The fourth episode of Treyarch's Black Ops series could be the first Call of Duty to dispense with a single player campaign. But after a flood of not entirely satisfactory entries in the once reliable series, it was worth putting the full force of his efforts behind the multiplayer: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 finds the perfect middle ground between classic cash on delivery and the "Jetpack" – Era that revived the fun of the franchise in many ways.
I would honestly be more upset about the lack of a campaign on Black Ops 4 if it had the same rocky start online as Call of Duty: WWII last year. But the online content felt both polished and plentiful from the first minute. No freezing, long loading times or server problems – provided you are playing on the console. The PC side had some issues on launch day, but this is still the smoothest launch of Call of Duty in years.
Black Ops 4 has come back a lot to what Activision calls "boots-on-the-ground" combat, but that doesn't mean it's completely based on reality. There are still handguns and a soldier who is more robots than humans. It's not infinite warfare fast, but it's not slow in World War II either. Black Ops 4 feels right where the franchise needs to be in terms of game pace and level of special skills.
The specialists Ruin, Battery, Prophet, Seraph and Nomad are returning from Black Ops 3 and returning both characters and new talents. Each specialist comes with a unique weapon and equipment that gives you options depending on whether you want to play offensive or defensive. For example, in 5v5 Search and Destroy I like to play as Crash the Medic to give my team extra ammo and a health boost. But on small objective maps, I use Torque for its barbed wire to block a door or protect a bomb site. You can change your specialist during the game, but there are limits to how many of each type can be on the field: one from each specialist during a 5v5 game or two from each in 6v6 chaos -Mode.
Another big change in the series: health no longer regenerates automatically. You just need to be a responsible teammate and heal yourself manually. Yes, it's a change for the franchise, but the health-enhancing shots aren't a terrible inconvenience. The stim shot can be used indefinitely with a short cooldown timer. You can even see your teammates' health bars so you can remind the friendlies to bump into yourself. The action really becomes a habit after a handful of matches.
One of my biggest complaints about World War II was the lack of maps and variety at the start. I don't see it that way with Black Ops 4. There are 4 revised fallback cards for the old school Black Ops fans and 10 new cards with a fairly wide variety of sizes and locales. For example, Icebreaker is a small arctic submarine map that you can actually freeze on if you are in the water for too long. Morocco is a village with countless doors and roofs where you can attack (or attack) enemies.
The main Call of Duty game modes have returned, but the traditional 6v6 team deathmatch modes can now be found on the recommended playlist as "Chaos TDM". This is because the objective game modes have been reduced to 5-on-5 players, which is more like standard multiplayer games.
Two new target modes have been introduced, Heist and Control. I enjoy the tactical nature of both. Heist is a 5v5 mode where your team must steal a bag of money from your opposition and then reach an extraction point. You can also ignore the target because you will win if you kill the entire opposing team. As a no-respawn, round, tactical challenge in which a money and purchase system is used for normal in-game loading, Heist is clearly based on counter-strike. Instead of the usual Call of Duty weapon classes, everyone starts with a pistol and $ 500. This small allowance doesn't get you far, so you earn money every round to buy better weapons, attachments, perks, equipment, or scorestreaks. You have to be really tactical, communicate and spend wisely, and that's what I really love about Heist. The mode was really fun in beta, and I'm glad Treyarch made some improvements to the release: you are no longer forced to grab the money and go through the extraction process when the opposing team is wiped out, or and vice versa. This shortens unnecessary downtime and allows you to jump to the next round much faster.
Control is Black Ops 4s hybrid of classic Call of Duty modes. The map contains A and B points. These are highlighted zones that correspond to the goals of the hardpoint modes of previous games. However, these locations don't move and your team needs to capture or defend the points in a manner similar to the dominance modes of previous games.
While Control starts as a respawn mode, each team has a limited pool of 30 lives between them, which can end up feeling like a no-respawn search and destroy game. You can win the rounds by either holding the capture points or by slaughtering the opposing team until it has no life left. At first I wasn't sure what to think of Control, but I really came to enjoy it. A shared pool of life can go away pretty quickly if you try to conquer or defend two points, and the chaotic action at the start of the game can quickly turn into a tense no-respawn game.
