Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Treyarch/Raven Software/Beenox
Another year, another Call of Duty. Treyarch has the wheel this time around, and they have changed the formula in the biggest way yet. Not only did they choose to be the first Call of Duty to ditch the campaign in favor of more Multiplayer, but they also jumped on the Battle Royale hype train and tried their hand at it with the new Blackout mode. I will be the first to admit that when announced, I couldn’t care less. I tried PUBG, it wasn?t for me. I found the game boring and pretty lacking, especially at launch. I tried Fortnite, and realized that there is very little in the gaming world I disliked more than Fortnite and the millions of eleven year olds I now got to watch ?floss? their way through my local grocery store. I had given up and called Battle Royale a loss for me, so I expected Blackout to be no different. After actually playing the game though, I am a believer. I have not laughed so hard, had so much fun, or felt so much comradery in a multiplayer shooter since God knows when.
Playing Blackout feels like playing Modern Warfare 2 with a new set of rules. I have had an absolute blast, trying different places to drop in and hoping I can get a gun before the 8 other guys around me, playing solo, duo and quad mode with friends, finding a zombie spawn point and getting a game changing power weapon, it all feels so satisfying. No two games of Blackout play the same. Quad mode is my favorite, and my team consists of the same guys I played Modern Warfare 2 with back on the 360. We are all grown now, some of us with kids and wives, a mortgage and a day job, but for a few hours a day we are in high school again pulling all nighters at launch and skipping school for a week just to see how many times we can prestige in one week.
The scavenging and survival aspects of Blackout really bring a new level of depth to the game as well. Do you really want to chase that guy on the ridge with 12 rds of .45ACP for your pistol to try and claim that kill? Or do you let him run on and hope that another player takes him out while you try to find a better weapon. Every moment is tense, but enjoyable. There is also a good bit of Call of Duty history hidden throughout the map if you take the time to look.
I think Blackout will make or break Black Ops 4 throughout the next few months. If they continue to support it, bring new maps in the future, introduce new game modes with new rules and add more to the game I think Black Ops 4 will be around for a long time. My experience has been on PC, and performance wise there have been a few hiccups here and there. Sometimes rendering is slow, some of my group have experienced persistent crashing, but I personally have not. You have plenty of settings to tweak to get the best possible visuals and performance and I am very satisfied with what we have. All in all, I thought the lack of a campaign would leave me wanting more, but Blackout stepped in and filled the hole left by the campaign.
Next up is Zombies, a mode introduced by Treyarch with World at War that has become a Call of Duty staple ever since. Black Ops 4 is shaking things up and again, listening to player requests. In doing so they managed to make one of the best iterations of Zombies yet. Zombies has truly never been more accessible. AI companions are now an option, so you can play solo but still have bots to help you out. If you do not care about your level or weapon levels, you can customize the game to make it easier. This is a great trick if you want to figure out the easter eggs without the stress of actually playing a normal game of Zombies. Pack-A-Punch and the Mystery Box are included as usual, with a new change to the perk system I am not so sure I like yet. You choose which perks you can access before the game starts and that determines what will be in the machines for you in the game.
There are two ways to play Zombies, classic and rush. Each of the 4 maps (3 if you did not get the season pass and the launch day DLC map) can be played in either mode. Within classic you have 4 difficulty levels, Casual, Normal, Hardcore and Realistic. These only seem to affect player health and enemy damage from what I have seen. Classic is exactly what you would expect, it follows the same line that the old Zombie modes did. The Voyage of Despair (Titanic) map and the IX (Gladiator) map both introduce a new cast of characters that don?t quite land as well as some of the older teams, but Blood of the Dead and the DLC Classified map both bring fan favorites Dempsey, Richtofen, Takeo and Nikolai back to Zombies in a big way. Blood of the Dead is definitely my favorite, even if it is just the Alcatraz map remastered with some new tweaks here and there. Their characters feel like they have more depth and represent the wild goofy fun that Zombies was built on.
Rush is the new mode, and it is more of an arcade mode than a survival mode. Each player competes for points, which are multiplied by damaging enemies without taking damage yourself. Guns and ammo are free in this mode, making it an easier mode for newcomers at first, and a good way to learn a map and figure out which guns work for you before spending precious money in classic mode on a gun that turns out to be hot garbage.
