A Few of the Questions We Have After Playing the Call of Duty: Blacks 4 Blackout Beta
The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout beta mode is coming to an end, leaving several questions that will be answered when the game comes out.
When the next Call of Duty title is released on October 12 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, the game will bring with it plenty of multiplayer modes, along with one that is new to the property but will be imminently familiar to many.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 introduces “Blackout,” a new Battle Royale multiplayer mode. The beta is currently underway with a staggered schedule based on platform, but the game mode is the same across all systems. It’s the first time Call of Duty has tried a mode like this, but anyone familiar with Fortnite, H1Z1, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and others will feel right at home.
Like most betas, Black Ops 4’s answers a few questions and raises others. Some we’ll learn the answers to as soon as the game is released, others will be a little more long term. Still, they are all questions worth asking.
An Introduction to Blackout
For those that haven’t yet been swallowed by the Battle Royale craze, the idea is simple enough – and incredibly addictive.
The beta allows for 100 players (it was originally 80 but was raised) to join as a team of two, four, or solo. The area is a massive open area with plenty of buildings, fields, and natural cover, and players parachute into the map completely unarmed. Weapons, armor, power-ups, and items are scattered throughout the land and can be collected, used, and swapped out. Games are single elimination, although when playing in teams players can be healed for a brief time after being downed.
To keep things moving quickly, a circular wall encompasses the entire map, and at set intervals it contracts, pushing players toward a center point (which changes each match to ensure no one can just camp in the last area). Matches tend to take several minutes, although there are frequently a fair number of deaths right at the start that weed out several players, followed by a slower period where the survivors of the initial purge make for safety. Battle Royale modes aren’t about getting kills, they are about surviving until the end and then getting kills.
The format is different, but in terms of gameplay it feels like Call of Duty – just with a different strategy.
Will Blackout Win Back Fans That Left COD Behind?
It’s easy to look at the long-running COD franchise and focus on the sales of its annual releases dropping, but that’s not the full picture. While it’s true that the series peaked in 2011 with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which at the time shattered records and topped a billion dollars in record time, last year’s Call of Duty: WWII was still the best-selling title released in 2017. WWII sold nearly 20 million copies less than Modern Warfare 3, but it’s still a very successful franchise.
To be fair, COD might never be able to recapture those earlier numbers, which were firmly in the phenomenon category. Regardless, the numbers show a declining fanbase. The name “Black Ops” will probably help win back some fans who weren’t interested in WWII (or Infinite Warfare before that), but the popularity of Battle Royale-centric games is undeniable.
Since its release, Epic Games’ Fortnite has generated over $1 billion dollars, much of that due to microtransactions and streaming revenues. Fortnite is not Call of Duty, however.
Epic’s game is free-to-play, while Black Ops 4 will be released at the standard price of $60 (not counting the more expensive collectors’ editions). Fortnite also continues to introduce new content at no additional cost, while Call of Duty will stick to the standard expansion model that will cost extra (albeit with a slight twist).
Call of Duty can’t be expected to win over people in the same way that a free-to-play title can, but games like Fortnite have helped to introduce gamers to the new style. The series could win back some lost fans, but it won’t be easy. Assuming the series continues to bring the mode back in each new entry like it now doing with the Zombies mode, it could help to retain the current fans through future releases.
Part of what makes Fortnite so profitable is that it includes plenty of things to buy through microtransactions that make the game more fun for players but don’t give any competitive advantage. Dropping a few dollars here and there is an easy pill to swallow given that the game is free. But after paying $60+ for Black Ops 4 (and more for DLC) will gamers be as open to micro-purchases?
Although Treyarch hasn’t gone into details yet, Black Ops 4 will include microtransactions in the form of the returning “COD Bucks.” If it’s similar to previous COD games, you’ll be able to buy plenty of aesthetic options, but nothing that will give an obvious competitive edge (at least nothing you couldn’t earn on your own through gameplay). In Blackout the aesthetic additions may not work with weapons – which are randomly generated – but it will probably impact character looks. The question is whether or not those character skins will be unlockable through play or only through purchases.
If the microtransactions are a shortcut, players will probably be fine with that (mostly). But if after paying $60 the only way to customize characters is to pay even more money, it could quickly sour the entire experience. Activision has been fairly good about not killing their games by overloading them with micro-purchasesin the past, so there’s no reason to worry yet.
COD Weapons Could Make the Difference
While you’ll find countless similarities between Blackout and other Battle Royale modes, one of the things that may help to set it apart are the weapons.
Say what you will about the gameplay in the COD titles, the developers – each studio – puts a huge emphasis on the logic of the weapons. Even as the series has put a toe into more futuristic stylings, the weapons at least make sense and they each have a different look and feel. That isn’t to say that they always get it right (that’s what weapons patches are for), but each weapon is more than just “generic assault rifle” or “shotgun #2.” There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and no two guns are the exact same.
In Blackout, weapons can also be augmented by attachments that can be found scattered around the map. Not every attachment works on every weapon, but finding a suppressor for an SMG or a better scope for a sniper rifle can make a huge advantage. That adds a little more flavor to the weapons and helps keep things interesting.
Where in most Battle Royale modes finding a good gun quickly is important, in Blackout it is vital and can make all the difference. While the items, power-ups, and armor (especially armor) are all important, the COD weapons are arguably the standout feature of Blackout.
Streaming and eSports
If you aren’t a streamer or an eSports player additional features dedicated to either group might not seem like it will affect you directly, but offering plenty of support on both fronts will be vital to the success of the game. For many Battle Royale-style games, streaming and eSports are huge revenue generators, which means they are a big reason why games like Fortnite is getting ready to introduce its sixth season, bringing new content with it. The more profitable a game is, the more support it will receive.
Blackout will certainly try to embrace both. Activision is already all in on eSports and offers huge cash purses in prizes each year. Don’t be surprised to see Blackout-centric tournaments pop up. And if it can continue to connect with the streaming crowd, it will be a huge boon for everyone.
A Few Things We’d Like to See in the Final Release
The retail version of Blackout won’t be released until October 12, but there are a few things we’d like to see added based on the beta. None of these are deal breakers and they could be added over time, but it would be nice to see them addressed.
- Epic Games has turned character cheers into an art form – Treyarch might not want to steal that, but some form of emotes would be nice.
- Additional battle royale maps with DLC would be a good way to keep things fresh.
- In-game Easter eggs go a long way – there are already zombies in Blackout and the more things like that, the better.
- Challenges and rewards for completing them that are exclusive to Blackout are probably a given (we hope).
- More battle royale game modes would be a good way to make the COD version stand out – this might seem contradictory to the mode, but offering shorter games with half the people or 50 v 50 would be a nice addition.
- Giving players something to do while they are running around waiting for deployment would be a nice way to break up an otherwise monotonous load.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, including the Blackout game mode, will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 12, 2018.