually sounds pretty ambitious for a Call of Duty, so I’m pretty curious to see how that will turn out, especially since Time to Kill is so low in Call of Duty games, even compared to Fortnite.
Personally speaking, I’m definitely disappointed by the news. I never really stick to the online multiplayer modes when a new Call of Duty comes out, but I always love diving into what’s in store for the single player. Granted, last year’s campaign for WWII was an absolute dud, but they can’t all be bangers every year. I was looking forward to seeing if the teaser trailer featuring the characters from the first two games would actually go anywhere, but for now that seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen just how expansive the online and cooperative offerings will be to make up for it. More of a fan of the multiplayer or happy to see a more one-sided focus for this year’s Call of Duty? Let us know!