Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will debut on October 25 | deep dive

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 is scheduled for release starting October 25 on the PC, consoles and Xbox Game Pass. 

Black Ops returns with an epic, immersive story and mind-bending blockbuster actionwith Call of Duty: Black Ops 6. Set in the 1990s, this new experience delivers a different kind of Call of Duty experience involving behind the scenes black operations where players must question everything and trust no one.

As the theme of the game says, “The truth lies.”

Activision’s Treyarch studio has had an unprecedented four years to work on Black Ops 6, which has involved many other Activision studios including Raven Software.

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Announced today at the Call of Duty presentation after Microsoft’s Xbox Showcase in Los Angeles, Black Ops returns with an epic, immersive story for the single player campaign of normal length. It also has 16 6v6 (or fewer players) multiplayer maps and round-based Zombies.

Set in the 1990s during the Persian Gulf War, this new experience delivers the most breathtaking and spectacular Black Ops action to date, where players must question everything and trust no one. The theme is “The truth lies.”

I visited Treyarch and got a preview of the game ahead of time and played Black Ops 6 multiplayer. My impressions of that will come later. We heard a series of briefings from key members of the Treyarch and Raven Software teams. I also interviewed Matt Scronce, associate design director at Treyarch; and Yale Miller, senior director of production at Treyarch.

“We want everything that we’ve added to feel natural. Black Ops returns to define the future of Call of Duty. It is undoubtedly our best work and the best Black Ops we’ve ever made,” said Mark Gordon, studio head at Treyarch, in a press briefing. “It was really important to the team that the moment that you touched the controls in this game, you knew you were playing a Black Ops game.”

The game will debut on day one on Xbox Game Pass. Treyarch said the Black Ops 6 campaign provides dynamic moment-to-moment gameplay that includes a variety of mission styles with blockbuster set pieces and action-packed moments, high-stakes heists, and cloak-and-dagger spy activity.

Multiplayer will let players will test their skills across 16 new maps at launch, including 12 core 6v6 maps and four Strike maps that can be played 2v2 or 6v6. 
Black Ops 6 also marks the epic return of Round-Based Zombies, the fan-favorite mode where players
will take down hordes of the undead in two brand-new maps at launch. Post-launch, players can look
forward to even more exciting maps all new gameplay experiences dropping into both multiplayer and

New movement system

Multiplayer Omnimovement in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

The main Activision studios on the game are Treyarch and Raven Software. The game features a return to the classic Prestige achievements/leveling system and Theater mode. It has a brand-new
Zombies experience that delivers two new and unique Zombies maps on day-one in round-based co-op play.

Lawrence Madden, associate director of design at Treyarch, said in a press briefing that the team thought a lot about how to reward players, and it decided to return to the classic Prestige system for leveling up and leaderboards. You can hit level 55 and then have the chance to start over again. You can ultimately master 1,000 levels.

Across the entire game, Black Ops 6 features a new movement system, Omnimovement, which lets players sprint, dive, and slide in any direction, combined with the ability to rotate 360 degrees while prone, granting Black Ops 6 players more freedom of movement and tactical flexibility. You can do things like turn around on the ground while prone or dive into water.

With the Black Ops story, there are secret weapons programs that yield unique weapons for the shadowy fighters. There are 12 new weapons that have never been seen before in a Call of Duty game.

Campaign pillars

Captain Marshall in  Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.
Captain Marshall in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

While Call of Duty: Black Ops was set in the 1960s, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was set in 1989, this game is set in 1991. The plot is tied to the events of Black Ops Cold War and tied to the 1980s flashbacks of Black Ops 2.

Miles Leslie, associate creative director at Treyarch, said in a press briefing, “Woven into the identity is this thing we call signature Black Ops. And now what does that mean? And this is something that we also had to work on ourselves and talk to the team because it’s the special sauce. It’s the ingredients that make Black Ops, well, Black Ops.”

