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According to Forbes – Games
Call of Duty: Online is a free-to-play version of the popular competitive shooter designed specifically for the Chinese market, where the franchise’s traditional $60 plus map packs business model isn’t viable.*
Now, players in China are testing out an 18-player ‘Battle Royale’ mode which is currently in beta. Battle Royale is an increasingly popular video game sub-genre thanks to the enormous success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite. In this type of game, players enter a map, look for equipment and weapons, and try to outsmart and outlast everyone else. The last player standing wins.
This differs from the long-time Call of Duty mode ‘Free For All.’ In that mode, players face off against each other (without teams) and try to get the highest kill count. In FFA, players start with all their gear and spawn after death.
In Battle Royale, players have no starting gear and move carefully across the map as it slowly shrinks in size. Death is final and the last player standing can win without firing a shot—though it’s rare to win outright without at least killing the second to last player. Still, the mode rewards smart, careful play just as much as it does accuracy and reflexes.
Call Of Duty: Online’s version of this mode looks quite a bit different from PUBG or Fortnite. For one thing, rather than 100 players dropping from a plane (or a flying bus) just 18 players compete and each gets to choose their starting point on the map before the match begins. There’s also an announcer and a crowd cheering when one player kills another. It’s really going for that Hunger Games spectator vibe that this genre already elicits so well.
Check out some beta gameplay below:
As you can see, there’s the same shrinking circle here as you’d find in other Battle Royale games, slowly pushing players into a tighter, deadlier proximity. I think it looks like a blast, honestly, though that announcer is way over the top.
There are ways for Western players to download and play Call Of Duty: Online, but I’m hoping that this is just a testing grounds for a Battle Royale mode in future Call of Duty games, like this year’s game from Treyarch (which may or may not be Black Ops 4.)
While playing with 100 players on a huge map is fun, I think the same basic adrenaline rush could be achieved on smaller maps with much lower player counts. If anything, even winning matches would likely be shorter with less downtime. There’s pros and cons to that, but I think it could work well for a Western Call of Duty audience. And given that the excellent War Mode has been so well-received in 2017’s Call Of Duty: WW2, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Activision pushing out new modes like this. (Hopefully we get War Mode in future games because it really is a blast.)
*Given that Call of Duty rarely does all that well on PC in the West, Activision should probably release a version of Call of Duty: Online here for PC players. I imagine it would do quite well, though it would probably need to be tweaked quite a bit for a Western audience.
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