Call of Duty® - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Time to sacrifice your bandwidth on the altar of public testing once more, especially if you like battle royale shooters. Right now, anyone with a Battle.net account can download the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout beta, due to open tomorrow at 10am Pacific (6pm BST). Those who preordered the game can start playing today, but if you’ve more time than money there’s another option.

Want to get into the beta right now? After linking your Battle.net and Twitch.tv accounts, tune into one of four approved Twitch streamersNinja, Shroud, Summit1G or TimTheTatman – between 10am PT (6pm BST) and 2pm PT (10pm BST) and stick around for an hour. You can find the full details here, and the beta will end after the weekend – 10am PT on Monday, September 17th.

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Call of Duty® - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

As twitchy as the Call Of Duty games have been since Modern Warfare, the series has built up a reputation as a console flagship series. Publisher Activision seem eager to break away from that impression with Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4, and to prove this, they’ve packed their Gamescom ‘PC trailer’ with as many buzzwords and high-end hardware concessions as possible. Blops 4 may not have a single-player campaign mode, but it definitely has support for 4k, ultra-widescreen, variable field-of-view and more. All good features to have, but I’m curious how many truly care.

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Call of Duty® - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

We’ll get to try the near-future face-shooting of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 in a free multiplayer open beta weekend in August, developers Treyarch have announced. No, this won’t include that new battle royale mode, Blackout. As a casual observer of Cod I am sorry to see the antics of wallrunning and jetpacking removed this year, though it does have a grappling hook gun and I’m enough of a grapplefan to download the whole dang beta just to try that. (more…)

Call of Duty®

Federal charges have been brought against Tyler Barriss, the man who instigated a swatting that led to the killing of a man in late 2017 in Wichita, Kansas. The charges, including making false reports to emergency services, cyberstalking, making interstate threats, and wire fraud, come on top of state-level charges that were filed shortly after the incident. 

Interestingly, federal charges were also brought against the two Call of Duty players who initiated the hoax, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill. Viner asked Barriss, a known swatter under the name Swautistic, to swat Gaskill over a dispute arising from a Call of Duty match; Gaskill repeatedly and knowingly provided an old address to Barriss, which Barriss used when he called in a false report claiming that someone in the house had murdered one of his parents and was holding the rest of the family hostage.   

That false report led police to shoot and kill 28-year-old Andrew Finch, who was not involved in the dispute and unarmed when he stepped out onto the front porch of his home after police arrived. When Viner and Gaskill became aware of the entirely predictable consequences of their thunderingly stupid and reckless behavior, they conspired to delete evidence of their interactions in order to avoid prosecution. 

Because of those actions, Viner now faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to make false reports, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, while Gaskill has been charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and wire fraud. The charges are serious: Making a false report resulting in the death of a person, or cyberstalking resulting in death, carry penalties of up to life in prison and a fine of $250,000. They had not previously been charged in relation to the incident. 

As reported by Variety last month, the police officer who actually killed Finch was not charged in the incident. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett determined that the officer in question believed that Finch had drawn a gun from his waistband, and that his life and the lives of his fellow officers were in danger.   

In March, Kansas passed an "anti-swatting" bill named after Andrew Finch that would make swatting that results in death or extreme injury punishable by up to 41 years in prison. 

Half-Life - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

The best shooters endure. While the state of the art moves on in other genres and leaves old designs in the dust, it’s as fun to fire a well-made shotgun from an early 90s FPS as from one released today. For that reason, this list runs the gamut from genre classics to those released in the last year. There’s bound to be something for you inside.

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Call of Duty® - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4

Surprising absolutely nobody, Call of Duty is getting another game this year, and as per Activision’s alternating annual release schedule, we’re headed back to the Black Ops side-series.

It’s been too long since we’ve had a chance to use the most accursed of abbreviations, but Cod Blops is back, and possibly now the even more absurd Cod Blops IIII thanks thanks to the series apparently abandoning proper usage of Roman numerals.

The official announcement also confirms that Treyarch are back in the driver’s seat for this one. After finding myself very pleasantly surprised by their previous Blops title, I’m eager to see what they’ve got planned.

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Call of Duty®

No one is surprised that a new Call of Duty will release this year, but the annual tradition of the finer details being leaked hasn't been lost in 2018. This year's rumor suggests that Treyarch is making Black Ops IV, which follows 2015's Black Ops III. But here's the thing: the title will apparently be written as "Black Ops IIII", because Activision does not give a single functional crap about how Roman numerals work.