The trailers so far have shown that Black Ops 6 takes place in the early 1990s during a period of transition and upheaval in global politics, characterized by the end of the Cold War — the era of perestroika, George Bush (senior), Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War.

The campaign has gameplay variety. There are big combat moments set during the Gulf War. There is a heist in an opulent casino. There is a behind enemy lines mission. And there are a few surprises. The setting moves from the deserts of Iraq to the heart of Washington D.C., to the tundra of northern Russia.
In between missions, players visit the safe house and explore the old mansion and get upgrades with resources gained during missions.

“A new era of Black Ops begins as a shadowy, clandestine force infiltrates the highest levels of the CIA, branding, any who resist as traitors. Now all the Gulf War commands the global spotlight, this hidden power from within threatens democracy,” said Leslie. “Hunted and alone, your squad is forced to go rogue, working with past enemies in the criminal underworld to get the resources to fight back. No longer bound by the rules of engagement, you’ll do whatever it takes to bring down the real traitors and clear your name. You’re hunted from within.”

He added, “Now, this identity and this vision here is really critical to us. Because there’s a few key things here. It’s establishing an era, which we’ll talk about a little bit, when we’re in the 1990s. That’s critical for us after the fall of the Cold War,” Leslie said. “This is the first time the team’s been on the outs. And that’s critical because you can’t call Uncle Sam up and say, hey, I need this weapon. I need to do this. Now we’re going even deeper into the world of Black Ops and the team is on the outs. And that is huge. And that is critical, because that’s not something we’ve done.”

Leslie noted there are three pillars for the campaign. Leslie said, “The first one is the invisible world. Now, Black Ops, as always leaned into the fictional world inspired by the realities and woven in what we believe to be the conspiracies and what ifs around that we want to build an immersive world that players believe could happen.

In Black Ops, “you believe that these things are happening behind the scenes. You believe that Frank Woods and (Russell) Adler are doing terrible things to save the world. We want you to believe those things, and it starts with that,” Leslie said.

Indeed, while Adler was more like an ally in Black Ops Cold War, now is more like an enemy, whereas former enemy Soviet operatives are more like allies.

He outlined the second pillar: No rules.

“Black Ops agents have to break the rules. They have to go beyond that. And with this team going rogue we’re pushing even further beyond that. What does it mean to be on the outs? What does it mean to break all rules that you held sacred before? If you’re not part of the CIA, and you’re fighting those that have infiltrated it?” Leslie said.

“Alone together, Black Ops agents have learned that while they have to work in teams, they really at the end of the day can only trust themselves. And this forms uneasy bonds across teams and across different agencies, especially in the world now that you’re on the outside to create a team of past enemies that now have to be tough to crack.”

Leslie confirmed that this Black Ops canon means that Alex Mason and Jason Hudson are both dead. Mason, a captain in Black Ops, died after Frank Woods was tricked into killing him in Black Ops 2. And Hudson was a CIA handler who was killed by Raul Menendez in Black Ops 2.

“Our Black Ops operatives have been through a lot. If you know anything about Black Ops, we have put our agents and operatives through the wringer, you will see and find out the state of Woods right in the world of no Alex Mason and Jason Hudson because they’re dead.”

Leslie said, “What does that mean? There’s physical trauma, there’s mental trauma. But of course, this doesn’t mean that they’re unfeeling machines. It just means that they know when they need to shut the rest of the world out and get the mission done.”

The last pillar “is become monsters.”

Leslie said, “Now again, Black Ops has always thrived on the moral quandary of self justification. What’s right and what’s wrong? And we really wanted to try to push that. We think that is one of the key tenets of Black Ops. Black Ops 6 leans into that. If you know anything about our characters, and some of the new ones we’re going to bring in, we’re gonna lean into this hard. What does it mean? We do things that may not be right in the moment, but they help the greater good.”