Finally we have standard multiplayer, the game mode that has led to the franchise selling more than 230 million copies worldwide prior to the launch of Black Ops 4. I will be the first to admit that the last few iterations of this mode really lost me. The wall running and jetpacking and futuristic shenanigans really did nothing for me in a Call of Duty game. Titanfall did it better in my humble opinion. WW2 was the first multiplayer I really sank my teeth into since Black Ops 2, and even it felt like a cheap imitation of the outstanding World at War multiplayer. It tried to slow down while remaining insanely fast. With Black Ops 4 going back to ?boots on the ground? and removing a lot of what I didn?t like about recent Call of Duty games I was cautiously optimistic.
Even with the more grounded approach, the standard multiplayer mode in Black Ops 4 fails to impress. A large part of this is the community. The stark contrast between the standard multiplayer and Blackout makes this painfully clear. For every awesome player you meet in Blackout that goes prone for a pre-game punching party or meets you in the middle of an open area and paces off for a gentleman’s duel there are 15 people in standard multiplayer screaming racial slurs, homophobic nonsense or spamming ?GG2EZ? after a game. To be frank, the vocal minority in the community sucks.
I am not the best player on the planet but I certainly hold my own in any FPS. Within my group of friends however there are a few guys who really don?t do the best. They are great at capturing points or securing an objective but hold an average of maybe 0.6 kill/death ratio. The number of messages they get to ?just quit? or ?kill yourself? in a night is unbelievable. It is frustrating that games like Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege are able to take such great strides toward policing their community, while the Call of Duty community seems to get a pass simply because ?oh that is just how Call of Duty is?. That is a weak excuse, and one I think the developers should do more to address.
Ok, off my soapbox about the community now and onto the gameplay. It plays like Call of Duty multiplayer. Gunplay is fast and satisfying, maps are small and corridors are tight. If you go 45 seconds without an engagement you are standing still. It feels dated to me. This may just be the old man in me coming out, but I do not get the same satisfaction from the multiplayer that I used to. Even games where I go, say, 36 and 5 I end the game feeling? bad. Each player has to choose and operator, of which each team can only have one at a given time. On the surface it seems like these would play a key role in the gameplay, with team composition being important and useful for winning but at the end of the day they are simply skins for your player. Sure, there are abilities and offensive/defensive options available to each operator that the others do not have, but at the end of the day it comes down to which team is better at jumping around corners or sliding through doors with their guns drawn.
It feels boring, and frustrating, which is something I would not have thought possible 5 years ago. Guns like the burstfire Swordfish dominate the field until it gets nerfed, everybody runs around with the same tactics and the same guns. They go to the same camping spots or run the same flanking routes. Spawn camping is out of control, especially in Domination. Nothing ruins a game quite like spawning, getting shot in the head, spawning again to a grenade going off at your feet and spawning a third time to a Hellfire missile hitting the ground next to you. These are not uncommon occurrences and just add frustration to an already unfulfilling game mode. Standard multiplayer is so insanely outshined by Blackout that I honestly do not see much point in playing it anymore.
With the best Battle Royale game I have ever played and the strongest Zombies showing in a Call of Duty yet, there is a whole lot to love about Black Ops 4. Nothing has pulled me away from Overwatch like this in a long time, and I am really excited to continue spending time with these outstanding game modes. Multiplayer was a swing and a miss, but that may just be the way that multiplayer shooter games are going. Every game doesn?t need to be Battle Royale, but I think they need to have SOMETHING going for them beyond the standard run, gun, kill, die, repeat method of standard multiplayer. If you have not played a Battle Royale game before, or hate the two I mentioned above, do not sleep on Black Ops 4. Jump in and see what Battle Royale is SUPPOSED to be. If the only mode that interests you is standard multiplayer, maybe you will love it and maybe you will hate it. It truly just depends on what you look for in a multiplayer shooter today.
Note: Activision provided us with a Call of Duty: Black OPs 4 PC code for review purposes.