Among the genres of video games that have been something of a cultural landmark since their introduction, shooters have always held a particular throne. They’re typically violent, intense, twitchy, and all-around engrossing experiences that are designed to draw players into high-adrenaline gameplay. Military shooters are practically a genre of their own, and the Call of Duty: Black Ops series has been responsible for displaying some of the genre’s most important new gameplay features. The most recent of the series, Black Ops 3, hasn’t yet spawned a sequel. Thus, legions of eager fans are anxious to hear when we’ll be getting Black Ops 4. Has a release date even been announced, yet? What we know now might surprise some, so read on, for details!
The only consistent accusation leveled against the Call of Duty games at large is that they release almost as frequently as popular sports titles; which is to say, every single year. In fairness, the Call of Duty franchise operates beneath a few different brands, each of which is bringing entirely different things to the table. In a way, the two operating series in Call of Duty tend to leapfrog over one another, every other year, which is what gives the illusion of Call of Duty games being released so frequently.
Usually, a game in the primary Call of Duty series is released, followed by a new Black Ops title the following year. The first Call of Duty game released in 2003, but we didn’t see the Black Ops portion of the franchise emerge until much later, in 2010. It followed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and the series have jumped over one another every subsequent year since. As you’ll see in the article below, there’s plenty of reason to expect a forthcoming Black Ops 4.
However, we have to look at details apart from that one, single trend, as well. These games catch some flak based on how frequently they’re released, sure, but they often bring something new and interesting into their gameplay with each one that releases. There’s a reason that they’re some of the most-played shooters on game consoles and PCs, and it has to do with reliably compelling gameplay. They’re always fun, and you can trust that every new game in the series will be fresh and rewarding.
This brings us to a somewhat important question: would Black Ops 4 have anything new upon which to innovate? What is the series missing, and can a brand new game in the series deliver that? If we want to understand the context of this question, we need to look at the shooter genre at large. A topic better reserved for another article, maybe, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a brief glimpse at the competition before we’re through with our speculation.
The Call of Duty Series
Call of Duty has a storied history, without any pun intended. The games are thematically about mankind’s history with warfare, and recent releases have been about mankind’s prospective future with warfare. You always take the role of a soldier, and while fast-paced action has always been a priority for the gameplay, the setting of each title is built upon thick layers of realism. Sure, the violence might be a little bit outrageous, but that’s more of a trademark of the shooter genre at large, rather than Call of Duty.
Call of Duty, and the two sequels that followed it were grounded firmly in the stark, violent landscapes of World War II, and made their name as some of the grittiest, most interesting shooters to tackle that historical material to date. Since then, other games have attempted to mimic that success, but it has largely remained the realm of the Call of Duty series.
However, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brought things several decades forward into the present. It featured a very realistic military conflict between patently real world powers. The setting reflected it, the weapons were all grounded firmly in manufactured arms that people were familiar with, and it was a runaway success on every platform it released on.
The next game in the series ended the pattern of numerical releases (which has not resumed) with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It remained firmly cemented in the realistic present, and expanded on gameplay features that originated with the first Modern Warfare title. One year after Modern Warfare 2, we were given the first in a new series–Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Rather than serve as a sequel to Modern Warfare, the first Black Ops game was something of a pseudo-sequel to Call of Duty: World at War. It takes place during the era of the Cold War and features names and personalities iconic to that troubling period of world history.
Black Ops 2 further expanded on Cold War politics, but also vaulted the series into the speculative future. It takes place both during the closing years of the Cold War as well as a future Cold War set in the not-too-distant future. This coincided with the rest of the Call of Duty series also embracing more science fiction in its themes and settings; Advanced Warfare prominently featured cybernetics and advancements on technology that is only in its infancy, in our present.
The most recently released, Black Ops 3, takes place far in the future. It continues the storyline of previous Black Ops games, predicting the global conflicts that might exist in the speculative year 2065. If you’re a fan of science fiction and you haven’t checked this title out, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Black Ops Features
The Black Ops portion of the Call of Duty franchise has always departed slightly from other trends in the game series. While it still features excellent shooter gameplay that operates, on a basic level, in the same way as other Call of Duty games, there have always been features that allow it to stand apart.
Often, that takes the form of team-based gameplay. The main Call of Duty games might be the kings of the death match, but the other side of that coin is cooperative gameplay, and that’s where Black Ops shines. From cooperative split-screen to team-based, tactical multiplayer that’s grounded in a realistic (if sometimes futuristic) setting, look no further.
Chief among the Black Ops-specific additions is the “Zombies” game modes, which are typically released as downloadable content after the primary game has been released for a few months. Each new Black Ops game is almost guaranteed to eventually receive a zombie-based survival mode, which demands that players survive cooperatively against the undead hordes.
Is it wacky and entirely out-of-line from the games’ more serious story trappings? Absolutely, but it’s also a blast to play, and has been a feature that some players are known to buy the game for, exclusively.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
So, where does this leave us in regard to Black Ops 4? Should we expect it? Will Black Ops 3 be the last in a continually well-received series?
The thing is, nobody can know the answer to this, for sure. If any do–be they games journalists or developers–they’ve remained incredibly tight-lipped about it. Activision and Treyarch haven’t said much in the way of evidence for Black Ops 4’s development. Thus, it’s hard for fans to know where to stand.
If we had to predict right now whether Black Ops 4 is on the way or not, the answer would be absolutely, yes. There’s a lot of longevity left in this series, and though we can only speculate, there is plenty of room for the series to continue innovating and evolving, especially now that the Call of Duty franchise has chosen to embrace science fiction for its future (no pun intended).
First, 2016 has given us Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. As an entry in the main Call of Duty game series, it’s going to be a touchstone for what we’ll see in an eventual Black Ops 4 if we do get one. Also, since Infinite Warfare was only released this year, 2017 is the earliest that we’re going to see–or hear–about Black Ops 4. It would fit into the release pattern of the previous Call of Duty games, and give Infinite Warfare plenty of room to breathe and evolve before a new game appears.
Additionally, Black Ops 3 has only recently released its own series of downloadable content updates. Given that many players are still digging into this new content, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect a sequel to appear too soon. But next year? 2017? I’d almost be willing to bet money on it.
While all that we can do is speculate with regard to the eventual release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, there’s quite a lot of precedent and evidence to suggest that it’s on they way. Release schedules and gamer expectations are important to developers, and the fact that thousands of people are eagerly awaiting news about this potential sequel is reason enough to anticipate it. What we know now isn’t enough to say anything definitive, but there’s no reason not to look forward to the announcement of a date in 2017!