The full reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is fast approaching but, last week, Polygon reported that Treyarch’s game was ditching the traditional single-player campaign in favor of a greater focus on multiplayer. This has me worried about how Black Ops 4 is going to turn out, not simply because of the lack of a campaign, but due to the reported reasons why that choice has been made and what is acting as its replacement.
While Call of Duty campaigns are usually high-quality cinematic experiences, the simple fact is that far more people play the multiplayer modes than the campaign. Just 24.6 percent of PlayStation 4 players finished the WWII campaign, something that takes no more than six hours. It must be disappointing for the developers to spend so much time and effort creating that part of the game, only to see less than a quarter of players try it, especially when it’s a step forward for the series as WWII’s was. However, it makes sense that they’d consider dropping single-player entirely if it isn’t worth their time. If it’s not appreciated and the time would be better spent on pleasing fans of the multiplayer, potentially bringing in more money from microtransactions, it’s understandable.
However, Polygon reported that their source said “that it became evident that development on the single-player campaign wouldn’t be completed,” suggesting that a campaign was planned, but it wouldn’t be finished by the series’ usual November release date. Therefore, if this is true, Treyarch has likely spent much of their three-year development cycle working on a campaign, only for it to be scrapped. Of course, we don’t know how much time and resources went into it, but it’s not a case of making the decision to drop the mode to focus on multiplayer. The suggestion is that it was a necessity, rather than a choice from the outset.
Polygon’s report also suggested that there would be “an emphasis on cooperative modes as a potential stand-in for the typical single-player campaign experience.” Whether that be a bolstered zombies mode, or a new co-op mode entirely, is unknown, but it would likely be tied into the traditional multiplayer scene. However, shortly after the news broke, CharlieIntel revealed that Treyarch might be working on a Battle Royale mode as a replacement for the campaign. “Raven Software has reportedly been tasked with adding a Battle Royale mode to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 to fill the content gap of no campaign,” CI wrote. That suggests that Treyarch is struggling to get development completed to the degree that the campaign replacement is having to be outsourced to the studio that made Modern Warfare Remastered. Raven has been involved with core Call of Duty games previously, but Treyarch’s rumored struggles are concerning.
While a potential Battle Royale mode is exciting, it would be interesting to know when the decision to drop the campaign and replace it with the hotness that is Battle Royale was made. Was the Battle Royale idea considered from the game’s conception, originally intended to be included alongside a single-player, or was it quickly designed after the collapse of the campaign? If the latter is the case, the fear is that it’s being rushed to make up for missing content. PUBG spent months in early access, and Fortnite’s mode remains there, in an attempt to iron out any issues, but Black Ops 4’s release schedule prevents substantial testing from occurring, especially if it’s a new addition to the game. If it features fewer players than other Battle Royale games, lacks gameplay options that set it apart from the other multiplayer modes, or runs poorly, then the immediate conclusion that’ll be made is that it was rushed after the dropping of the campaign. Treyarch would also need to ensure that the multiplayer is better than it’s ever been so that it can counter the game’s shortcomings elsewhere. Hopefully, they don’t run out of time to make it how they wish, as has been suggested was the case with the campaign.
Of course, Activision said that they “don’t comment on rumor and speculation,” so we won’t know whether these reports are true until Black Ops 4’s full reveal on May 17. But if they are true, then the multiplayer and rumored Battle Royale mode will have to be top quality to make up for the lack of a traditional campaign. I’m just worried Treyarch don’t have the time to make that a reality.