Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has made history this year by not only ditching the single-player campaign (about time) but also jumping on a trend which introduces a completely out of character game mode to the title in the form of Blackout. But is this bare-bones multiplayer-focused Call of Duty the stepping stone for future Call of Duty games?

I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. As a sequel to one of the better stories in the Call of Duty franchise, I was bitter about how much of a departure it was from Black Ops 2 and had no real significance to the Black Ops storyline. So it’s odd that I found the idea of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 quite exciting. Though maybe I have Call of Duty: WW2 to thank for that.

Call of Duty: WW2 brought gravity back to the game. With boots on the ground and a distinct lack of any exo-skeletons, jetpacks, or boost jumping, I was excited to play a more modern-themed Call of Duty title that didn’t try and shove in some awkward mechanic, and after playing the game’s betas I felt that Treyarch had really brought the Black Ops franchise to its roots – sort of.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has three components, there’s your straight up Multiplayer mode, which has the usual Team Deathmatch, Domination, Search & Destroy game types as well as a few new additions such as Heist and Control. Here you’ll find Call of Duty’s bread and butter gameplay with a couple of interesting additions, such as self-administered health and a selection of Specialist characters each with their own unique abilities.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review - n3rdabl3

Then the game has Zombies, this mode is the only mode where you’ll find any real sense of storyline.

Finally, there’s the mode which has brought many players back to Call of Duty, and that’s Blackout. This is the part I referred to at the beginning in terms of jumping on a trend. Blackout is basically a battle royale mode not unlike PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite. However, there’s something quite unique about Blackout which separates it from the various Battle Royale games out there.

Blackout

The way I can really describe Blackout is obvious: It’s a battle royale, but Call of Duty – but there’s a lot more to it than just that. Take a look at Fortnite, that’s more of an arcadey battle royale game and in a way, Blackout is like that, whereas PUBG is more simulation, like ARMA, the game it was originally a mod for. Blackout, on the other hand, brings the almost careless fast-paced all-guns-blazing shooting we know and love from Call of Duty over the years, and throws it into a game mode where fast-paced all-guns-blazing shooting doesn’t really work, but for some reason, it does.

While you can take the game seriously, like PUBG, and sneak your way across the map, tactically calling out the enemy, listening for every single footstep; as soon as you come across a player, you’ll likely fall flat on your face as the gameplay, or at least the way the other player will likely play, will completely throw off the more thoughtful, tactical player.

I’ll admit, in PUBG, I’m a bit shit. Usually, I’ll come across a player and instantly die, or do something stupid to bring attention my way. In Blackout, on the other hand, I’m still as shit, but I feel like I’m making fewer mistakes. I’m also not punished for being fairly brazen in my approach to the gameplay. I feel like I can just dash from room to room without being too careful or take shots at an enemy on a whim.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review - n3rdabl3

There’s a level of carelessness to Blackout which makes the more serious gameplay aspects found in PUBG feel a lot more fun, like in Fortnite – just minus the building.

What I can’t say right now is how Activision or Treyarch are going to evolve this mode. Sure, the addition of Zombies and the moving mystery box is an interesting spin, but are we going to see the map change like in Fortnite, or are we going to see additional maps like in PUBG. Right now, the game is a lot of fun, and we can already see that Treyarch is working on tweaks – such as increasing the player count to 100 in Duos.

Much like Fortnite and PUBG, Blackout is a difficult mode to form an opinion on, especially how the mode could be completely different in a couple months time. What I can say though is that Blackout is an incredibly polished battle royale which really sets the bar high in terms of a AAA produced battle royale.

Multiplayer

Oddly, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s multiplayer seems to have taken a bit of a back seat compared to Blackout. I mean, at this point there’s a pretty tried and tested formula to Call of Duty multiplayer so understandably there’s less for Treyarch to be working on. But despite the new game types being added, there’s nothing overly unique to Multiplayer.

In terms of performance, oddly, 100 player Blackout games seem to perform much, much better than 12-player multiplayer at times, which I assume the tech behind each mode is completely different, so that would make sense, especially as the game is doing incredibly well in its first week on sale. Though at this point surely we should have stable servers during the first week… Maybe Activision should focus less on pre-orders, and just open up betas to everyone so they can really scale test the game. But I digress.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s multiplayer is much more stripped down than it has been over the years. No longer are we lost in a sea of menus for custom paint, or custom weapon mods, or whatever else was shoehorned into Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. We’re back to our basic Pick 10 system and weapons which are unlocked through progression. Though this does remind us of the problems from previous games of having weapons unlock this way.

