Battle Royale games are the hot thing in video games right now, so the confirmation that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will have such a mode is little surprise. However, Treyarch was adamant at the reveal event last week they weren't simply going to copy the Battle Royale formula made famous by games like Fortnite and PUBG, but were going to make it a unique Black Ops experience. While the studio was reticent to reveal too many details about the game mode at this point. I spoke with Senior Producer Yale Miller and Game Designer Matt Scronce following the reveal and they both implied a number of ways that the Battle Royale mode, called Blackout, could be quite different then what players of Fortnite or PUBG might be familiar with. First off, Miller admitted that the exact player count of each match has not yet been decided. In addition, exactly how map collapse will work, or even if it will have such a mechanic, is not confirmed. According to Miller...
It is a battle royale mode and that often deals with map collapse, the exact collapse mechanics we're not ready to talk about yet. The player count as well...we've been trying all kinds of different player counts, we can go really really high, we can go lower. For us it's about creating something that feels like a Black Ops Game.
These two factors likely go hand in hand. The size of the map itself has apparently been set during the reveal keynote is was described as being 1500 times the size of the popular Black Ops Nuketown map, but exactly how many players can comfortably inhabit that map, and how that changes as players die off, is likely something of a moving target. Both Player Unknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite see 100 players inhabit their maps at the start, and most probably assumed Blackout would be the same thing, but that's not necessarily the case. It sounds like the total number of players could potentially exceed 100, or be less than that, depending on what Treyarch thinks works best to make the matches feel like a Black Ops game.
These elements alone would be enough to make Blackout potentially unique in the Battle Royale space, but there might be yet another change to the formula that Blackout has in store. In speaking about how Treyarch wanted to try and put their own spin on the game mode, Game Designer Matt Scronce mentioned one element that would make the Blackout a true Black Ops experience that isn't often associated with Battle Royle games, tactical team gameplay.
We told ourselves we would not enter this space if we did not feel like we couldn't bring something new to the table. We're not here to copy, we're not here to rip off, we're here to bring you a Black Ops Battle Royale experience. So you know it's going to be gritty, it's going to be modern, it's going to be team tactical.
Team-based modes aren't entirely unheard of in Battle Royale games, but they tend to be limited time events or secondary options. The focus is almost always about being the last one standing. While that option will certainly exist in Blackout, that was made clear during the reveal, it's possible that the game mode is actually designed specifically around tactical squad-based gameplay, rather than being a lone wolf. If that's the case, Blackout will certainly offer something different from the other popular games in the class.