Two outsider characters have been added. Demok is a mysterious assassin and master of disguise. And Felix Newman is a tech genius with a violent past as an ex-Stasi enforcer. These team members are former enemies, and they have to learn to trust each other to achieve a greater good, Leslie said.

The story this time

BO6 Campaign Capitol Station 01 BRANDED
Blockbuster action will be back in the campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

In a press briefing, lead producer Natalie Pohorski summarized the situation at the start of Black Ops 6. As always, the plot has twists and things aren’t always what they seem. Pohorski said the campaign is built on memorable missions, unmatched gameplay, and an immersive story. There is a mix of returning characters and new ones.

She said, “With Black Ops 6, we really wanted to push the boundaries of what a Black Ops campaign can be. And that begins with the narrative.”

“Our story is grounded in the very DNA of Black Ops. It’s a spy action thriller. This is still Call of Duty so you’re gonna get all the blockbuster action and gameplay sequences, but we’re also weaving in elements of your favorite spy action thrillers, from locations around the globe, gadgets galore, and a story that’s filled with twists and turns,” said Pohorski.

“We’re also leaning into mystery and paranoia. The team must unravel a vast conspiracy, which leads them to question everything from what’s really going on behind the scenes, who’s responsible? Can they even trust their own team, their own government?” Pohorski said.

“This is a fictional story. But as we’ve done in Black Ops past, we’re touching on real history to help tell the lies, and ground players. We care really deeply about Black Ops lore,” Pohorski said. “It’s something that we’re always geeking out about. So with this new narrative, we really wanted to weave it in with the rich characters and established canon of the franchise, which I’ll get into more in a second.”

In 1991, an operation in Kuwait goes sideways and leads to a breach in protocol. Russell Adler, a major CIA character in Cold War, reappears after going missing for months. He leaves Frank woods with a cryptic message that leads to the discovery of a clandestine force called the Pantheon, which appears to have infiltrated the highest levels of the government. The team is forced to go rogue to follow the trail of the Pantheon and prevent them from deploying an apocalyptic weapon.

So in 1991, historically, this puts us at the end of the Cold War. And amidst the active Gulf War in the Middle East, and the U.S. is the sole remaining superpower. This is giving Americans a false sense of security and leaving organizations like the CIA vulnerable to shifts in power behind the scenes. So throw in the corporate greed and political fixers of the 90s. And you have the perfect backdrop for Black Ops right.

“In the Black Ops universe, we’re following the characters and storyline from Black Ops Cold War, and directly following the 1989 missions from Black Ops. In the flashbacks to Black Ops 2, Frank Woods has been injured traumatically. And he’s also suffered the losses of Jason Hudson and Alex Mason. So now in our campaign, less than two years later, he’s been pulled from the field and relegated to a new role within the CIA that’s much more eyes in the sky. He is the voice on the other end of the radio. And this is leaving our grizzled veteran more pissed off than ever, as you can imagine,” Pohorski said. “He’s been partnered with a new handler, Jane Harrow, and she’s worked her way up within the CIA and become a really strong ally for Woods, as well as his protege Troy Marshall.”

Pohorski added, “She’s basically the best form of cover your ass that they’ve got at the agency. And Marshall is our leader. He’s been making a name for himself in the field. He’s the real deal. He’s both old and thoughtful and is always interested in doing the right thing. So the campaign really kicks off when Marshall and Harrow are on a mission in Kuwait, an extraction mission.”

And Pohorski said, “And they have to make really tough call in the field because when Adler shows up. They basically have to decide to take him in. So back at the CIA, their director, Livingston is furious for how this was handled. And he’s questioning Adler’s allegiances. So by questioning Adler, he also questions them. And ultimately, they’re suspended and forced to go rogue to figure out what this unknown adversary the Pantheon is planning. So now they’re on the outside, and they don’t have any of the CIA’s resources. So they’re building their own team. And they’re turning to former enemies, old allies and the criminal underworld in order to fight back.”