The news comes via Kotaku, who has reportedly confirmed the rumors. These originated from footage of famous basketball player James Harden wearing the game's logo. Some pointed out that it shared a striking resemblance to the Black Ops 3 logo, only, with an extra "I". 

Here's the relevant video:

So it looks like Call of Duty won't follow up its immensely successful historical shooter with yet another: a brave (though given development pipelines, perhaps unavoidable) move. In the meantime, it looks like EA and DICE will follow 2016's Battlefield 1 with... Battlefield V. Because screw numbers, right? Put 'em wherever you want, in whichever order you want, formatted however you wish. It just doesn't matter anymore.

Call of Duty®

Today I was reminded that Activision Blizzard Studios is not a game-making division of the industry's biggest publisher, but rather a film studio—one that's working on a flick based on Call of Duty. And according to Variety, Sicario 2: Soldado director Stefano Sollima is in negotiations to direct.

The report doesn't specify which Call of Duty, but the trailer for Sicario 2 (which looks quite a bit more action-oriented than the excellent first film, and is apparently a "stand-alone spinoff" rather than a direct sequel) suggests that Sollima has a certain talent for "modern" settings. Not to put too fine a point on it, but let's be honest, you could rename that trailer to "Modern Warfare: The Movie" and your work here would be done. 

Whatever it ends up being, Acti-Blizz is aiming very high, for both the film and the studio: In an interview with The Guardian last year, co-presidents Stacey Sheri and Nick van Dyk said their long-term plans included films from different Call of Duty timelines that would ultimate grow into an interconnected, Marvel-style cinematic universe. 

First, though, it has to break the videogame movie curse, which despite our endless appetite for summer blockbusters and the obvious fodder for them that CoD provides, will be no small task. Sher has an admirable list of production credits to her name and Sollima has an eye for dramatic poses and cinematic violence, but as we've seen time and again, that's no guarantee of a good movie.

Thanks, GamesRadar.

Call of Duty®

Update: KWCH News has reported that 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles has been arrested in connection with the swatting. This isn't the first such incident in which Barriss has been involved: In October 2015 he was charged with making two fake bomb threats against ABC Studios in Glendale, California. According to Central Track, he may also have been involved in multiple bomb threats made against a Call of Duty: WWII tournament that took place earlier this month in Dallas, Texas. Barriss isn't identified by name, but the report indicates that the Swautistic Twitter account claimed responsibility for "ruining the whole event." 

Original story:

28-year-old Andrew Finch of Wichita, Kansas, was killed last night by police in what appears to have been an incident of "swatting." Deputy police chief Troy Livingston told the Wichita Eagle that police were responding to a report of a murder and hostage situation at Finch's home when he came to the front door and was shot. 

The report turned out to be false, however. More than a dozen people "who identified themselves as being in the gaming community" told the Eagle that it arose out of a dispute between two Call of Duty players, Miruhcle and Baperizer, who were actually teammates in a losing match with a $1.50 wager riding on it.

It's not clear what sparked the trouble but at some point in the argument, according to this tweet (via Dexerto), Baperizer enlisted the aid of another player, who goes by the name Swautistic, to actually initiate the swatting. Miruhcle effectively dared him to do it, but provided a false address (but one that was apparently near his own), which led the police to the Finch home. 

Swatting is a "prank" in which an aggrieved gamer calls in a false police report, accusing a rival of violent crimes serious enough to trigger a heavily-armed response. The police show up at the rival's door loaded for bear, everyone gets taken down, it takes hours to sort out, and in some cases it's all livestreamed.

It is also, quite obviously, a wickedly stupid and dangerous thing to do, making it even more appalling that this is something Swautistic known for (which is presumably why he was asking to do it): After reports of the shooting became public, CoD pro ZooMaa of Faze Clan claimed on Twitter that Swautistic has previously swatted, or threatened to swat, multiple other people.

Finch's family said in a separate report that he was unarmed when he went to the door, and that he didn't actually play videogames himself. Livingston said the police are looking into reports that the initial call to police was a false report; the officer who killed Finch for answering his front door has been placed on administrative paid leave.   

Note: This article was edited on December 31 to clarify that Swautistic, and not ZooMaa, has previously swatted, or threatened to swat, multiple other people.

