This October, Activision and Treyarch will release Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the latest entry in the long-running sub-series of shooters which began as World War II and Vietnam period pieces before branching off into near-future sci-fi.
For Black Ops 4, the companies build on the success of previous games, but with a few new tricks to make it feel like a true sequel. From the multiplayer to the (lack of) campaign, here’s everything you need to know about Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Yes, the campaign is missing in action
For the first time ever in the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 doesn’t include a traditional single-player campaign. In place of this, the universe – set between Black Ops 2 and Black Ops 3 – will be introduced through small solo missions that also give you a chance to try out the specialists you’ll be using in competitive multiplayer. You’ll learn about their backstory in these missions, but it’s not meant as a replacement for the campaign.
In an interview with Game Informer, Treyarch’s design director David Vonderhaar and co-studio head Dan Bunting explain that their choice to not include a campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is because it was always meant to be a multiplayer game. Their focus in development was on replayability so they created modes that players can revisit for years to come as opposed to a campaign that is more of a linear, narrative-heavy experience that wouldn’t have much longevity.
At launch, there will be 10 different specialists to choose from in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s competitive multiplayer mode, each bringing unique abilities and tricks to help accomplish your objective or take out a particularly difficult enemy.
- Ajax – A Breacher with a ballistic shield and tactical 9-Bang grenade.
- Battery – A Demolition expert with war machine grenade launcher and cluster grenade.
- Crash – A Healer with a TAK-5 medical kit and assault ammunition pack.
- Firebreak – An Area denial with flamethrower and reactor core.
- Nomad – A Nature-lover with a dog and tripwire-equipped explosives.
- Prophet – A Hunter with a tactical rifle and player-seeking shock mine.
- Recon — An Intel operator with vision pulse and sensor darts.
- Ruin – A Rusher with a “grav slam” attack and grapple gun.
- Seraph – A Tactician with a high-caliber revolver and deployable beacon.
- Torque – A Defender with barricade and razor wire.
Prophet from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will also be available. His abilities haven’t been revealed, but in the previous game, he made use of the charge-shot weapon Tempest and the rewinding glitch ability.
Once again the star of the show, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s competitive multiplayer mode gives you plenty of options for battling it out against other players, and it mixes in classic series elements as well as a few changes that will completely alter how you approach combat.
Call of Duty: WW2 ditched automatic healing in its campaign mode, and Black Ops 4 will ditch it in multiplayer. Instead of waiting for your character to stop taking damage in order to begin refilling your total health, you’ll now make use of a dedicated healing button to do so. The ability is on a timer, so you won’t be able to heal whenever you’ve been hit, which should encourage more strategic and cautious play compared to the all-out assault-style that Call of Duty veterans are likely accustomed to.
Whether you’re priming a grenade or jumping over a ledge, you should always be ready to fire your gun, and with the Guns Still Up system, you’re able to defend yourself at practically any time. Using a score-streak – which would typically force you to put your weapon down for a few seconds as it was being activated – doesn’t impede your ability to fire anymore.
To keep players on their toes and ready for anything, a feature called Fog of War has been added to the multiplayer mode. Unless you make use of special equipment or abilities, you’ll only be able to see a short distance around your character on the mini-map, making enemies at a distance effectively invisible until you get closer.
To keep player’s interests piqued and give those who already play every day an opportunity to progress further, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has introduced new guns called Signature Weapons.
These cosmetic deviations have the same stats and work just the same as the standard versions of the guns. The difference is that they sport stunning designs that can be enhanced more through completing a series of specific challenges. After finishing all the challenges, you’ll earn the Masterwork weapon, a sign of prestige and the object of other players’ envy.
Classic maps and multiplayer modes return
Among the multiplayer maps available in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 are five classics from throughout the series’ history. These include Jungle, Summit, and Firing Range from the first Black Ops, Slums from Black Ops 2, and Nuketown, which was introduced in the first game and has subsequently appeared in all sequels. The first four maps will be included in the game at launch, while Nuketown fill follows a short time after.
Brand new maps coming to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 include Frequency, a fast map taking place at a listening station, the tropical Contraband, the Spanish Seaside, and Payload, which is located at a missile defense station.
Multiplayer modes include returning favorites like Hardpoint and Domination, as well as the objective-based Control, which tasks teams with either attacking or defending two points in a similar manner to Overwatch.
The Pick 10 system used in other Black Ops titles and Advanced Warfare makes its return to Black Ops 4, giving you total control over how you customize your character to fit your particular playstyle. In addition to changing weapon attachments, grenades, and equipment, and perks, a gear option is also available – this gives you passive boosts to things like total health or your hearing, rather than another ability to pull out in a tough spot.
