When Black Ops 4 was revealed earlier this year one of the recurring questions that kept cropping up is ‘why isn’t there a single player campaign?’ Call of Duty has had a campaign since the very beginning, with the series only growing more bombastic and over-the-top as time has gone on.
Some fans were justifiably upset, but the removal of a campaign is something that has been in the cards for CoD for a while now. Black Ops 4 feels like a natural progression of where the series has been going, and in this case, the lack of a single player campaign doesn’t hurt it.
It goes without saying that CoD is a multiplayer-focused franchise, and its brand of multiplayer has catapulted the series to become one of the most successful franchises of all time.
The first Modern Warfare really broke through with its multiplayer, and since then even the series’ marketing has come to focus more on multiplayer, rather than single player. Just look at the trend of live-action trailers CoD used for a while, where they loop in the star power of people like Robert Downey Jr. in trailers for multiplayer.
We’ve seen one of these trailers for every CoD game since Modern Warfare 3, most of which feature some kind of celebrity. This highlights the series trajectory into multiplayer focus, which is right where Black Ops 4 comes in. Treyarch, even more than Activision and Sledgehammer, have been the CoD studio that has advanced multiplayer the most.
They introduced the co-op zombies mode to the series with World at War and the first to let you record gameplay clips with Black Ops. They’ve consistently crafted some of the most popular multiplayer entries in the series, with Black Ops, in particular, gaining enormous popularity.
From the beginning, Treyarch never planned a traditional campaign for Black Ops 4, something they told us during our interview at the reveal event. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t story in Black Ops 4. The game sports a more robust zombies experience than ever before, which can easily be played with a group of friends, strangers, or even with bots if you want.
With new characters and returning ones, there’s some fun story elements and easter eggs to uncover. At the same time, heading to the Specialists menu lets you watch introductory cutscenes for every specialist, then play a handful of training missions to piece together more of a story.
There’s a surprising amount of quality CG cutscenes that highlight these missions, and getting to know the multiplayer characters, both in personality and how they play, is a welcome addition.
Treyarch clearly put the time they would have used in a campaign to good use, as Black Ops 4 has the robust multiplayer suite we’ve ever seen from CoD.
Multiplayer comes with all the bits and bobs you’d expect, with plenty of modes to take up your time. The new Specialist system makes multiplayer lean a little closer to a hero shooter, and it’s all the better for it. Multiplayer feels as fast and frantic as ever, but the Specialist abilities give you more freedom to craft your own unique playstyle. Multiplayer isn’t drastically different, but the small changes make it one of the most engaging experiences from the series in years.
The big news with Black Ops 4, of course, is the addition of Blackout, a brand new battle royale mode. Introducing an entirely new experience, especially one as big as battle royale, is no small undertaking. Undoubtedly, the ability to shift away from a campaign allowed Treyarch to double down on Blackout, and make it an engaging experience.
Whether you’re into battle royale or not, Blackout is impressive. The way Treyarch has adapted Call of Duty gameplay into a huge map with over 80 players is a huge feat, and the brand power of CoD already makes it a contender in the battle royale scene.
Amazingly, Black Ops 4 has had one of the smoothest launches of the series, something noted by multiple outlets. There haven’t been any major server crashes or downtime, and for the most part everything runs smoothly, with some PC examples aside.
Even in my own personal experience, I’ve played around 20 hours as of the time of writing, and not once have I been booted from a game for disconnection, and I’ve experienced very little lag.
For a game that’s entirely multiplayer, this is incredibly important, and it’s no doubt a byproduct of Treyarch doubling down on that multiplayer. There’s certainly not a shortage of content in Black Ops 4, and despite lacking a single player campaign it feels like there’s more to do than ever before.
CoD is at its strongest with multiplayer, and while past campaigns have been fun, outside of the original Modern Warfare there aren’t any that were really genre-defining or considered the all-time best. Games like Wolfenstein and Doom still occupy that single-player shooter space, but there’s really no need for CoD to do that if it doesn’t want to.
This isn’t to say single player won’t ever appear in a CoD game again, it very well could, but Treyarch’s specialty is multiplayer, and Activision made a wise choice by letting them lean into that. Black Ops 4 is one of the most different CoD experiences in years, and with a series that’s been experiencing franchise fatigue, that’s a very good thing.