Call of Duty®

World War II has been the backdrop for hundreds of PC games in the time since the Allies declared victory, but not all of them get it right. Stereotypes or absurd action setpieces leave historians shaking their heads, and at this point we've seen the same famous battled played out so many times. What would it look like to cobble together a game made from the best depictions of those moments, spread across years and genres?

These are our favorite representations of key World War II moments and battles. Like the games of our most historically accurate PC games, not all of them would pass muster at an academic conference. But they're all commendable for capturing some element of the conflict in a way that shows a reverent, compelling attention to detail.

Best D-Day landing - Medal of Honor: Allied Assault 

While Allied Assault’s graphics don’t hold up flawlessly today, it felt grippingly real in 2002. The developers tried to make us feel like we were in Saving Private Ryan, and they knocked it out of the park. I can still hear the final instructions before being dumped into the surf echo in my mind: “Head for cover and get to the shingle! I’ll see you on the beach!”

I was genuinely tense as the ramp to my transport lowered, putting me directly in the line of German machine gun fire. My heart raced as I watched my fellow soldiers drop like flies all around me. Finally reaching safety was pure euphoria. Many games have tried to recreate that feeling since, and none have truly succeeded in such a gut-wrenching fashion.

Best Battle of the Bulge - Call of Duty 1

It’s easy to forget Call of Duty began as a single-player focused World War II shooter that rose to prominence in an era when it was compared favorably by critics and fans to Medal of Honor and Battlefield. The most memorable mission from the original game (and perhaps in the whole series) was the capstone of the American campaign, “Festung Recogne”. It flips the pacing of Normandy on its head. Rather than a sense of dread at the carnage you know is to come, it lulls you into a false calm before the first wave of Germany’s most infamous counter-attack of the war takes you off-guard.

Infinity Ward did an excellent job of making the assault feel unexpected, and the fight to stabilize the situation frantic and challenging. 

Best depiction of junior officers - Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault 

Sticking to the Battle of the Bulge, I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning CoH2’s fantastic Ardennes Assault expansion. In addition to introducing very interesting dynamic campaign elements, it gave each of its distinct companies a beating heart—voiced officers who each represented an archetype of the types of people who got caught up in the war. The reactive end mission dialogue made me feel each victory and defeat ever more keenly. I’ll never forget Johnny Vastano lamenting the pointless loss of life after a mission where I’d played fast and loose with my boys to get the job done.

Best air combat - IL-2 Sturmovik series

There’s a reason IL-2 is still a darling in the flight sim community all these years later. The meticulous modeling, both visually and mechanically, of the storied Soviet aircraft was enough to set it apart on its own. But it also dialed up the immersion by introducing mechanics like blackout and redout when experiencing extreme g-forces. While most flight sims are content to give you the most immersive experience of a robot flying a plane, not many go out of their way to remind you that you’re playing a flesh-and-blood human being.

Add to this some well-designed missions and wonderfully tense dogfights, and it’s hard to recommend any other game about flying a plane over war-torn Europe more highly.

Best strategic layer - Hearts of Iron IV 

Not many World War II games get into how and why the Allies actually won. Unfortunately for the romantic depictions we’re used to, it wasn’t primarily because of the heroic sacrifices of a few gifted servicemen. It actually had a lot more to do with availability of resources and industrial capacity. These concepts underpin Hearts of Iron IV and challenge you to think about aspects of modern total warfare that most normally wouldn’t give a second thought to. Rather than making it across a beach, your objectives often involve securing key oil fields and developing your industrial heartland.

Best depiction of ground combat in the Pacific - Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm 

The Red Orchestra series represents perhaps the best infantry-focused multiplayer shooters centered on the conflict, and Rising Storm in particular shines a light on the oft-overlooked Pacific theater. Like Allied Assault, it does a fantastic job of depicting the pressure of coming under attack from all sides. Battles play out amidst the chaos of mortar fire and shouted warnings. It's all the more impressive that Rising Storm accomplishes this using other players rather than scripted NPCs. The confusion and paranoia of jungle combat is tuned perfectly to create hectic, low-visibility firefights and allow for cunning ambushes.

Best high-level tactical experience - Steel Division: Normandy ‘44

Existing at a scale just above Company of Heroes but below Hearts of Iron, Steel Division excels at giving you a detailed and plausible sense of commanding combined arms resources to win large battles. Scouting and intelligence are emphasized, gaining air superiority can be decisive, and every weapon on every tank or infantryman models realistic range, accuracy, and penetration. It exists in a great sweet spot in terms of scope and scale to give you the total World War II experience (minus naval combat) in a single match.

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