Treyarch returns to Call of Duty again this year with Black Ops 4, which is the next entry in their popular series. When the game was first revealed by Activision, they confirmed there won’t be a standard single-player campaign mode for Black Ops 4, and instead, the focus will be on Blackout. This was a new gameplay mode based on the established Battle Royale genre, pitting 100 players against each other on a large map to see which one manages to survive until the end.
Battle Royale itself is not something new. Formerly, King of the Hill offered the same but with a more limited scope. After the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, it exploded over time and stands as one of the most popular genres all over the world. Call of Duty is one of the most played first person shooters which made it a natural fit to include a Battle Royale mode, and Blackout is the result. While the traditional Battle Royale is typically limited to 100 players in a huge map, Blackout started with 88 players in a Solo or Duo format. It was later updated to 100 players in a Quad team format, bringing it closer to the limits of the genre.
So what exactly is included in Black Ops 4 that makes it easier to swallow the lack of a proper single player campaign? Honestly, it is the Blackout mode that has turned out to be a huge surprise for me. I have played plenty of Fortnite but didn’t get to spend much time with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, so my experience is not that broad for this genre, but Blackout feels like the more polished product if we compare it to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It allows you to experience land, sea and air battles in a Battle Royale mode with an extremely polished presentation. The gunplay is tight and precise, and it is technically refined with decent visuals offering smooth 60 FPS gameplay.
There are three core components to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 with a short dose of single-player in the Specialists HQ. They are the traditional online multiplayer with Team Deathmatch or Control, four-player co-op in survival horror themed Zombies and finally the Blackout mode. It is hard to miss the single player campaign when the multiplayer is just so addictive. The maps are some of the best that I have seen in a Call of Duty game, which shows that Treyarch has listened to the feedback of the fans. While Blackout offers one of the most large-scale maps in a Call of Duty, the other side of multiplayer is pretty minimal in term of the map length. They are short but designed in a way to maximize the action while keeping the layout simple, getting you pumped for every combat encounter.
The map count this time is higher than Call of Duty: WWII for the standard multiplayer mode. A variety of choices are available for you to play, like Heists or Free-for-all, aside from the old school Team Deathmatch. The design focus of the maps this time is on assembling the player into action as soon as possible. They are small but not large enough that you will have to search for the opponents, which was a problem with its predecessor. There are still annoying spawn points that can cause some frustration, but once you get into the groove, it is a blast to tear through the enemy team. The performance and design of the multiplayer are all handled exceptionally well and matchmaking is swift.
The highlight of Black Ops 4 is easily the Blackout mode. It will propel you on a journey with dozens of other players across a map that will take some time to traversal on feet but fret not, there are alternatives to just walking to a different place. You can find helicopters hidden across the map and vehicles like ATV and Cargo Truck to travel together with a team. If you head over to the sea, there is a boat available to use but your character can also swim underwater making it easy to discover a secure location.
Blackout mode begins with a set of military helicopters heading into the map. Remember how PUBG uses a plane and Fortnite a bus, but Black Ops 4 provides a more epic introduction with the wingsuit. Before the match begins, there is a limited period when the game launches you in a test phase while you wait for the player count to fill the quota. Once it is all set, the proper Blackout mode begins and deployment initiates for all players. In my case, it could take a while for some of the matches before they started filling with players. So the time spent waiting here encourages you to explore the map and find out which site is best suited for collecting high-quality gear.
Blackout is a lot more thrilling once you unearth secrets of the map, but it still asks for some patience. Unless you have the necessary skills to kill almost every player along the way. I am not that great when it comes to first-person shooters so my strategy for most of the matches was to gather the best gear and then hide somewhere safe. This won’t always work though, because the map keeps shrinking with each passing time. Gradually, the size of the safe area will start getting smaller, forcing you to move to a place that will secure you from hazards and out of sight of other players. Black Ops 4 feels a lot more rewarding because the map is meticulously designed. It is possible to avoid cheap deaths by learning how to grab the best loot from an area. You can also explore to find secrets like the Ray Gun hidden around the map.
The Solo mode is the hardest one to attempt, especially for those who lack the skills for it, but with the Duo and Quad team format, it is possible to end up winning some of the matches. It is an exhilarating experience from the start till the end, where you are running for equipment, searching around each site, and hoping that no one manages to sneak an attack on you first. The 60 FPS experience vastly helps here and the net code is solid with minimal lag or rubber banding. It works like a charm most of the time aside from some minor annoyances related to the visuals which offer a low draw-distance with sacrifices made to the shadows.
One of the most interesting additions is the map will also feature Zombies. It might look odd at first, but once you try it, their purpose becomes clear. I had no idea of the Zombies and the first time I stumbled upon them, it was a nice change of pace from all the running and gunning that happens during most of the match. It is a risk vs. reward scenario because while Zombies are tough to kill, they can drop some epic loot. You can also find perks, but one of the issues with their execution is that they lack proper explanation. It is trial and error process at first and you will end up simply wasting time with them. Color coding perks will go a long way in getting rid of their complicated use, but providing more variety of them will also help a lot.
Treyarch claims that Zombies mode has received more content with the ability to play three of the maps at launch. This is accurate to some extent, and it feels more refreshing and enjoyable now compared to the rather lackluster offering last year. That said, this has always been more of a guilty pleasure it can get boring quickly if you play it without any party member. The maps this time are well designed and the progression system is rewarding, even if you don’t manage to complete much of it. You can pick from IX, Voyage of Despair, and Blood of the Dead. Each map has its own identity and a unique setting that sets it apart from others.
I think the fact that almost every game in Black Ops 4 can be played in split-screen local co-op is something that has to become a standard in most of the current online shooters. I have tested this implementation in every mode, and I can’t imagine playing the Zombies without it, but there is also an issue with how the resolution scales in split-screen. The text size is a big headache and despite playing on a large 4K screen, I had to squint my eyes just to read the text or check the map in Blackout. The implementation of this feature itself is very buggy, even if it is cool to see it for the first time in a Battle Royale match. The visual downgrade is obvious and so is the drop in performance. If these kinks can be ironed out, this can become a cool addition that sets Call of Duty apart from its competitors. I do think it is terrible to lock this behind PS Plus subscription for the second account.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Treyarch and published by Activision. It was released worldwide on October 12, 2018, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is a sequel to the 2015 game Call of Duty: Black Ops III and is the fifth entry in the Black Ops subseries as well as the 15th main installment in the Call of Duty series overall.
Final Score - 8.5/10
Black Ops 4 has managed to not only prove itself but on top set a new benchmark in quality for the Call of Duty series. It is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games present on consoles. The lack of a traditional single-player campaign doesn't manage to distract away from the polished gameplay of the Blackout mode.