Call of Duty has spent years to reach a blend of futuristic combat and swift gunplay, and Black Ops 4 truly feels like all the great aspects of the series has been packed into one game making it the best the series has ever seen. Black Ops 4 is what Call of Duty fans have been thriving for, and we finally got it.
Black Ops 4 may be lacking a single player campaign, but with all the content we got instead, it really doesn’t matter. A very polished battle royale title blends beautifully with an intense multiplayer, and an even bigger zombies mode. The lack of single player was totally worth it because everything we actually play got some much needed time and attention.
Most people are more than likely excited about Blackout, which is the first true AAA experience in the battle royale genre. Blackout does exactly what you expect a AAA developer to do by maximizing the experience and making it streamlined with beautiful gameplay. Everything COD does well is on full display in Blackout with fluid movement, swift gunplay, and sound effects that will frighten and stress you out when near death. Everything you love about both Call of Duty and Battle Royale works surprisingly well, and I say that as a person that didn’t think it would.
Blackout does some Call of Duty firsts such as vehicles and one massive map, but Treyarch makes it feel like they are pros already and knew what they were doing. Nothing really feels clunky at all, and the maps is always filled with excitement in all areas. There doesn’t seem, at least in the matches I played, to be one central location where literally everyone drops all the time. There is always a good spread thanks to the abundance of loot and things to see, and do, around the map. If you are not looking for loot, then you can admire how all the best maps from Black Ops past are blended into a well made map. Nuketown and even some zombie locations blend into a rather large map filled with buildings. The zombie areas even have an added bonus of spawning zombies, and if all the zombies are taken out then a loot box will appear. It’s little things like this that will make COD fans get a smile on their face.
Of course there are some minor things that need to be looked at over time, and have even been somewhat addressed in recent patches. Things like how the loot system works, and traveling with loot, etc are a bit clunky and frustrating at times. Learning your weaponry (because there is A LOT different things to pick up) and the added physics is going to take a COD vet some getting used to at first, but with a little tweaking even that wont be troublesome.
Heading back to the vast assortment of loot, there is so much of it that every match can literally be a different experience. Not only are guns from the multiplayer and zombies mode (yes even favorites like the ray gun) included, but all the attachments and various special gadgets from operators are included too. That means you can pick up trophy systems or even the sensor dart to reveal enemies in buildings can lead to some extreme tactics with a squad. Or it could make you pee your pants when you hear it start chirping and footsteps are surrounding your building. The addition of things like the grapple hook even add for some interesting twists to combat scenarios.
Black Ops 4 is more than a complete online experience with Blackout, but then we dive into two additional modes to add even more fun.
The great multiplayer COD is known for returns and this time it’s set back in the perfect time period of the “not too distant future.” If you played Black Ops 2 then you know exactly where this time period is. Some weapons are “futuristic” and there are some somewhat believable kill streaks that seem logical in military combat such as a snipers nest, drones, and attack dogs. Even the newly added abilities each operator has seems to have some grounding to them. For example recon has two different detection systems, one based on movement and one based on inferred goggles. It’s nothing outrageous like previous games which had you jumping through the air, and super high tech unbelievable actions happening. Everything seems like a logical next step for the military, and this is where I wanted Black Ops to go before they stepped too far with Black Ops 3.
Getting to the facts, this is Call of Duty and it continues to play like Call of Duty. If you are not into twitch shooters, jump shots, and sporadic strategies then you still won’t like the game. For the rest of us, this is one of the best mechanical COD’s to date, and the movement is so fluid and fun that you just can’t stop. It takes some skill to learn to jump, or fall prone, when you get caught empty handed and still land your shots, which makes those not used to it get somewhat annoyed. But with the slower pace of BO4, and more health, it becomes quite a bit easier to grasp.
BO4 has also added the Stim Shot, which might not seem like much but it drastically changed the combat in multiplayer entirely. You now choose to heal yourself instead of waiting for an auto heal to happen. It makes escaping battles a little easier as you heal between players, and giving you a slight chance of hope to escape, instead of another player popping up and taking the last shot. I’ve also noticed that it has cause a lot of players to push more. A player will get shot, try to hide and heal, and the player will rush at them instead of waiting for them to pop out again. It’s quite interesting to see the cat and mouse games play out.
That’s not to say there are no issues. I noticed a heavy hit detection drop when players jump in the air, or go prone. For people using auto-aim, when opposing players jump in the air it seems to push your reticle aside, making it a little harder to stay aimed on the target. Dropping to prone also seems to give players a split second of invincibility, an issue Black Ops had in the past that needed to be patched out. That split second is all you need to win a battle.
