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Image credit: Activision/Treyarch

'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' tweaks a familiar multiplayer formula

Let's be honest, we're all just waiting on battle royale.
Billy Steele, @wmsteele
06.13.18 in AV
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Activision/Treyarch

Call of Duty: WWII was a breath of fresh air after the weirdness what was Infinite Warfare. The return to historical battles was a welcome change after a (thankfully) brief trip to space. For 2018, the series is back in the hands of Treyarch, which means a new installment of Black Ops. The studio, along with publisher Activision, already took the wraps off the game a few weeks ago. Perhaps most importantly, the duo revealed that the single-player campaign would be replaced by a PUBG-esque battle royale mode. Of course, the popular CoD multiplayer isn't going anywhere, and that's what Activision is showing off at E3 this week.

With Black Ops 4, there's more focus on the teamwork aspect of the multiplayer mode. There's the bullet-filled and explosive combat you're used to in CoD, but this portion of the game is set between Black Ops 2 and Black Ops 3, a time that serves as a prequel to the Specialists that fans of the franchise are now familiar with. Those are still part of the game, though, and they've been retooled with new abilities and combat profiles. In terms of teamwork, Black Ops 4 rewards players for their contributions to a team win -- more than just a flashy K/D ratio or a blazing individual performance. You can combine your Specialist talents to be the most effective, creating a way more powerful fighting force when working together.

During my half-hour session playing through Hardpoint and Domination multiplayer games, Black Ops 4 felt very familiar. The multiplayer portion of these games is always pretty similar to previous titles, with new characters, locations and visuals. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, as diehard fans of the series will feel right at home. Overall, pre-match setting up classes and in-match gameplay felt like the CoD I'm familiar with.

Another big change for multiplayer is health packs. You'll be able to heal yourself in the heat of battle before facing another enemy. As I found out during my brief demo with Black Ops 4 multiplayer, those packs will come in handy, but you will have to be strategic about when you use them.

Activision and Treyarch have already announced that zombies will return in Black Ops 4, a staple of the studio's CoD games since World At War. Though they weren't playable at E3, the game will offer up to five new zombie modes built on new storylines and new characters. There will also be a hint of customization to the zombie section of the game this time around. You'll be able to create custom games and make other tweaks to personalize gameplay. Again, Activision didn't go into too much detail this week, and none of the zombie modes were playable at E3.

Then there's the battle royale, or if you're going by it's official name, Blackout. At the same time, this new mode is both the biggest in terms of number of players and size of the map ever for Call of Duty. Characters from previous Black Ops games will be playable here and sections of the map are inspired by iconic locales from other titles. Activision gave Nuketown and Firing Range as examples. And in true battle royale tradition, there will be plenty to scavenge for, including classic weapons and vehicles for air, land and sea. Blackout is perhaps the most exciting addition to Black Ops 4, even if it is another damn game hopping on the bandwagon. That said, I was a bit disappointed I didn't get to try it.

Activision is changing how it handles post-launch content with the game as well. With Black Ops Pass, you'll be privy to all of the extras that arrive after the game goes on sale, including new maps. There isn't a lot of info available on the pass system just yet -- like how much it will cost. However, Activision did reveal that it will include those five zombie "experiences" I mentioned, one of which is exclusive to the Black Ops Pass. There will also be 12 multiplayer maps and four exclusive Blackout characters. Acitivision says this system will allow for more frequent updates rather than a series of four big drops.

Treyarch is working with Beenox on a dedicated version of the game for PCs. There's a lot of attention being given to the PC version of this year's release, something that hasn't been the case in year's past. In fact, Activision says this is the largest PC development team ever for the franchise. Additional features will include 4K/HDR, ultra-wide monitor support and uncapped frame rate. Black Ops 4 will also be the first Call of Duty game available on Blizzard's Battle.net.

We only got a small peak at Black Ops 4 here at E3, but there are sure to be more details to come before the game hits this fall.

Gallery: 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' | 9 Photos

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