Blackout is Call of Duty meets Battle Royale
Everyone and their mother is working on a battle royale mode in 2018, but Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has the potential to stand out with its Blackout mode. The mode bills itself as a sort of greatest hits from the Black Ops series to date, including classic weapons and characters that longtime fans know, as well as equipment like the RC-XD drone and zombies. Taking place on the largest map in the history of Call of Duty, it has the potential to completely reshape how you think of the series.
Currently, the beta for Blackout allows for 88 simultaneous players. The initial cap was at 80, but Treyarch will raise and lower this based on feedback and what it feels best suits the mode — it doesn’t appear there are any technical reasons preventing 100 players at once.
Oh, and there are vehicles! With the exception of World at War, Call of Duty has mostly stayed away from directly-controlled vehicles, but you’ll be able to take to the air, land, and water as you blast away at your enemies and attempt to get that elusive chicken dinner – or whatever Treyarch decides to call it.
Blackout will also feature zombies, so it goes without saying that the mode probably isn’t canon to the rest of the Black Ops 4 experience. These will primarily be located around special “mystery boxes” filled with powerful gear.
Following the beginning of the Black Ops 4 Blackout private beta on PlayStation 4, Treyarch provided players with additional information on the mode via Reddit — changes will be coming based on players’ feedback.
As with most other battle royale games, Black Ops 4 features item pickups, but in the beta, they aren’t as fast as battle royale veterans are used to. This will change in the future, as an update will not only make the process faster but will ensure that you can still reload your weapon while doing so.
Blackout currently has friendly fire enabled, meaning that your teammates in duos or squad matches will be able to kill you if they shoot at you. Treyarch has no plans to abandon this feature, as it’s a staple of other battle royale games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but close attention will be paid to players doing it often enough for it to not be an accident.
How to get into the Blackout beta
In order to gain access to the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout beta on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, you have to pre-order the full version of the game. Participating retailers should have given you a code that can be used to enter the beta, while PC players do not have to pre-order it to gain access.
The Blackout beta first opened up as a PS4 exclusive on September 10 and will also be available to Xbox and PC on September 14. The beta will conclude on September 17.
Zombies mode is its own game
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 leans more heavily into its Zombies mode than any other game in the series, with three separate Zombies campaigns available at launch.
Blood of the Dead is a new-school take on Mob of the Dead from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and takes place in Alcatraz prison. Portals are opening due to the influence of Richtofen and his other, while undead swarms the island penitentiary and threaten to destroy our heroes before they have a chance to discover the secrets hidden in its laboratory.
Voyage of Despair is set on the doomed Titanic ship in 1912 and finds our heroes dealing with a supernatural threat far worse than any iceberg as they search for a mysterious artifact.
Perhaps the most bizarre of the three launch-day Zombies campaigns is IX, which takes place in Ancient Rome. It has an Army of Darkness vibe to it and, because of its time period, it won’t include any guns. That’s right — there’s a Call of Duty game mode that’ll see you using swords and bows. It’s a crazy world we live in.
As with past Zombies modes, you’ll be able to play Black Ops 4’s cooperatively online and in local split-screen. Weapons like the Hammer of Valhalla and the Scepter of Ra should give you enough killing power to take on nearly any undead threat, though you’ll probably still die quite a bit.
You’ll have more options for customizing your Zombies experience this time around, as well. The perks you find in the maps’ Alters will be chosen by you in advance, and you can give your Mystery Box prize to a teammate instead of using it for your own character.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be available on PC exclusively through Battle.net, and Treyarch and Activision have revealed the PC specifications you’ll need in order to run it. They include:
- CPU: Minimum Intel Core i5 2500k, Recommended Intel Core i7 4770k
- GPU: Minimum Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB, Recommended Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
- RAM: Minimum 8GB, Recommended 12GB
- Disc space: 40GB.
- OS: Minimum Windows 7 86-Bit, Recommended Windows 10 65-Bit
Seven days early on PlayStation
As has been the case for the last several years, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 players on PlayStation 4 will receive content earlier than those on other platforms. However, they won’t be getting too much of an advantage over their Xbox One and PC peers.
This year, PlayStation 4 users will get all post-launch playable content a week earlier than other platforms, including new characters, events, and maps.
Release date, special editions, and platforms
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is out on October 12 for Xbox one, PlayStation 4, and PC. Several different versions of the game will be released, including the Digital Deluxe Edition, featuring bonus items, currency, new Zombies experiences, multiplayer maps, and exclusive Blackout characters. The Pro Edition, meanwhile, features its own bonus items and currency, as well as maps, Zombies modes, and Blackout characters.
The heavy-hitter is the Mystery Box Edition, which includes the titular box as well as lithographs, patches, a comic, FigPins, a Zombies puzzle, a PopSocket, a steelbook, and the maps, modes, and characters offered in the Digital Deluxe and Pro editions.