Raven Software took the lead on the campaign, which has a spy thriller single player narrative that’s unbound by the rules of engagement – an immersive, underlying government conspiracy. While in past games the Black Ops operatives have had the power of the CIA behind them, this time they are going rogue and dark. They must deal with enemies who have infiltrated the agency and government.

Scronce said in an interview that the campaign is of normal length, and it emphasizes depth and variety of globetrotting missions along with stealth gameplay mixed with blockbuster action, along with signature Black Ops twists and turns.

Players will traverse the harsh Russian Tundra, vast Middle Eastern desert, Southern Europe, and the U.S. in a race against time. Characters Frank Woods and Russell Adler, with all new allies including Troy Marshall (mission commander) and Jane Harrow (CIA handler). It has ‘90s gadgets and equipment allow additional possibilities for combat and stealth.

There is a new Safehouse, an abandoned manor and KGB black site. It offers an expanded campaign hub
where players can choose to learn about allies, explore and solve puzzles, gather lore and upgrades or go to the evidence board to select missions .

Multiplayer combat

Multiplayer action in  Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.
Multiplayer action in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

Omnimovement comes into play in a big way across all multiplayer modes. It allows players the ability to move realistically and seamlessly chain movements like a real action hero. As noted, I got to play but will be able to talk about it later.

Omnimovement lets players sprint, slide, and dive in any direction, along with the new supine prone, the ability to rotate while prone, granting Black Ops 6 players more freedom of movement and tactical flexibility.

Movement changes also include new intelligent movement and corner slicing capabilities. Theater mode returns for players to relive their best action hero moments from every angle. And there is a new option to use HUD Presets, including the ability to move the mini-map and remove HUD elements for a minimalist interface.

Brittany Carrillo, senior producer at Treyarch, said multiplayer is where players get to express themselves in a playground.


BO6 Zombies Terminus BRANDED
Round-based Zombies, Terminus map in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

Treyarch led the way on the return of round-based Zombies, a fan-favorite mode where players will
take down increasingly difficult waves of the undead. It has two brand-new maps at launch – Liberty Falls and Terminus – feature a curated mix of powerful weapons and upgrades, deadly enemies and tons of secrets to uncover.

It comes from the dedicated Treyarch Zombies team.

Kevin Drew, associate design director on Zombies, said he was excited about the return of round-based Zombies.

“This is something I’ve been waiting a long time to tell everyone,” he said. “The team super passionate about this mode. And we’ve really set out for this game to create the best version of it. And so that is definitely a part of refining what we established with Cold War.”

There will be two brand new maps. The first is Liberty Falls, set in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, in a small town where an ether incursion occurs. It has places like a bowling alley, comic shop and more. It is a bright and sunny map, easy to navigate.

The other map is Terminus, a remote prison island set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is dark and broody, with a complex map.

Yale Miller, senior director of production, said that Zombies lets you fulfill your action hero fantasies.

Additional Information 

Capitol fighting in  Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.
Capitol fighting in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be available globally on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5,
PlayStation 4, and PC via, Microsoft Store, and Steam on October 25. The Black Ops 6 Open Beta will be free across all platforms, with players who pre-order gaining early access.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 for the PC delivers a fully optimized experience, developed by Beenox, for, Blizzard Entertainment’s online gaming service, Microsoft Store, and Steam.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be available on day one of launch for subscribers to select Xbox Game Pass plans (Game Pass Ultimate, Game Pass PC, Game Pass Console). Active subscribers have access to the Digital Cross-Gen Bundle (Xbox) or PC Standard Edition (Microsoft Store) of Black Ops 6 – including the Woods Operator Pack and Open Beta Early Access preorder benefits – with the full game available at launch on October 25 

Additional development support provided by Activision Central Design, Activision Central Technology, Activision QA, Activision Shanghai, Beenox, Demonware, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, and Sledgehammer Games. They all use the same Call of Duty game engine, but it doesn’t have name.

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