Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind
An In-depth look at Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Call of Duty isn’t a property I’ve stayed aquatinted with over the years. It’s shown how popular of a game with massive staying power can remain relevant after nearly 20 years. My history with Call of Duty a very short one comparatively. I’ve played Modern Warfare and Black Ops 1 the most out of all of the titles and to me they remain to be all very similar. First person shooters for me tend to be one of releases with massive quality of life patches over time in the vein of Counter Strike or Overwatch. The need to reiterate a game every year is a turn off to me when I feel that other games tend to do a better job at keeping their base when they engage their communities with patches and dev updates. Needless to say this is my first time back and with good reason. Call of Duty has created their own version of the Battle Royale genre and that, among the other aspects of the game, is what I’ll be looking at here. So proceed knowing that I am a fresh faced Call of Duty player who is a fan of first person shooters.
The first thing you’ll notice when booting up Black Ops 4 is no campaign. It’s weird to think after all these years this is the first time a Call of Duty game comes with no single player story. Instead you are presented with three main modes: Multiplayer, Zombies, and Blackout.
Of course my first instinct is the hop in Blackout but let’s talk about their competitive multiplayer offering. Everything I remember about playing Black Ops 1 and Modern Warfare is here with a huge amount of spin. BO4 has introduced a class system in which you pick your “Specialists” who comes equip with various skills, my favorite being Ruin who comes with a grapple gun good for traversing the environment with ease. Specialists also include various grenades, sensor darts, and trip mines for different player strategies. Every specialist also has access to a “special” in the vein of Overwatch. Once your special is ready each player has abilities you might classify as the streak bonus’s you have seen in Call of Duty past from ground slams to K9 units. Streak bonus’s still exist and still hold a different more high end set of abilities like the dreaded air support helicopter (a huge pain in the ass).
Playing matches is what you expect from a Call of Duty with fast respawn time and quick high octane shooting. Once a match starts you are off to the races and everyone is turning corners for their kills. I appreciate that this is the ground work that Call of Duty is built on but for me it’s so easy to get stuck in a loosing streak more so than a winning one. Matches, even with friends, I feel disconnected with my team especially in Team Death-match mode. Everyone often feels like they are on their own and the high spawn rate coming back from death means I don’t often regroup with my team in time for some solid team play. Modes where this works out in favor of team play are game modes like Control where you must capture and hold points. So instead of everyone running around separately you have team members holding a point down and using their specialized abilities to support the team.
I spent a bit of time in the hardcore playlist as well. This was the game mode that felt best to me. Time to kill was much shorter meaning you only needed but a few bullets to take down an enemy. In the standard playlist I had many moments of filling an enemy full of bullets before getting taken down quicker than them and that became very frustrating. Elements of your HUD are also hidden like your ability cooldowns, ammo, and the minimap occasionally. As someone familiar with the Hardcore modes in the Battlefield games this just felt right, I felt that I had the same advantage as anyone else in match.
The biggest thing that stood out to me was the shooting. Call of Duty gets praised often for it’s gunplay and how tight each gun shoots and going down sights (ADS) is. When I see guns I’m familiar with I usually get an idea how the gun will behave in the game. Black Ops doesn’t use conventional weapons instead they have mirror like equivalents to the real world. Guns like the KN-57 could be our world equivalent to the AK-47. There are so many more guns that mimic real world guns with a sci-fi spin on them this made it a little hard for me to pick guns and knowing how they fire. Another note on the guns, while some guns had different fire rates mostly I felt that they all shared a comparable recoil no matter what attachments I stuck on them. This feeling I had also spilled over into the Blackout mode. It’s possible this has been apart of Call of Duty for a while now and I just may not be in the know for this.
Zombies is the mode I have spent the least amount of time with but the time I did spend on it left me wanting to do more. I remember the early versions of Zombies mode when it was just a tacked on fun Co-op experience. Zombies has come a long long way since then.
When selecting Zombies mode for the first time I was greeted with a menu that made me go cross eyed. Now in the mode you have special load-outs consisting of a variety of perks and special attacks. You also have different maps and game types to choose from. I’ll try my best to talk about Classic and Rush.
Classic mode is exactly as advertised, you and 3 friends will work together to survive waves of zombies while navigating and discovering the secrets the map has hidden deep inside. Killing zombies will grant you points that you can use to unlock new guns littered across the map and unlock doors that will allow you to progress forward. This isn’t just a hoard mode, deep in each level you play there are secrets to unlock that you, the player, must discover. I love this spin on the played out hoard mode.
I also had a chance to play a little bit of Rush mode. Rush takes the existing Co-op formula and turns it competitive. You still are working together to survive BUT you are also competing for points. You earn points by killing zombies and picking up point multipliers they drop. Every so often the announcer will call all the players to a section of the map and you much survive the RUSH of zombies and special zombies (think Left 4 Dead special zombies). This is a cool twist and I would love to hop in and do more. It’s a great mode for those who aren’t great at the standard multiplayer but still want to have fun with their friends and compete.
