Black Ops 4 Looks to Modernize Call of Duty but Keep its Charm

The last Call of Duty game I bought was Black Ops 3 back in 2015. I had already been getting tired of the yearly installments (and the yearly $100 with the season pass), and while Black Ops 3 was an impressive entry, I told all of my buddies that it would be the last Call of Duty to seduce me back in. I wouldn’t be playing Call of Duty games anymore. And for a couple years, I stood my ground. There was Infinite Warfare, which made me feel vindicated in my decision to stay away, and then WWII, which had a promising Private Beta, but ultimately left me feeling like I had made the right choice once again. My friends continued to purchase the Call of Duty games, play them for a few months and then get tired of them. It has become a vicious cycle that Call of Duty has perpetuated for years and I thought I had finally broken the spell.

But last Thursday at 1 pm EST, Treyarch Games hosted their worldwide reveal of the next game in the Black Ops series. With the decision to nix the single-player campaign in favor of short stories about the Specialists from multiplayer, the addition of mechanics like manual healing and the announcement that everyone saw coming concerning Blackout, the Call of Duty version of the Battle Royale game mode, it seems like Treyarch is putting a good deal of thought into how they are going to differentiate themselves from the other Call of Duty studios and how they are going to take the Call of Duty franchise into the future. This, in combination with the all-new zombies storyline that promises to take players through time to different periods and eras, has me excited to jump back into the franchise after vowing to never go back.

I’m excited because the changes they’re making seem to be in an attempt to break the cycle. The idea for Specialists was first introduced in Black Ops 3 but failed to keep the game from running dry after a few months of play. What we’ve seen of the new Specialists and the adjustments they are making to the returning ones bode well for Treyarch. The one I’m most excited for is the healer, who will be able to help out their teammates in a pinch. This in addition to the self-healing mechanic, which will have players activating their healing manually. I hope that these Specialists will create an incentive for players to work together, rather than go off on their own in search of a better K/D like Call of Duty has been since known for.

I believe this shift to a more team-focused mindset will breathe new life into Call of Duty, which has always been a game you play with friends but never really one where you strategize or do anything other than run and gun. This is one of the reasons I’ve moved to Overwatch, where team-based strategy is paramount.

Blackout also has me thoroughly intrigued. I’ve become a big fan of Fortnite since it launched its revolution back in September and am excited to see what other big franchises might be able to do with the game mode. Treyarch will be the first big studio to take this challenge on, and while we don’t have many details, we did get a short introduction. What we know right now is that you and your squad will be jumping into a map that is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster of all your favorite Black Ops maps from the single player, multiplayer and zombies modes, and you can play as characters from each of the tentpole modes as well. The biggest surprise, though, is that there will be land, sea and air vehicles to get around in — a first for any Call of Duty multiplayer mode. This says to me that the Blackout map is going to be gigantic, which is totally new territory for Call of Duty, who are known for their Nuketowns.

What intrigues me most about Blackout is the Call of Duty spin they could put on the game mode of Battle Royale. I picture it as a smaller, maybe fifty player experience, with guns, attachments and even perks that you find lying about the map to equip yourself with. There won’t be any building mechanic, but the addition of vehicles will allow players to get around the map in interesting ways and make for varied strategies that may have been lost without the building. I wonder how far Treyarch will go with their version of Battle Royale, and if it will be different and fun enough to stymie the complaints from those who don’t like the idea of getting rid of the campaign.

I don’t think Zombies ever lost its touch — at least not Treyarch’s iterations — but the story of Samantha and the original crew was getting tired. I’m happy to see they are looking in a new direction; one that could lead literally anywhere and anytime. There was no gameplay shown of the new Zombies mode during the announcement stream, but from the animated trailers we got, it seems like the concept of a time-traveling crew of zombie hunters will allow for creative new concepts both in setting and in gameplay. The gladiatorial map called IX was especially interesting since you could assume there won’t be any guns whatsoever. Instead, you might just be fighting with swords and shields.

I am excited, but none of this is a done deal. I still might be off the Call of Duty wagon. It’s just that from my first impressions of the reveal, I see hope. Hope that the next installment in the Call of Duty franchise won’t be the same-old-same-old or run out of fun in a month or two. Treyarch is hands down the best developer in the cycle these days, so that gives me some confidence as well. More will be shown at E3 this year, but we probably won’t even know the full story then, so these thoughts are extremely preliminary. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see more from Black Ops 4 and hope that it can replenish the series, bringing it into the future while keeping that Call of Duty charm that we’ve all grown to love. We’ll just have to see.