Does Black Ops Bring The Heat This Fall?: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review
Call of Duty has always be classified as the blockbuster gaming experience of the fall. For years, players have jumped into the latest title to get their fix of the high-octane multiplayer experience and witness the spectacles within the campaign.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has since concentrated more on competitive and cooperative experiences. Treyarch has developed and released their newest game with no campaign. Instead, Black Ops 4 has received its own Battle Royal mode –– Blackout.
The omission of a proper campaign had many single player oriented fans dismayed. Many players flock to Call of Duty to witness the over-the-top action year over year. Despite the change, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is quite a polished piece of work and I believe there is a little bit of something for every player.
Less Can Be More
Although Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 does not have a full-fledged campaign, there are some narrative aspects within. Within the Specialist HQ menu, players can go through a tutorial for each of the “hero” classes used in the game’s multiplayer.
Hidden within the tutorial is a story focused on Savannah Mason and Project Blackout. The story surrounding the Specialist characters and Savannah is quite interesting. The entire narrative plays out in cutscenes with tutorial level intermissions for each Specialist. For fans of the Black Ops series, there are some fantastic inclusions and nods within.
The benefits of going through each character’s tutorial are rewarding. On top of gaining some exciting backstory, learning the ins and outs of the Specialists ability comes in handy when moving into the multiplayer.
As a lapsed fan of Call of Duty’s multiplayer, Black Ops 4 is as refined and polished as one can expect to come from Treyarch. Over this generation, we have seen Call of Duty ramp up the pace and verticality with wall-runs, jump-boosts, etc. These changes never spoke to me, and as it seemed like that was the direction Call of Duty was going, I took a step back.
Last year, Infinity Ward brought back a more boots-on-the-ground approach in Call of Duty: WWII. This was the return to form that I was looking for and I poured hours into the multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 does have a quicker pace when compared to WWII, but the game is still focused on keeping players on the ground. Returning from Black Ops 3 are the Specialist classes. With the popularity of games like Overwatch, it is refreshing to see Call of Duty’s take on a “hero” system continue to evolve and become its own.
The multiplayer comes fully loaded with eight standard modes. Additionally, there are playlists and Hardcore variations of most, giving players a ton of options. The standout here is the new Heist mode. In a quasi-Counter-Strike mode, players compete to locate and extract a duffel bag of cash. Winning the match will award players the funds to purchase new equipment before heading into the next match.
As a long time fan of the Black Ops games, it was a pure delight to experience playing remastered versions of older maps. Kicking off a game of Team Deathmatch in Jungle instantly brought me back to 2010. Traversing through the map was second nature. The same can be said for Firing Range’s remade map.
The new maps are a bit hit or miss. Maps such as Seaside, Contraband and Gridlock stand out above the rest. Out of the 10 new maps available, there are a couple that lacks the complexity that other maps process.
Specialist abilities also bring a unique aspect to the multiplayer. Each Specialist handles a bit differently. Some Specialists focus on offence, some go for defence. Finding the Specialist that fits your play style takes a bit of time, but it is a fun process leaning their pros and cons.
The most significant change in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s multiplayer is the manual health mechanic. Instead of regenerating health, players must manually hit the health stim button to recover health. This mechanic adds a sense of urgency throughout each match. It is a dynamic change to the mindset I have each during play sessions.
Now, players have to be attentive to the screen, the mini-map, and now their health bar. If you take damage from an enemy, but kill them in the process, do you heal yourself? Or do you replenish your ammo? Either way, you put yourself at risk. It invites new strategies to players and I believe it is a welcoming addition.
Outside of multiplayer, Black Ops 4 sees the return of the beloved Zombies Mode. Zombies has always had a dedicated community built around finding all the secrets and surviving through a ridiculous number of levels.
Right off the bat, Zombies Mode offers two brand new, distinct maps to play through. Each is incredibly fun to play through and even more so with a crew you can communicate with.
IX, the Roman-centric map has an interesting design. Placing you in the middle of an arena, you begin fighting through waves of zombies in the daylight. It’s not before long that you progress through a network of underground tunnels. In an unexpected turn, the zombie-dogs have been swapped out for terrifying undead tigers that are sure to get the heart racing.
Voyage of Despair places players in a Titanic-like scenario where the apocalypse has overcome a ship on the water. The main difference in design is that Voyage of Despair features long, narrow corridors. These corridors are a nightmare to get through when becoming overwhelmed. However, as your progress a teleportation portal opens up, allowing players to reset their rotations when in need.
On top of that, Blood of The Dead is a remake of the fan-favourite map Mob of the Dead. Map orientation has been altered, but at the core, this is the same map players know and love.
My favourite aspect of the new Zombies Mode has got to be the Special Abilities. As you kill more and more of the undead, your special bar fills up. Upon completion, you can unleash a timed attack against your zombie-foes. Using the Hammer of Valhalla, you will instantly get Thor: Ragnarok vibes. Each special ability has its range and use.
In my opinion, the standout mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is Blackout. Since Battle Royale games became the zeitgeist, players have always speculated about what a Battle Royal mode would look like in Call of Duty.
Suffice to say, I think they nailed it. Treyarch had brought on Raven Software to help create the Blackout mode and it has legs to stand on. The Blackout map is essentially a compilation of iconic Black Ops maps stitched together.
Flying over the map, you will instantly see fan-favourites like Firing Range, Nuketown, and Array. These locations are fully explorable and feature new interiors to explore. Blackout even incorporates Zombie Mode into the game. Zombies will plague random locations on the map. Players can fight off the horde for incredibly powerful rewards.
The tight controls and shooting mechanics translate very well into Blackout. Traversal on foot feels fluid. Initially, I had been skeptical about vehicle controls in a Call of Duty multiplayer setting. However, each vehicle is intuitive and straightforward to use.
While Blackout does a great job with automatically adding attachments to weapons upon pick up. Some of the menu UI could be cleaned up and simplified a bit. Using the Quick-Equip button and scrolling through perks and meds needs some work.
The performance throughout each game has been stellar. Playing on the Xbox One X, the draw distance has been excellent, with no unexpected pop-ups. Although some textures are lacking in vehicles or other assets when up close.
All in all, Treyarch and Raven Software created a solid foundation for their Blackout mode. With an 88 player count combined with some of the best shooting mechanics on the market, Blackout plays like the premier Battle Royal mode we have all been imagining. I hope that Treyarch continues to support the player base, giving seasonal content updates etc.
Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the Greatest Hits album for the franchise. Treyarch has developed their game to give longtime Black Ops fans a chance to play through some of the most iconic locations once again.
Despite not having a traditional campaign, there is so much to experience. The addition of Blackout is exceptionally welcoming. For players that wish to focus on the competitive multiplayer experience, they will find a quicker pace when compared to last year’s title. Specialists and manual healing mechanics offer new strategies to master.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended
Available October 12th
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Activision provided a code for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 for review purposes.