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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 review impressions: Come for battle royale, stay for battle royale

We were given get admission to to the PC model of Name of Responsibility: Black Ops four ($60 on Humble) concurrently the remainder of the sector, so I’ve been enjoying catch-up all day. Don’t question me why Activision didn’t make it to be had forward of launch. I anticipated it to be in point of fact damaged given the instances however…nope. The entirety turns out nice, a minimum of on a technical degree.

After all, reviewing Name of Responsibility is so much more uncomplicated this yr given Black Ops four doesn’t have a real singleplayer marketing campaign, and the Blackout fight royale mode had a beta final month. I’ve spent some post-release time with Blackout although, plus a bit of of time in conventional multiplayer and naturally this yr’s time-traveling Zombies tales.

Listed here are my ideas to this point, separated via recreation kind.

Staff Deathmatch, et al

First let me reiterate, I truly do want Black Ops four had a singleplayer marketing campaign. That would possibly make me an outlier, however I’ve performed each Name of Responsibility marketing campaign over time (even Ghosts) and a minimum of rather loved them. Some are downright implausible, together with each Black Ops and Black Ops III.

With out a marketing campaign to tie all of it in combination I questioned “How do you are making it a Black Ops recreation?” In any case, the primary Black Ops happened right through the Chilly Struggle, the second one mixed Chilly Struggle components with near-future conflict, the 3rd used to be some form of digital truth dreamscape. Little ties the sequence in combination with the exception of for like, “Bizarre PSYOPs, guy.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

The solution is it seems that: You don’t trouble attempting. I don’t know what used to be deliberate for the Black Ops four marketing campaign, I don’t know why it fell aside, and I don’t know whether or not the inclusion of Blackout mode used to be guilty. What I know is that each multiplayer map feels adore it comes from a special recreation.

There’s one in some form of luxurious villa, one on a snowy mountain with a gondola, one set in Panama, one within the Vietnamese jungle, one in a little bit seashore bunker, a A ways Cry five-esque prepper compound with a bombed-out church. A few of them are repeats from earlier video games, however there’s no unified aesthetic. None of it seems like “Oh yeah, Black Ops.”

Automatically in fact there are some Treyarch logos. Motion’s quicker than in final yr’s WWII, and Black Ops four brings again “Consultants” from the former Black Ops recreation—mainly hero-type personality categories. As an alternative of grenades you could have a grappling hook or a protect or perhaps a canine friend.

It’s indicative of the way a lot the shooter panorama’s modified the previous few years, what with Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch and so forth. However I’m no longer satisfied the speculation works as neatly in Name of Responsibility, or perhaps the implementation simply wishes paintings. In apply you spot other folks enjoying the similar two or 3 characters continuously, as a result of in fast moving Name of Responsibility multiplayer pieces that spotlight enemies at the map or grant everybody a short lived well being spice up are game-changing.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

Ultimately the biggest question is whether you still enjoy Call of Duty’s multiplayer though. Me? I played quite a bit of WWII despite not loving the maps, mainly because I like the slightly slower pace of play and the feel of the weapons. Black Ops 4? I played some rounds, I had a decent enough time, but it’s not drawing me back in. It feels a bit too manic to me, same as the Infinite Warfare era.

That’s personal preference, of course. On a more objective level I think it’s a perfectly competent version of Call of Duty multiplayer. I’m just not finding a hook this year.

I should also mention I’ve seen a lot of complaints about spawn-camping, especially in the new Control mode. Some maps are incredibly easy to lock down. I expect those sorts of issues will get ironed out in the next few weeks though as Treyarch takes a look at the metrics. It’s the “Why should you care?” question that interests me more, and in the case of Black Ops 4 it really comes down to how much you like Treyarch’s specific take on Call of Duty multiplayer, sans-campaign.


Zombies at least stands on its own, and thus is less affected by the lack of a campaign this year. Treyarch’s “Aether” storyline continues for those who are invested in that lore, though to me the bigger draw is the new “Chaos” storyline—a pulpy time-traveling romp that takes players to the Titanic and to a Roman colosseum.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

These are undoubtedly some of my favorite Zombies maps from a purely aesthetic standpoint. The Titanic map, titled “Voyage of Despair,” starts with the ship hitting the iceberg and then turns into a zombie-killing brawl across six or seven different decks. The colosseum map, Ix, includes zombie tigers and plate-armored brutes and an entire crowd of cheering onlookers.

