Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
There has been plenty of hype around the Blackout mode and the numerous Zombies offerings launching with Black Ops 4... but there has been just as much controversy due to the lack of campaign and the Black Ops pass. As a huge fan of the series, I wanted to take a closer look at these two complaints and give my opinion on everything going on with this year’s ambitious (and risky) Call of Duty title.
No Campaign, No Problem
Whenever a new Call of Duty title launches, I’ve always been one of the rare few who plays through the campaign on day one. Before doing anything else I go through the story, and I usually have a great time doing so. The original Black Ops is one of my favorite FPS campaigns of all time, so I always get excited for Treyarch’s entries in the series. When the news broke this year that Black Ops 4 wouldn’t have a traditional story campaign, I was disappointed. Now I’m over it, and furthermore, I think it was the right decision.
There are a few key reasons for my change of heart, so let’s run through them.
“The Numbers, Mason!”
While I love the campaigns in the Call of Duty series, the reality is that not everyone does. Far from it, in fact. For nearly a decade now this series has been focused on its multiplayer offerings, with the campaign completion percentages lowering noticeably every year. Just look at some of the stats:
With only 10% of COD’s player base finishing Treyarch’s most recent campaign, the reason they decided not to include a campaign in Black Ops 4 is obvious. The reality of the situation is that players go to Call of Duty for multiplayer now; the campaign is just an extra feature that usually remains untouched.
More Content Elsewhere
Why should Treyarch, or any COD developer for that matter, continue making content for such a small audience? Singleplayer campaigns take a tremendous amount of time and effort for developers, as an entirely separate team needs to work on them. Further, they require a large chunk of the budget for the cinematics. If there’s no campaign, though, the multiplayer and zombies team have a lot more to work with. The developers who usually work on the singleplayer are freed up to help elsewhere, and there are more resources to devote to the areas people care about. With Black Ops 4, Treyarch has proven this to be true.
Zombies has triple the content this year, offering three full on-disc maps on day one as well as plenty of additional features. With the overwhelming success of Black Ops 3’s Zombie Chronicles, the community proved how passionate they were for Treyarch’s Zombies mode. Instead of building a campaign for a small audience, Treyarch catered to the larger group of players.
The same can be said about multiplayer, as Blackout would likely be far less of a focus if Treyarch had to spend time and money on a campaign. Without that weighing them down, more effort can go into making Blackout a truly unique experience as opposed to a simple, rushed battle royale mode. There’s even still something in Black Ops 4 for campaign fans: Specialist missions. Each mission tells the story of a multiplayer character, and based on their bios in Black Ops 3, many of the specialists have interesting stories worth telling. It might not be the same, but it’s still a nice gesture.
Based on all of this, it’s clear that 90% of COD players are getting far more content than they usually do. It’s impossible to please everyone with a game, and Treyarch knows that; Black Ops 4 is proof of them trying to make as many people happy as they can. Yes, I was upset when I heard there would be no campaign this year. However, when I heard about the extra zombies and multiplayer content that would take its place, I understood. I have 27 days of playtime on Black Ops 3, and the campaign only makes up 10 hours of that time. Personally, I’m much happier to have tons of replayable content instead of a short campaign I’ll only run through once or twice.
Season Pass Struggles
The other part of Black Ops 4 that has garnered controversy is the game’s Black Ops Pass, and reasonably so; the concept of a season pass is slowly dying out for multiplayer games. Call of Duty’s main competition, Battlefield, has followed the path set by games like Fortnite and Overwatch by promising free maps and content for all its players. This immediately makes the Black Ops pass look bad, but players expecting more isn’t its only issue...
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Good: Before talking about what should change with the season pass, I wanted to mention what I like about it. For starters, I love that there’s an extra zombies map offered with the season pass, and the exclusive Blackout skins are a nice touch too. The way the content will be releasing is smart, as doing away with the map packs allows for maps to be delivered at a steady rate as opposed to dropping in groups every 3 months. Combined with the free events Treyarch plans to hold regularly for the game, it’s clear that the game will be well supported and won’t get stale.
The Bad: The Black Ops Pass even existing brings about an issue, though, and it’s one that every multiplayer game with a season pass has run into. The reason free maps are so integral to multiplayer games is obvious: they don’t split up the community. By placing additional maps behind a paywall, a large portion of the community is split up from the rest of the player base. This doesn’t only hurt non-pass owners, though, as those with the DLC will rarely get to play the new maps. They’ll be accessible from limited-time playlists, but they’ll rarely come up in the normal rotation.
The Ugly: With so much content on-disc, you’d think there would be more than the normal amount available in the season pass as well. However, the opposite is true! Costing only $40 as opposed to the usual $50, the Black Ops Pass offers the usual 4 zombies maps and 12 multiplayer maps instead of the usual 16. This is particularly disappointing for Zombies fans, as there are now two storylines going on at the same time. Four DLC maps just isn’t enough to tell both stories well, and one of them is sure to suffer because of it. Additionally, if players want specific Zombies maps, they can’t just buy the map packs outright anymore; they must get the entire season pass.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Black Ops Pass doesn’t address the biggest flaw of Black Ops 3: additional weapons. Guns and melee items were constantly added to that game, but they could only be acquired through supply drops. Season Pass owners only received 2 of them, and with no other way to unlock thee weapons in-game, Black Ops 3’s supply drops became the perfect example of a poor loot box system. I had hoped to see this addressed with the Black Ops Pass, but with no mention of them being included, I’m worried that history will repeat itself.
While it’s impossible to eliminate the problem of splitting up the community, the Black Ops Pass can be improved in many other ways before release. First, give owners of the pass access to all future DLC weapons; this immediately increases the quality of the season pass and makes it more enticing. Next, go beyond the limit of the pass by mixing in free maps. Nuketown coming out for everyone post-launch is wonderful, and keeping players engaged with more free maps would increase the likelihood of them buying the Black Ops Pass. Finally, let players buy the maps they want separately. This is huge for the Zombies-only crowd, as it allows them to get the maps without paying for the multiplayer content they’ll never use. Hell, it even means there could be more than just the four zombies maps coming with the Black Ops Pass.
With these fixes in mind, Treyarch could sway public opinion about the season pass back in their favor. If they do, there’s a very bright future in store for Black Ops 4. If they don't, they could end up struggling far more than they should.
Thanks for reading! Even with the flawed Black Ops Pass, I’m still extremely excited for Black Ops 4. Will you be picking the game up? How do you feel about the Black Ops Pass and the lack of a campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below!