Weapons are very unique to their own in terms of having slightly various stats to them. Some are better at longer shots, while others are better at close range. Some weapons have better accuracy, but shoot slower, and the popular high burst round weapons will almost always win close battles due to shooting a whole clip faster. You can also upgrade each weapon with different perks and attachments which could make a close combat SMG actually a fairly decent weapon at range, similar to an assault rifle, but you would need to sacrifice a second weapon or other perk to make it happen.
Progression as a whole is rather interesting and fun. You unlock new weapons as you level up, but each weapon is unlocked at ground zero. Meaning you can’t unlock new attachments until you use the gun enough to become more experienced with it. It makes you have a bit of strategy as you utilize weapons. If you stick to just one weapon then you might be at a disadvantage in various maps as you try to use a different weapon, but have nothing to utilize along with it. It’s almost best to find two guns you enjoy and use permanent unlocks on them, then slowly build secondary weapons in matches you clearly are going to win regardless of.
Added to loadouts is the ability to choose specilists. Like I suggested above, these players all have special abilities that add to your playset. For example recon can detect enemies, Ajax can constantly blind players (way too often), and others will have special grenades, poison, etc… to work with. The nice thing about BO4 is the fact if you want to be real strategic you can be, but you are not forced to do it. For example in Overwatch you kind of NEED a healer, brute, etc… to make a complete team. Any team simply choosing characters based on what they like will most likely get stomped. In BO4 it isn’t like that. You can work together and really help your odds, perhaps keep friends alive longer, but everyone simply going at it like a normal COD will also have a fairly good chance at keep pace. At the end of the day all the characters blend together with each other well, some might be better than others, but it seems the popular ones are the better ones to have anyway. For anyone that wants to learn more about each operator there is a new Specialist HQ which introduces each characters back story with quick one off cinematics, followed by several missions where you need to use the perks of the character to progress. It obviously doesn’t replace a full SP campaign, but they are fun and well narrated by a familiar franchise favorite.
The game also adds some new game modes to enjoy. My personal favorite is Control where players have two spots on the map they need to defend, or take over. It’s very similar to domination, but each team has a limited number of respawns and a timer that works against them. The mode tends to lead to a lot more hectic moments as players press one way or another, and it shows how strategic the game can become. A team might press one area while a player or two preps the other, then all of a sudden the game shifts to the new zone and tides turn. The added benefit of limited respawns could also make a losing team suddenly shift gears and go for kills instead, hoping to finish the team off before the clock runs out. Nobody ever feels like they are “winning” until the round is over, it’s very fun and interesting. The only down side to this mode is the ability to easily spawn camp. With each team having a side to spawn on, if they get pushed too far back then the enemy team can easily set themselves up to spawn camp with little to no ability to get out of it.
A second mode is Heist, which I’m not too much of a fan of. The mode plays very similar to that of Counter Strike, starting players off with a handgun and you earn in-game cash to buy new weapons every round. Similar to search and destroy you need to get cash and extract it, but most players simply go for the kills since wiping out the enemy team also leads to victory. Yes this game is probably the most strategic of all the modes, which makes it fun, but what annoys me is the progression. You have to rebuy ammo almost every round since the game resets everything except your weapons and perks you bought. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if the game was similar to that of Counter Strike and rewarded you based on in-game effort, but there is a standard pay out for winning and losing, and it resets every round instead of adding up. There were a few rounds where I wiped out several players and assisted in the main objective, and the game still game me the standard payout. It was frustrating to say the least. Having in-game based rewards would lead to at least trying to take out a few enemies when left stranded alone so that you could afford a new gun, or perk, and give your team a chance. Another bummer is the in-ability to steal weapons. If you kill an enemy and take their gun, it won’t add it to your loadout in the next round.
The game has some pretty breath taking maps to look at, and most of them are filled with amazing areas to play. The stress points are well thought out, and the design of many of them are fantastic. However some of the maps suffer a rather odd spawn issue where players spawn in the open and make enemy teams able to spawn trap them. Similar to what I stated about control, the issue is apparent in many objective based modes. While the central areas of maps are well thought out, the spawn points seem to be slapped together rather quickly and need more cover and corridors so that players don’t get stuck. Normally if I catch my team doing this I will run closer to try and make the spawn point disappear so the enemy team has a chance to run out.
However the new maps are simply amazing when they play out. There are so many areas to hide, and many areas to run in and have fun. Capture modes are fantastic, and if both teams are pushing then things get real interesting with sight lines and heights. In one map there are people swimming around you, and seeing teams shoot out into the water as the person escapes never gets old. The return of old maps also add for some fun, but the polished look to them really help them keep pace with the new maps.
Overall the game is well balanced and if both teams can keep pace then it becomes the best COD to date. However the spawn issue desperately needs to be looked at for it to hit full potential.
Review in progress, come back for our thoughts on Zombies!