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Black Ops 5: Why We Want It, And What We Know So Far

Call of Duty has for more than a decade been fairly predictable. Annual releases and a three-pronged developer approach has gamers fairly in-tune with what to expect every November. However, a strange shift in approach, rumours of in-house bickering, and the sooner-than-expected return of a franchise favourite makes for a very intriguing insight into Call of Duty 2020.

It should come has no surprise — to anyone, anywhere — that Call of Duty 2020 is a thing. This is a franchise that has seen annual releases dating back to 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and while the likes of Assassin’s Creed have gone on short hiatus following years of annual releases, Call of Duty has remained steadfast, even in the face of declining sales and growing interest in competitors.

However, Call of Duty is perhaps the strongest it’s been this console generation, with Modern Warfare firmly establishing itself as one of the most popular Call of Duty games of the decade. As we now enter a new decade, with it we may actually see a slight shift in approach from Activision Blizzard, and it all makes for a rather intriguing, albeit still unsurprising return of the Black Ops franchise.

Interestingly, Activision Blizzard officially confirmed Call of Duty 2020 a few days ago — although we probably didn’t need an official announcement anyway — but they didn’t announce the game’s actual developer. That’s strange, because dating back to 2012′s Black Ops 2, developed by Treyarch, we’ve cycled through three developers: the aforementioned; Infinity Ward; and Sledgehammer Games.

Now, 2020 was supposed to be the latter’s turn: 2018 saw Treyarch’s Black Ops 4 hit store shelves, and last year was Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare. Next up should be Sledgehammer, set for its first game since 2017’s solid and grossly under-appreciated Calls of Duty: WWII. However, things don’t appear to be as they seemed.

Back in May we first heard about sudden changes to the three-pronged Call of Duty developer cycle, with Treyarch, developer of 2018’s Black Ops 4, set to take over development of Call of Duty 2020, with Sledgehammer Games (Call of Duty: WW2) and Raven to offer support.

Reportedly, Sledgehammer and Raven had teamed up for Call of Duty 2020, with the Cold War acting as the base narrative driver for the game. As it stands, however, that won’t come to fruition next year, and Black Ops 5 looks to be the most obvious release in 2020.

Further, the Sledgehammer game appears to have been ditched completely, with both Raven and Sledgehammer expected to help Treyarch on Black Ops 5, which will now contain its own Cold War-set single player campaign.

These rumours ramped up again in August 2019, with LongSensation on Twitter, a known Call of Duty leaker, saying that Call of Duty 2020 will have one of two names: Black Ops, likely to be a reboot, or Black Ops 5, a straight-up sequel.

They also say that the game will be set during the Cold War, spans the entire 40+ years of the conflict, and will include both Vietnam and Korean Wars.

“Described as even more gritty and gruesome than Modern Warfare,” they said at the time.

Multiple sources point to Black Ops 5 — or maybe just a straight-up Black Ops reboot in similar vein to last year’s Modern Warfare — for 2020. What’s most interesting isn’t even that we’ll be returning to Black Ops up to 12 months before anyone expected to return, but rather what we can expect next year, given Sledgehammer Games appears to be on the way out. Will it be that Raven will step up, or that the aforementioned will go through a similar reshuffling as Infinity Ward did in 2011 ahead of Modern Warfare 3‘s release?

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Back on Black Ops 5, given the success of Modern Warfare, it does appear likely we’ll see the franchise given a completely new vision and approach. Activision Blizzard would have seen how quickly interest developed in Modern Warfare before the game’s release, and may have then gone in and squashed any ideas and progress made by the Sledgehammer team.

Given the so-called clash or creative differences that were reportedly apparent between Sledgehammer and Raven, it may well have been a symptom of that sudden shift back to Black Ops, rather than it being a catalyst that prompted the shift. After all, we all know how quickly things and plans can change when sales go well — or don’t. I’ll never forget how, after the success of CoD4, Activision dropped the Call of Duty name from Modern Warfare 2, intent on establishing a completely seperate franchise. When it realised how much of an impact it had on interest in the title, the publisher completely changed the marketing and design approach for the game, quickly reverting back to the Call of Duty name.

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So, as we now move towards the second quarter of 2020, and with Call of Duty 2020 getting closer, information is scarce but a few signs point to a few things:

  1. Treyarch appears likely to be this year’s Call of Duty developer.
  2. It may be Black Ops 5, which would likely see a continuation or perhaps retelling of past Black Ops tales.
  3. It could simply be Black Ops, and, in line with rumours, cover battles and conflicts during the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Korean War.

Personally, I’d be inclined to prefer No. 3 on that list, simply because it would encourage more creativity, innovation, and new ideas, just as Modern Warfare did. The Black Ops franchise has run its course on its current line, and given we only saw Black Ops 4 in 2018 — and it was solid, but mostly forgettable — the thought of Call of Duty 2020 being Black Ops 5 rather than a reboot is fairly uninspiring.

We won’t have anything solid until April, or perhaps as late as late-May given how late the Modern Warfare announcement was last year. It was unprecedented to announce a Call of Duty game that late, and one has to wonder if it had anything to do with what was happening between Sledgehammer and Raven.

As I said this time last year, every year I find myself in a weird place of both wanting more and less from Call of Duty. Modern Warfare definitely reinvigorated by interest in Call of Duty. Here’s hoping Black Ops 5 — or whatever it’s called — keeps that interest high.

What are your thoughts on Call of Duty 2020? Will it see a continuation of Black Ops, or be a reboot? Will it be a new franchise completely? Sound off in the comments below!

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