4 : Fortnite => Blackout
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, and that rock has no connection to Twitch, you’ve heard of Fortnite. The building battle royale shooter has dominated the gaming space for a while. The free to play model combined with it being available on every platform, (Now that is has been announced for Nintendo Switch.), has made it the new front runner in shooters.
Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode is a clear attempt from Activision to grab it’s slice of the Battle Royale pie. Notable changes to the mode include the incorporation of vehicles and the appearance of familiar Call of Duty “landmarks” inside of the Battle Royal map.
Black Ops 4 producer Miles Leslie recently shared some information regarding Blackout, saying that they were – “Sprinkling in landmarks for different games, so you can say, ‘Let’s go to the Nuketown sign or Nuketown house.’ Not saying we’re putting empty maps in Blackout, because it’s designed for the experience, but you’ll be able to pick up on those landmarks in some really cool ways. This really ties into a different experience for a battle royale game.”
The mode also has a significant focus on characters from previous Black Ops games, promising to be something of a Call of Duty all stars: “We’re in a unique position where we can draw on our history across all of Black Ops. You loved Reznov, now you can play as him. You love the Zombies characters, you can play as them. All the vehicles and weapons from past games,” adds Leslie.
Black Ops 4’s Zombie mode is also similar structurally to Fortnite’s “Save the World”, in that zombies attack a base and players have to repair and hold that base while fighting off waves of undead attackers – all while comic banter serves as exposition. However Fortnite’s “Save the World” is nowhere near as popular as Battle Royale by comparison, whereas Zombies first appeared in Call of Duty back in 2008, and has been popular among the base since it’s release. So while Fortnite is certainly influencing Black Ops 4 – in some ways – the influence is at least mutual.
3: Overwatch => Specialists
Since Black Ops 4 has no single player campaign, the story telling is promised to be incorporated into multiplayer, replacing big budget stars and cut scenes with a focus on characters and their unique abilities.
Another character/class based shooter, Overwatch, takes the exact same approach. Black Ops 4 looks to imitate Overwatch’s character class system with specialists. In fact some specialists abilities look identical to Overwatch characters abilities. Ruin’s grapple gun functions identically to Widowmaker’s, and Recon’s “vision pulse” allows players to see through walls, exactly like Widow’s ultimate. Each specialist has abilities unique to them and an ultimate ability that they must charge up that can create a dynamic swing in gameplay. There’s also a greater reliance on teamwork due to characters synergies with one another and a universal need for healing.
In most CoD games health is regenerated by stepping out of the fight for a few moments, once a player was out of combat long enough, health would regenerate on it’s own. That changes in Black Ops 4. Now players must heal themselves, but are vulnerable while doing so. This also gives greater impact to the medic specialists, who can heal their allies and even buff their maximum health. This adds another layer of strategy to team play, as players can cover each other while healing, or work to protect the medic to keep the rest of the team alive. This also introduces a new issue that has some players concerned.
Team Composition Woes
As of this writing it has been announced that there can only be one of each specialist on a team. This limitation has been a bane on games like Overwatch, where players frequently fight and dodge games because they don’t get to play the character they want, or teams are left without a vital role filled, like tank or healer. These problems were recently addressed with a role queue option, but there is no news on whether or not Black Ops 4 will have a similar system.
2: Destiny 2 => Battle.Net
Until now, Call of Duty games on PC were available directly through the Steam store, that ends with Black Ops 4. Battle.net, is now home to two Activision games, Destiny 2 and Black Ops 4. As of right now the game only appears as a pre-order option, but the promise of another Activision arrival bodes a significant departure from Call of Duty tradition. While Destiny 2 blazed a trail by being the first non-Blizzard game on the launcher, Call of Duty has a larger following and longer history than Destiny. Though improving the consistency of servers is always a good thing, Blizzard’s launcher couldn’t stop the multiple scandals that plagued Destiny 2, we will see if it can prevent player woes with Black Ops 4. Which brings us to the biggest challenge in Black Ops path to success.
1: BattleFront => Paywall
The most downvoted comment in reddit history could be a harbinger of Black Ops 4’s fate, if Treyarch follows the same path EA did with Star Wars Battlefront. The lootbox controversy showed that when gamers band together to retaliate against the greedy business practices of AAA developers, they actually win.
Call of Duty’s progression is central to lootboxes, unlike Overwatch and other competitive games where the items found in boxes are solely cosmetic. This is the same exact mistake made by Battlefront, which failed to meet sales goals and ultimately conceded to player demands.
In Black Ops 4’s case, the issue revolves not as much around lootboxes as it does the season pass. Many of the game’s maps and zombie expansions will be locked behind a season pass paywall, a decision lamented even by those able to pay for it. The main issue with the outdated season pass model is that it splits the player base.
New maps don’t do any good if there is no one to play on them with, and if the matchmaking only functions for those with the season pass, the number of available players to queue with is effectively halved, or worse, leading to longer queue times and essentially a dead game, making any number of maps unplayable.
Even worse, the removal of a single player mode already has players concerned that they are getting an unfinished game. All of these issues compounding on Call of Duty fans has led to some interesting camaraderie between gamers, with CoD fans reaching out to Star Wars fans, straight up asking for their support in fighting greedy gaming companies.
Is Black Ops 4 Doomed?
With four months to go till release, there is time for Treyarch and Activision to reverse the season pass decisions, but as of this writing they have showed no indication of doing so. This is very unfortunate for shooter fans, because many of Black Ops features look to be answering player concerns. The removal of jump jets mean less verticality and a more grounded, military experience. This is exactly what fans have been asking for, but if they don’t get to experience it because they can’t get behind a second paywall, it becomes a lost opportunity.
Implementing successful aspects of other games is core to the industry, and can advance the art form when done properly. (Such as Fortnite did with PUBG,) But the reason why modes like Battle Royale became popular was accessibility, anyone could into a match, quickly, and for FREE. A Battle Royale mode with limited access is essentially an empty room. Black Ops 4 shows a great deal of innovation for the series, and there has been a clear attempt to listen to player concerns, but sadly, not in the area of monetization. Battlefront proved that controversy can kill even an established ip, will history repeat?
The next few months will decide the fate of Black Ops, and possibly the industry. Was the response to Battlefront an outlier? Or will Black Ops share the same fate? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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