Overall, I think Treyarch made a wise decision by limiting the number of duplicate specialists who can participate in each game. I haven't really been a fan of specialists in the past, but they're a lot less annoying if you don't face an entire hostile team beating you with the same specialist weapon. I learn to enjoy the different skills and try new strategies for the different game modes. It's also much less messy and more fun to experience the specialists in a slower, more informed game environment. The variety of maps, the large selection of weapons and the classic advantages ensure that Black Ops 4 feels great.
A big factor in Call of Duty's success this fall was the quality of the franchise's first venture into the Battle Royale genre, and Black Ops 4 really delivers the perfect experience. Blackout stays with the Call of Duty first-person view instead of the typical third-person view, but otherwise feels like a typical non-Fortnite Battle Royale game. Far from being hacked afterwards, Blackout has great vehicle mechanics, smooth character movements, and many popular Black Ops card positions.
Blackout is loaded quickly and smoothly for solo, duo and quad matches, with the cap of 100 players working well with the card size. Whether you fall into a more popular location or somewhere outside the net, there is always action nearby.
The variety of item drops feels a little more balanced than in beta and I can see and record items a little faster than before. The only item that feels scarce is the weapon accessories. There's still no way to just run over the ammunition and collect it, and looting corpses takes a few seconds to rummage around in the fallen soldier's backpack, as opposed to the quick look at dropped objects from an eliminated enemy in Fortnite.
Vehicle handling really makes a difference. After turning an ATV perfectly to escape the shots of a distant sniper, I think it would be difficult to return to H1Z1 and drive around where a tiny pebble can make your vehicle do crazy flips from the side of a cliff. I experienced a certain level of motion sickness when I drove on the back of the truck or as a passenger with the ATV, but the feeling wears off when I lose the driver duties for my squad.
Character movements feel wonderfully fluid, like slipping into the shadows to avoid a helicopter full of enemies above me, or jumping over walls to help a teammate. I also think it's great that I can heal myself while running before the nova gas storm that shrinks the pitch.
One of the biggest differences that Call of Duty players will notice on blackout is the addition of the bullet drop mechanic, which is common in other Battle Royale games but is not yet visible in Call of Duty. Yes, gravity is now pulling your balls to the ground, so you have to do better in math. Close to the medium range, this is not a factor for the players, but long-range shots are affected. Cruising speed and projectile discharge must be taken into account when sniping or long-range shooting. It will take some practice with long-range shootings before you can properly judge and compensate for the range.
There are no major changes from the beta version of Blackout, but Treyarch listened to feedback and the armament problems were improved. The level 3 armor appears much less and the level 2 armor has been shredded and doesn't feel too frustrating to destroy.
The zombie locations shown on the map have attracted a lot of attention from players. despite the accidentally spawning undead. They seem ready to risk an attack by random spawning undead to get in there and find special prey, especially the Raygun and the special Zombies Light Machinegun.
Blackout offers the exaggerated Call of Duty action that fans expect, but remains true to the Battle Royale genre. I like the feeling of stopping by some of my favorite places on Black Ops while feeling like I'm playing a better and more polished version of PUBG.
On the one hand, I think it's really great how much content Treyarch made available for its characteristic zombies mode on the first day. On the other hand, I found the first step into the Black Ops 4 Zombies menu overwhelming. This year's episode seems to be geared towards letting zombies play the way you want. Customizing your own experience is cool, but navigating the menus is daunting if you're just trying to play a simple match.
There are three starting cards available for everyone, and a fourth classified card is available if you bought the Black Ops Pass. The new maps follow a brand new narrative called Chaos Story, which is split into two parts. IX takes place in a gladiator arena in ancient Rome and Voyage of Despair on the Titanic. Chaos contains four new characters, while the third card, Blood of the Dead, is a Black Ops 2 remake that follows the Aether Story and contains the original four characters from Treyarch's classic zombie story.
