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 II and Black Ops III – 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.
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 – “Breacher” with ballistic shield and tactical 9-Bang grenade.
- Battery – Demolition expert with war machine grenade launcher and cluster grenade.
- Crash – Healer with TAK-5 medical kit and assault ammunition pack.
- Firebreak – “Area denial” with flamethrower and reactor core.
- Nomad – Nature-lover with dog and tripwire-equipped explosives.
- Recon — Intel operator with vision pulse and sensor darts.
- Ruin – “Rusher” with “grav slam” attack and grapple gun.
- Seraph – Tactician with high-caliber revolver and deployable beacon.
- Torque – Defender with barricade and razor wire.
“Prophet” from Call of Duty: Black Ops III 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: WWII 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.
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 II, 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 follow 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 play style. 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.
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 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 in some capacity, so it goes without saying that the mode probably isn’t canon to the rest of the Black Ops 4 experience. And, speaking of zombies…
Zombies mode is basically 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 II, and takes place in Alcatraz prison. Portals are opening due to the influence of Richtofen and his “other,” while undead swarm 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.
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.
When is the beta?
Pre-ordering any version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will grant you access to the game’s beta. It begins on August 3 exclusively on PlayStation 4 before coming to Xbox One and PC later that month.