Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will have a frenetic multiplayer mode that will be the main part of this year’s Call of Duty game, according to Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia. But in a press briefing, Treyarch also revealed a couple of decisions that may prove controversial.
The multiplayer mode won’t have an ability to run on walls, nor will it have “thrust jumps,” or a superhuman ability to jump to the top of buildings thanks to exoskeleton technology. That may have to do with the bad reaction that players had to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in 2016, which took the Call of Duty universe into the science fiction realm.
That version of Call of Duty (made by Infinity Ward) didn’t sell as well as the Black Ops games, and Treyarch appears to have taken that message to heart. Multiplayer co-lead David Vonderhaar said in the press briefing that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is “100 percent boots on the ground.” That is, it gets back to pure infantry combat.
Some of these moves are risky, but Lamia said, “The trust we have with our players, over that decade, has allowed us to take countless risks, risks that we’ve talked about at times with you — risks for this franchise. The support that our community gives us has allowed us to grow this franchise, grow Black Ops in new ways. Everyone, all of our players, have come along with us on this sometimes crazy, insanely fun, mind-bending ride. We love to tell those stories.”
He added, “We take nothing for granted. We rethink everything about how we make our games, which leads us to today. Black Ops 4 is a game that gives you more ways to have fun with your friends than anything we’ve ever created. It’s the deepest, most replayable game in all of Treyarch’s history.”
Treyarch dialed the time frame back from the previous sci-fi setting of Black Ops 3, which was set in the year 2065. The story takes place between the years of Black Ops 3 and Black Ops 2, which was set in 2025.
“Black Ops 4 represents our most ambitious multiplayer to date,” Multiplayer co-lead Dan Bunting said. “You’ll see why as we talk about this game. We have grounded combat. We have tight gunplay. We have an authentic, gritty military feel. Fluid and responsive controls, as you would expect, all wrapped in the most refined tactical team experience we’ve ever developed, which includes more choice, more depth, and more opportunity to have fun with friends.”
Vonderhaar added, “We all loved the feel that Black Ops III provided us in terms of the fluidity of that movement and that control. We believe that a grounded, more tactical experience can happen without slowing down the player, and we do that with this philosophy that we called ‘guns up.’ Black Ops 4 is still guns up, and what we mean by this in this case is, the things that you while you’re playing the game, like throwing grenades or using equipment or calling in score streaks — in all of these activities, you can still keep the gun up, keep it out in your hand, and get ready for combat.”
That means you can shoot your gun while you are sending out a grappling gun to disable an enemy.
This installment of Call of Duty will also feature the return of specialists, who have certain unique special abilities. The Ruin character, for instance, is coming back and can kill everyone in a certain radius by pounding the ground.
“Specialists are back, both new and familiar ones, but each brings unique capabilities into the system. This is super important to us. You’d be fooling yourselves, though, if you thought the specialists were actually the star of the show,” Vonderhaar said.
Bunting said Black Ops will highlight a wide variety of weapons.
“We designed each weapon as if it’s its own character, which means that we pay attention to every detail,” he said. “Even the small, tiny things you may not notice in everyday gameplay, things like hot barrels oozing smoke when they fire. Things like muzzle flashes that light up a room. Bullet impacts are massive, and they connect the player with the game world around them. And for the first time, weapons have 3D tracers that make the guns feel more real, more satisfying, more visceral. They also give you more gameplay information, because they tell you where gunfire is coming from.”
Any changes are “all in the name of making our core combat feel very tight and feel very satisfying,” Bunting said.
Black Ops 4 weapon design is going to break with tradition, he said. Instead of giving every gun in a class or a category the same set of attachments, every gun is going to have a unique set of attachments.
Black Ops 4 will also have a new category of attachment called an operator mod.
“An operator mod is the ultimate expression of that gun’s profile,” Bunting said. “It’s something that pushes it beyond the limits of what that unique identifying characteristic is. It’s something that makes it feel very different from the other guns in a big way. For example, this Titan LMG is laying down heavy suppressing fire, which is going to blur the screens of the enemies as you fire by.”
And players will experience “true predictive recoil patterns.” That means that shooter enthusiasts can constantly make micro-adjustments while aiming and shooting.
As for health, you no longer automatically heal. You have to trigger healing yourself, and, just as in reloading, it means you have to disengage from combat at key points.
“You can go and heal, or you can start the heal, and then rush back into combat, but if you take any damage then it’s going to stop the healing process,” Vonderhaar said. “Or you can straight-out rush the guy who’s probably healing himself.”
You’ll also be able to play a character named Crash, who is a medic. He can restore health and give bonus health to other players. Another character, Recon, can use battlefield sensors to give everyone on the team a better situational awareness of what is happening.
“We’re introducing a new concept called the fog of war to the mini-map. The fog of war means there’s a ring around you and your teammates, which gives you a situational awareness that can be shared. Everything else it totally blacked out,” Vonderhaar said.
Another character, Firebreak, can use a reactor core to deny an area to the enemy.
“The reactor core allows him to trade his health for the ability to lock in an area and prevent other players from going there,” Vonderhaar said.
And Call of Duty is giving its nod to esports fans with a League Play icon.
“League play was a very popular competitive way of playing the game, and it’ll be returning. We’re taking all the best parts of it and integrating it with the game directly, so you’re not playing two separate experiences,” Vonderhaar said. “We’ll talk about this later this year, but we know the competitive guys in particular are going to love the return of league play.”