The abundance of menus and modes includes a very simple tutorial for new players that takes place on part of Voyage of Despair. This is accompanied by an amusing commentary that takes you step by step through the basics of killing zombies and navigating the map, but doesn't include the repetition or depth of the Great House tutorials from World War II.
Treyarch's mantra "Play As You Want" means that you can choose between the classic zombies game, the brand new rush mode or simply tweaking your own zombies rule set. In classic gameplay you can also choose between four different difficulty levels: "Casual", "Normal", "Hardcore" or "Realistic".
There is also an option to create a class that you can use to make many decisions. You can equip four of the game's over 30 elixirs. These are temporary benefits that work like Black Ops 3's gobblegum. Instead of buying them from chewing gum machines on the card, you have already equipped your four selected elixirs for your loadout. You can also choose a special weapon that has a cooldown similar to that of specialists in multiplayer. The most shocking change, however, is that you can now choose which benefits you want to generate on the map and even assign their locations.
The classic advantages of Juggernog and Double-Tap are gone, but you can achieve additional speed with Stamin-Up or revive faster with Quick Revive. There are also new perks like death perception that allow you to see enemies behind walls or get indicators of enemies that would be close but not visible.
Black Ops 4's enemies felt really wild when released, especially without the help of the Juggernog health spurt. However, Treyarch has already introduced a balancing patch after launch. Players now have fifty additional health points, so a zombie needs an extra punch to get tapped. For example, health in classic zombies mode has been improved from 150 to 200 points per player. The extra blow makes the difference between life and death in zombies.
Rush is a new fast-paced zombies experience where you earn point multipliers and fight your way through the undead to unlock parts of the map through progress. You don't have to pay for weapons or unlock doors, you just have to stay alive and follow the rush marks to defend certain zones. I really like this addictive, arcade variant of zombies and this will likely serve as my preferred mode if I'm limited in time.
Overall, I really like that there are options for beginners or casual gamers without interrupting the experience for die-hard fans looking for Easter eggs or playing high rounds. However, too many decisions are thrown into your face at the same time. I wish the menus were at least less daunting to navigate, but I'm happy to say that once you've looked through all the options to find what you want, Treyarch delivers solid and rich content.
And the rest
While most of the Black Ops 4 lore has been moved to free online comics, there is still a bit of history in the mini-missions at Specialist Headquarters. The fan favorite Frank Woods from the Black Ops series becomes your instructor for arduous challenges against AI bots that you have to endure before you can unlock every piece of history.
This part of the game also serves as a tutorial section for those who want to learn every special skill and game mode, but I hate that parts of this story are behind these requirements. I had to play a tutorial-led match from Team Deathmatch with a team of bots to unlock a little piece of history.
Once unlocked, they can all be viewed again and add up to about 10 minutes of film showing small parts of the characters' lives. The cutscenes are really well done, but playing boring AI matches wasn't what I wanted to do in Black Ops 4.
Theater mode has also returned, allowing you to roam freely and capture the final moments of the game in multiplayer, zombies and blackouts. Regardless of whether you want to relive your ragged mistakes or epic snipes, the game types are saved in the "Theater" area for easy viewing. You can become a director by setting camera points and using other advanced features. However, I usually use the basic editor to get quick clips and thumbnails. I found that when the clip shows how a player triggers emotions, marks them, or even sprays heavy shots, the theater can get a little shaky and unable to respond properly. With some saved games, my PlayStation 4 crashed every time I tried to take a screenshot.
And yes, I said "emotions" and "marking". These Fortnite-style features make Black Ops 4 a little silly fun and can be used in multiplayer and blackout games. Emoting and tagging has no direct impact on the game, except that you absorb valuable time and make you vulnerable. I usually let my character do the "unstoppable" cheat-poch gesture to create additional hype. Although players are currently using gestures to take cover in blackout (because an emote shifts the player's view of the third person), Treyarch is currently working on a fix.
Black Ops 4 does everything that Call of Duty did wrong last year. There are some who criticize Black Ops 4 for adding Battle Royale or being influenced by other popular shooters, but I think this is a fun, polished Call of Duty game adapted for modern times, and Blackout is better than any other "realistic" battle royale game I've played. I don't even miss the campaign.