Overall the mode is fun and has many different scenarios for you and your friends to survive in. The characters you all portray are all very charismatic with tons of witty banter and quips that they blurt out. Ultimately the mode is worth a look over and while it doesn’t quite replace a full campaign it’s a fun time.
Pretty much the reason for me going back into Call of Duty after years of nay saying. I’ve played PUBG for nearly 300 hours and hold a great affinity to the Battle Royale genre. For me it started when DayZ hit the PC early access scene holding great promise at that time for being a massive realistic open world survival game but unfortunately never hitting the mark. The game type ultimately shifted from the open ended natured of DayZ to the more focused and competitive nature of of games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite and H1Z1. The genre has taken off like a SpaceX rocket and it’s popularity with it so now all the big publishers want their share of the pie. The first mainstream Battle Royale game is here in the form of COD: Blackout. Does it hold a candle to the competition?
Call of Duty has always had a focus on the feel of their movement and gunplay. There is no doubt that the one thing that stands out for COD and the staying power of the series are those factors. Nailing the speed, momentum, and firing in a game like this easily makes the game mode just feel right. The sluggishness that I feel in PUBG was tolerable due to how realistic the gun ballistics are. Vaulting is also a smooth animation that makes moving throughout the world a pleasure. Diving into windows for cover and over walls of any size feels fast and fluid. One thing that I would change about the movement would be the head bob. It’s so excessive it hurts sometimes to watch the camera bounce rapidly as you run across the fields during extended sessions and I saw no way to change it in the settings. Comparing the movement of Blackout to PUBG just isn’t fair everything about how it runs is like sliding a knife into warm stick of butter instead of chopping at a block of wood.
The gunplay has always been a mainstay of Call of Duty for as long as the series has been alive but I would argue that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the one that really hit the mark. That was the game that found the right balance of fast aiming down sights (ADS), firing, and recoil. That is carried over into the Blackout mode and it makes for fast and exciting moments. Fights carry weight since the one who dies is eliminated from the match. Since Blackout doesn’t lend itself to as much realism as PUBG you have a longer time to kill (TTK). While I would have liked this to have been considered I can see how it wouldn’t make for exciting moments within the game. One of the problems I felt with the guns were how a lot of the assault rifle class guns felt very samey to me. While they all hold various rates of file (whether it be burst, high rate less damage, low rate higher damage) the recoil doesn’t have the unknown factor usually associated with realism. To me, this makes every assault rifle feel similar in nature. I’m sure I just need to become familiar with the nuance of the different weapons though.
Inventory management is very key in Battle Royale games. You need to have a quick grasp on managing your guns attachments, health items, and special pickup perks found littered across the vast map. The menu is very streamlined so no scrolling though items is necessary. Quick clicks of attachments will snap to your equipped weapon and a click will remove them and drop them on the ground. Keeping this part of the game fast will make sure you aren’t spending too much time in menus and more time on the move. I would say that it does seem like a lot of the inventory menu is designed for controller/consoles in mind due to it’s simplicity and no need drag attachments to the gun. They divide the ammo up for you and item pickups are kept to 5 slots, 10 with a backpack. It’s very easy to manage especially when healing has it’s own dedicated button and you CAN MOVE WHILE HEALING. Such a small an fantastic thing that just improves the game by so much.
The map is always a key factor of Battle Royale’s. Can you make a compelling space that 80-100 plays can always find areas to loot and fight? Well Call of Duty did one better. They took popular past multiplayer maps and spread them across a coastal area. All the greats are here: Nuketown, Firing Range, Array, Construction Site, and etc. Scattering them in a way that seems logical when linked on one area is surprising how well it works. What’s even more surprising is that Treyarch managed to finagle together these maps AND bring together 80-100 players at the same time AND keep it running smoothing. COD multiplayer usually consists of 5v5 matches so bringing the player count up by this much is just black magic to me. Some areas will even have a zombie infestation effecting an area. Killing a herd of zombies will reward you with a special chest with a strong weapon inside.
Overall Blackout is a smash hit with me. The faster pace means I’ll be in and out of matches a lot quicker and less downtime. Hitting a lull in a match is usually no fun so I appreciate the pace that this offers. I can see myself spending a lot more time in this mode going for the #1 Victory. I’m definitely proud to say within the first weekend I managed to earn one so I’ll be riding high on that till I get my next! If you are on the fence about whether or not this game type alone is worth it for the $60 price of entry I’d say yes. I was very hesitant at first but knowing me and how much time I dumped into PUBG I can see that if this game is properly supported post launch it will 100% be worth it.
All images are property of Activision and Treyarch