Call of Duty: Mobile, an upcoming free-to-play mobile shooter from Activision and Tencent studio Timi, wants to bring the whole of Call of Duty under a single umbrella. Unlike most Call of Duty games, which carry the subseries' maps and attributes forward with each new installment, Mobile wants to bring together Black Ops, Modern Warfare, and more. It's basically Call of Duty: Everything, with the likes of Nuketown, Crash, Killhouse, Hijacked, and six other maps making an appearance in its standard multiplayer, and an eclectic mix of Call of Duty's greatest hits forming its own unique battle royale map.
"One of the things we're focused on is the pacing," says Matt Lewis, director of product for mobile at Activision, on how Call of Duty: Mobile's battle royale mode differs from Blackout. "We're trying to make sure the pacing feels fast and shouldn't just feel like you're running through empty fields. It's similar to competitors in terms of size though."
The battle royale mode brings a wide range of changes compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout. For one, it's strikingly playable in third-person. For a Call of Duty game, that perspective is very rare, having only made appearances in Modern Warfare 2 and 3. Whether you choose first-person or third-person play determines the lobby you'll find yourself in too, so first-person players will never be disadvantaged by the wider perspective of third-person players, and so on.
The player count, up to 100, is the same as Blackout. The size of the map is where Call of Duty: Mobile differentiates though, which has been "fine tuned, so we felt like it was the best experience possible for mobile," says VP of mobile at Activision, Chris Plummer. Traversing the map will lean heavily on vehicles, with ATVs, helicopters, and even "tactical rafts" available for a spin. And like Blackout, Mobile is pulling from the Call of Duty franchise's multiplayer maps for its on-island locales; only this time, it's not strictly tied to Black Ops entries.
During E3 a couple weeks ago, we got hands-on time with the mobile-bound shooter. What we found wasn't too surprising: like most mobile shooters, it requires a touchscreen interface. Activision additionally confirmed that it has no plans for controller support. There's an "advanced" interface as well that requires a separate area of the screen to be tapped to enable shooting; the standard is you shoot wherever you point. Personally, I found myself favoring the advanced method.
We shot across the series-staple Nuketown and on Hijacked, the small cruise ship turned shooting range. Considering I never play mobile shooters, I found myself doing okay. The bite-sized time of the matches, varying from five to ten minutes, made it easy to see the appeal. Customizing my loadout in between matches made it feel very Call of Duty in turn. The touch-controls unfortunately don't feel great for the shooter genre on mobile though, but that's not really a slight against Call of Duty: Mobile itself. If controller support were an option, perhaps my tune would change, though that would give a hefty upper hand to many players, which I imagine is why Activision is avoiding it.
The battle royale mode also introduces a class system with active and passive abilities, which in practice sounds a lot like Black Ops' Specialists system. Two of the classes detailed include Ninja, a stealthy class, and Clown. Clown is not the final name for the class, according to Plummer, but what is cemented is the fact that they can launch a toy robot which in turn summons zombies to the fray.
While Activision declined to comment on monetization, it did note that its current road map leans on additional classic maps from the series entering Mobile, along with more modes and gear for players' customizable loadouts planned. With Call of Duty: Mobile being brought about as a loud celebration of Call of Duty as a series, I ask Activision's representatives if there are plans to have there be additional tie-ins between Mobile and the mainline games, such as with this fall's Modern Warfare.
"I think just looking at the concept that's in there now, we're obviously taking a lot of inspiration from what's worked best in the past," says Plummer. "And since there's a lot of games, we'll continue to be thinking about that same sort of thing as we move into the future, but we haven't announced any specific tie-ins to any of the upcoming games yet."
Call of Duty: Mobile is currently promoting two distinct modes at launch: multiplayer and battle royale, with a third to be revealed. However, the menu screen we saw included a suspicious Zombies-looking icon. Still, Activision would not budge on a confirmation. Multiplayer, at least, will have more than just Team Deathmatch; with Search and Destroy, Frontline, and two other multiplayer modes playable, counting up to five in total. The road map, they teased, may bring in other fan-favorite modes too. (Excuse me, holding out for Infected.)
Call of Duty: Mobile's in beta already, and a full launch is expected to be relatively soon. While currently Call of Duty: Mobile can run on iPhone 7 and Android 2GB, the developers are aiming to support as low as iPhone 6 and Android 1.5. At this time, it's not exploring platforms beyond mobile either. Activision can't share numbers, but says it's "enthusiastic" about the pre-registration player counts for the upcoming launch. Judging from how Call of Duty is routinely the top game on yearly best-sellers, it wouldn't be a surprise to see it dominate the charts for our phones too.