Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has a battle royale mode called Blackout. We still do not know much in the way of specifics like if it will support 100 players like Fortnite and PUBG or what the actual gameplay looks like. But it’s an intriguing–if not surprising–move for the Call of Duty series. We spoke to Call of Duty boss Robert Kostich recently about Blackout, in particular what it does to stand apart from Fortnite and PUBG, and if it could ever be a standalone offering.
Months ago, we heard that Activision might be interested in getting in on the battle royale trend. We don’t know a specific timeline for what Treyarch came up with the idea for Blackout, but Kostich said is simply “emerged” as something the studio wanted to pursue to give fans yet another way to experience Call of Duty in a new way.
“Blackout just emerged as something that was passionately what the development team wanted to do and bring a new kind of experience to Call of Duty fans,” he said. “And I think it’s one that Black Ops is uniquely positioned to do with the rich history of Black Ops.”
Kostich added that Treyarch didn’t want to make a battle royale mode just for the sake of it. The team only decided to pursue the idea after they came up with a way that made it feel “unique” to Call of Duty and the Black Ops sub-franchise, Kostich said.
So, what sets Blackout apart from games like Fortnite and PUBG? We don’t know just yet, as we haven’t seen any gameplay or gotten to try it ourselves. But Kostich says Blackout will leverage things like Call of Duty’s well-established controls and fast-paced action. Indeed, Call of Duty as a franchise has remained the cream of the crop for shooter fans due in part to how well it nails its controls and feel. But Call of Duty is also known for its smaller maps and lower player counts relative to competitive titles like Battlefield and others. Blackout, however, is set on a massive map–1,500 times bigger than Nuketown–and it will use characters, weapons, and parts of maps that were included in Black Ops 1, 2, and 3 over the past 10 years.
“Certainly the Call of Duty mechanics, the fluidity of our controls, the pace of our action; that for us is like the highest end that we can provide,” Kostich said. “From there we also have a map that is 1500 times bigger than Nuketown.”
Kostich added that he also believes Blackout will stand out based on how you will interact with the environment. Specifically, you’ll be able to use land, sea, and air vehicles to traverse the map, or at least parts of it.
“We’re more focused on ourselves than we are responding to anything else” — Kostich
“The emergent gameplay moments are going to be very different from what you’re seeing in other battle royale games right now,” he said.
The Blackout announcement video (watch it again in the embed above), teases that the mode will offer the “best, most refined mechanics in the world” for a battle royale game. It will even include Zombies in some capacity as part of its effort to offer an experience that is “uniquely Black Ops.”
Kostich also spoke about whether or not games like Fortnite and PUBG are competitors to Blackout. In some ways they are by virtue of competing in the same space, but competition is nothing new for Call of Duty, and in fact, the innovation that battle royale brings to gaming overall is a positive overall, Kostich said.
“There is competition every year,” he said. “There are great games every year. It’s awesome for the industry to have more of this stuff and pushing new boundaries in different ways. We’re more focused on ourselves than we are responding to anything else.”
When asked if Blackout was developed specifically in response to games like Fortnite and PUBG, Kostich did not answer directly, but said “development is always a journey.”
“The story always evolves over the course of development,” he said. “This has been a really cool journey. From the start, Treyarch’s ambition has always been to find ways to bring people together in new and fun ways.”
Finally, we asked if Blackout could become a spinoff that gets a standalone release down the line. Kostich wasn’t ready to confirm anything. “[As a] standalone thing, I don’t know. We tend to focus all of our content within the games themselves,” he said.