With more specialist weaponry locked behind levels, you’ll often find higher level players will have a better arsenal of weapons compared to the default starting gear. While this might not be the case, it certainly feels that way, especially when you enter a room full of players already half-way through their first Prestige. In previous games, the ability to pick any weapon from the start did allow for a more tailored experience – though progression did also feel very lackluster. So it’s a catch 22.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review - n3rdabl3

One thing that I love about Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the addition of remastered versions of classic Black Ops maps, such as Firing Range, Slums, Summit, and Jungle. This allowed veterans such as myself feel a sense of comfort in amongst a sea of new maps. It was also a nice throwback to past titles.

As for the new maps, they’ve been split into standard multiplayer and the new Control and Heist modes. So for those looking for the more traditional Call of Duty modes like Hardpoint and Search and Destroy, those classic maps may come up more often than not. That being said, when you do come across a new map there’s a nice mix of larger open maps where you’ll definitely get bombed, as well as smaller close-quarters where you’ll be frustrated by some tosser running around with a high caliber sniper rifle.

As for game modes, Control and Heist are great new additions to shake up the typical multiplayer experience. Control is probably the more familiar mode of the two with its sort of mix of Domination and Battlefield’s Ticket System with each team having a finite number of lives. Heist, on the other hand, adds a sort of Search & Destroy, Attack & Defend, CS:GO style feel. With each player starting off with a pistol, they earn cash throughout the game which can be used to purchase weaponry as they move through the rounds trying to capture the cash and delivering it to the extraction zone.

Overall, the multiplayer is a nice break from the rinse-repeat nature of Blackout. Stripping back all of the guff and offering a simple Pick 10 system is also very welcome.

Zombies

Where would the Call of Duty series be if there wasn’t some sort of wave-based co-op element to it? Treyarch introduced Zombies in World at War and since then, Nazi zombies, exo-zombies, and even aliens have been a part of this mode. For the most part, the premise is simple, survive as long as possible without dying, with each wave increasing in difficulty.

In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Nazi Zombies serves as the game’s only real story mode, but at the same time, it makes this beloved mode a little too complex to enjoy. Now, rather than simply pulling guns off of walls and buffing yourself with Perks-a-Cola machines, we’ve now got consumable potions, mysticism, and confusion.

You’ve got to hand it to Treyarch as they really made this year’s Zombies experience sound like something unmissable. With a fantastic trailer introducing the cast and the story, none of this is really present when diving into a game, and I almost feel like the developers know that this year’s entry is a little complex as, for the first time ever, there’s a tutorial showing players the ropes.

In total there are three maps, or “Missions” in Zombies: IX, Voyage of Despair, and Blood of the Dead. IX is the smallest and transports players to an ancient arena, Voyage of Despair is on the Titanic, and Blood of the Dead is in an abandoned prison. Each of these missions has their own unique features with IX having summonable bosses, Voyage of Despair being narrower, and Blood of the Dead being quite complex in its cell block layouts.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review - n3rdabl3

As a veteran Zombies player, I actually struggled to really get into the game this time around. With loadouts being introduced for the first time, in-game consumables, and an almost nonexistent story outside of the characters just barking the usual lines at each other. Once again, Treyarch has taken something simple and enjoyable and has added unnecessary features to perhaps add more depth to the game, but have in turn made it inaccessible to more casual players.

Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, like Call of Duty: WW2, has won me back. Having fallen out of love with the series since Black Ops 3, I struggled to see how I’d be pulled back into the game, but going back to basics, bringing in classic maps, and including a Battle Royale mode is definitely a win from me. Okay, Zombies is a bit of a miss, but two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Will Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 pave the way for future Call of Duty games? Honestly, I’m not sure. Introducing Blackout is certainly a clever move as it jumps incredibly hard on the current battle royale trend, but do I see 2019’s Call of Duty having its own Blackout mode? Personally, I think it’s unlikely. While it’s a very, very fun spin on the game mode and I can see myself playing it for a long time coming, I don’t know if that’s ALL I’d like to play from future Call of Duty titles.

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