Treyarch caused a big stir during the unveiling of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 last year when it announced there would be no traditional single-player campaign for that year's installment. At the time, Treyarch explained this was because developers were focused on the new battle royale mode, Blackout. But a new report suggests there was a single-player campaign in development for Black Ops 4 right up until the release year of the game.
In a new report by Kotaku discussing the crunch culture at Treyarch, sources revealed that right up until 2018, when Black Ops 4 was set to launch, there was a campaign mode in development for the game. In a departure from previous years, the mode was set to be a two-versus-two PvP mode baked inside a traditional campaign.
The mode would have the player and a partner battle another pair of human opponents, or AI-driven bots if the player chose to run the mode solo. Each side would be allied with a competing faction and the four players would fight over different objectives in a post-apocalyptic world. There would be opportunities to fight with the opposing side, or even change sides during the campaign if desired.
Treyarch developers were working on this mode as late as the end of 2017. There was even a demo of the 2v2 campaign mode in development as well. But following negative feedback from playtesters and technical concerns, leadership told employees at the beginning of 2018 that the campaign mode was getting cut.
Originally, the plan was to scrape together a new, more traditional campaign mode. With 11 months until a November release, this would have required crunch on the developers. But further problems arose when Rockstar announced it would be moving Red Dead Redemption 2's release from Spring to October 2018.
In response, Activision ordered Black Ops 4 to be moved forward to October 12. With a month less to develop a new campaign, Treyarch decided to scrap the mode altogether and instead create the battle royale mode: Blackout.
The full story details not only the struggle to retool an entire game less than a year before launch, but also the treatment of QA and contract employees. Something we've seen before at companies like NetherRealm Studios, which have been accused of treating contract employees like second-class citizens.
The decision to scrap Black Ops 4's campaign now makes sense as it was a matter of limited development time, not a new direction for the franchise. The next Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare, will have a campaign as well. Read Kotaku's full story for more on the troubled development of Black Ops 4.