As someone with just a passing appreciation for Zombies, these sorts of visual hooks are my favorite. I love circling around a sandy arena, machine gun in hand, mowing down zombie gladiators.

It remains impenetrable though. If you’re not already into Zombies, chances are Black Ops 4 is not going to get you into it. The series has so many systems stacked on top of each other at this point, it’s hard to even know where to start—especially when screwing up means letting down three others. One of my early Ix matches, a guy spent the first five minutes just trying to explain to the rest of us some arcane business about cutting down banners to spawn in certain challenges. Those sorts of secrets are cool with an experienced group, but hopefully you have friends to stumble through your early matches with or get lucky enough to find a patient guide. (Or are willing to watch a lot of YouTube videos.)

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

And on the other hand, Black Ops 4 changes so much I’m curious whether it’ll alienate longtime fans too. The perk system’s been completely overhauled, and the “Choose a Class” menu is an absolute mess of icons. Also it might just be me, but it felt like players went down a lot more in my matches, even on Normal. That’s great if you want a faster, more dangerous Zombies mode, but it’s one more factor that could push away newcomers. Your pistol and melee swipe are borderline useless by even the third round.

Anyway, I’m no Zombies expert. It exists, and I’d like to see more creative settings like Ix and Voyage of Despair. That part I’m 100 percent on-board with, even if I’m not sure I have the patience to learn all their intricacies.


Blackout is the draw though. It’s the reason you should buy Black Ops 4. I already wrote at length about Blackout during last month’s beta so I’m not going to spend too much time on it here. Suffice it to say, it’s like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds but polished.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

No, really. Surface-level it’s so much like PUBG. It has the same nondescript grassy hills look, broken up here and there by generic suburban houses and gas stations and whatever. There’s a blue circle that closes in on you every few minutes, collapsing the playable area as people die off. A hundred people parachute into the game from helicopters with zero equipment, then scrounge for the weapons they need to survive.

It. Is. PUBG.

But it’s PUBG as done by Call of Duty, meaning the first-person combat feels snappy and precise, the movement speed is faster, and matches tend to wrap up a lot sooner. It also means fewer bugs and fewer cheaters (at least for now).

And I can’t say enough good things about the menus. Blackout succeeds so well here at something PUBG’s always struggled with. Got a weapon in your hand? All you need to do to equip a scope is find one, then tap F—and voila, it auto-equips the scope to your weapon. Don’t want that? Hit G instead and it goes in your inventory. There’s also a keyboard shortcut for medical items, and a handy HUD element tells you how many you have left. Tab pulls up your full inventory as an overlay, so you can quickly adjust what you need and go back to fighting.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII IDG / Hayden Dingman

Hiding in a bathroom. Classic battle royale.

I don’t really enjoy Fortnite, but I’ve been sort of drawn to it if only because I wanted to play a battle royale game without PUBG’s jank. Little did I know Black Ops 4 would end up being that game. I’m not sure how long I’ll personally be playing it—I feel like I got my battle royale fill last year, and Blackout might be a bit late to the scene for me. That said, I’ve spent days playing it already (if you count the beta) and I’m still not tired of it. PUBG’s tension remains intact here, it’s not nearly as cartoony as Fortnite, but small improvements make Blackout a much better version of that experience.

Bottom line

Big-budget takes on battle royale were a given, but I never expected Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ($60 on Humble) would be so successful at it that it would make the other modes feel superficial. Here we are, though. Blackout is the best part of this year’s Call of Duty package, and might even justify the cost of entry even with no singleplayer campaign. It hews very close to PUBG’s mold, maybe a bit too close for those who already have battle royale fatigue, but it repackages those ideas in the most polished form I’ve seen so far.

As for the rest? Standard Call of Duty, I guess. Traditional multiplayer, Zombies mode—I suspect after a decade-plus, you probably know where you stand on these two. The former is perfectly competent this year if lacking in cohesion, while the latter boasts some of the more impressive maps I’ve seen to-date. I’ve had one crash-to-desktop but nothing too serious. Performance is buttery smooth, which isn’t surprising given it’s usually the singleplayer campaign that taxes hardware, if anything. Not much danger of that here.

Overall it’s a pretty great year for Call of Duty, even if it feels like the once-dominant shooter series is now playing catch-up to an industry that left it behind. That may be the case, but Treyarch did a damn fine job catching up at least.

I’m uh…still down for a singleplayer Call of Duty campaign though. Seriously Activision, there are dozens of us.

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