Call of Duty's battle royale goes free to play for a limited time
Black Ops 4, the latest game in the relentless Call of Duty franchise will make its battle royale mode Blackout free to play for a week, starting on Thursday. According to a tweet on the official Call of Duty Twitter account, the free pass will apply to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC versions between January 17 and January 24.
If you're not familiar with the battle royale genre, it's a recent addition to the growing parade of online first-person shooter modes, which typically pits 100 players against each other in a battle to the death on a map ever-decreasing in size. The last player standing wins.
As a game genre, battle royale was popularized by PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, aka PUBG, before going stratospheric with the release of Fortnite.
Blackout puts its own twist on proceedings with the addition of that heartiest of Black Ops staples: AI-controlled zombies which, in this case, drop rewards when taken out by the player.
The mode features the biggest Call of Duty map to date (which is no surprise, since no prior game mode accommodates anywhere near 100 players). It also places more emphasis on vehicles, from rafts and all-terrain quad bikes up to cargo trucks and helicopters. And what Blackout lacks in madcap fort-building antics, it arguably makes up for in its more refined first-person gunplay, which may appeal to those seeking a simpler experience.
The move to make Blackout free may be to try to entice players away from free-to-play rival and genre-leader Fortnite. Call of Duty publisher Activision doesn't release sales figures for the series, though a series of launch-day records suggest the title has done very good business.
However, Fortnite's insane popularity shows that the battle royale pie cup runneth over, and Activision might be seeking to extend its reach beyond the CoD fanbase and into the burgeoning battle royale market.
As a game genre, battle royale is based on the 1999 novel and its 2000 film adaptation Battle Royale, an ultra-violent thriller in which junior high school kids are stranded on a remote island forced to fight to the death. There's some controversy as to whether Battle Royale was a direct influence on the subsequent Hunger Games novels.
I digress. From tomorrow, there's some free Call of Duty, innit. Look out for it on the PlayStation, Xbox and Battle.net stores.