Developed by: Treyarch
Release Date: 10/13/2018
MSRP: $59.99 USD
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
When Black Ops 4 was first revealed, there was plenty of controversy around the lack of a singleplayer campaign. Many news sites and gamers feared that the content would be lacking without one, but thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Black Ops 4 is the most content-filled Call of Duty ever made, and every bit of that content is quality. There are three times as many Zombies maps on disc as there were in Black Ops 3, and all are wildly different from one another and just as deep as can be expected from Treyarch. Multiplayer offers fourteen maps and some terrific new game modes, and with smart changes to the core mechanics, COD’s trademark gunplay feels better than ever. Finally, the most popular COD developer has proved why they’ve gained so much trust through Blackout, Call of Duty’s take on battle royale. Together, these three excellent game modes make for the best multiplayer game of 2018 and the best Call of Duty in years.
For a full review, read on.
This Is... Blackout
It’s no surprise that Activision would want to jump on board with the Battle Royale craze, but it is surprising how well the mode works. Call of Duty has always been focused on small-scale battles within small areas, so the leap to the massive Blackout map and a 100-person player count was a big one to take. Treyarch went at this challenge head-on, though, and they’ve created Call of Duty’s best original mode since the introduction of Zombies in 2008.
While it doesn’t stray from the key Battle Royale elements such as looting, no respawns and a storm that shrinks the playable area, Blackout puts its own twist on everything through the use of mechanics from the history of the Black Ops series. Black Ops 2’s Wingsuits offer fast descents at the start of the game and can be used at any time throughout, while a standard array of vehicles can be used to move around the map. Nova 6 gas and flashing red numbers make up the storm, both of which are key plot elements from Black Ops 1. The map is made almost entirely of the Black Ops Series’ most iconic maps, with locations such as Nuketown Island and Asylum from Zombies offering plenty of nostalgia as players grab items and move towards the circle. Speaking of Zombies, their inclusion adds a small but exciting PvE element to Blackout. Spawning at zombies-related areas of the map, killing the horde unlocks a mystery box filled with strong loot from the mode such as the iconic ray gun. There’s a variety of fun equipment too, like recon cars and grappling hooks. All these things flow together perfectly and come together to give Blackout its unique feel.
Customization follows suit with the gameplay features, as players can customize their appearance with skins of Black Ops characters from every game mode. The character skins are not bought with in-game currency, with Treyarch instead giving players quests to do within a Blackout match. These usually begin with looting an item that belongs to one of the characters, then completing a series of objectives before finishing in a certain position. These quests are a great way to reward players for playing the game in a different way, and the searching for items adds extra replayability to a mode that thrives because it is so replayable. Gestures and sprays can also be unlocked, with customization items constantly being added through events and the new Black Market system. It functions similarly to the Battle Pass from Fortnite, as it rewards players for playing through a very similar unlock system, and it being free of charge is an extremely smart move that is sure to keep players invested.
With great customization options and an experience that incorporates plenty of elements from the Black Ops series, all that’s left to make Blackout truly special is solid gameplay. It has just that, as years of developing some of the smoothest mechanics in first person shooters has translated to this mode well. Every time players clash in Blackout, they’ll find the same level of excitement and intensity that they do in multiplayer. The game runs incredibly well despite its size, and the level of polish is rare to see so early on in a Battle Royale games life cycle. Blackout looking so good and playing so well gives it a huge edge over Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, and there’s a commendable level of fairness to the gameplay that gives every player a chance to succeed.
Boasting the smoothest gameplay in the genre along with unique additions such as grappling hooks and Zombies, Blackout is easily the best Battle Royale in gaming.
This is... Multiplayer
With Blackout set to become a huge success, fans of classic multiplayer may have been worried about a lack of support and a weaker experience overall this year. The opposite is true, though, as Call of Duty multiplayer feels better than it has in a long time.
Black Ops 4’s multiplayer now features self-healing and a longer time-to-kill, both of which make the game more strategic and skill-based. Gunfights are longer now, and players are tasked with balancing the choice of when to heal and when to shoot in every encounter. Rather than a test of who can shoot first, Black Ops 4 asks players to show how that they are truly better than who they’re fighting. Good reaction time still gives players an edge, but it no longer guarantees a win in every shootout.
Both weapons and scorestreaks have seen balance changes after the beta, and the tweaks have led to the most balanced Call of Duty yet. Even seemingly overpowered things such as operator mods (a special attachment unique to a weapon) are balanced due to how many slots they take up in create-a-class. Players can get that dual wield weapon or thrown on a 600-round magazine, but they’ll have to exchange four of their ten item slots to do so. Many of the operator mods are crazy fun to use, but the price of using them isn’t always worth it. They’re an exciting addition to the game that are far better balanced than they have any right to be.
The Specialist system returns, and it works just as well with Black Ops 4’s “boots on the ground” movement mechanics. Each specialist feels unique due to their designs, weapons and gear. Each character gets a tutorial mission that teaches the ins and outs of their mechanics as well as the basics of a multiplayer mode, and the rewards for completing them are surprising. Well-animated cutscenes follow the character tutorial, telling the story of the specialist the tutorial focuses on, and another cutscene is unlocked after finishing the multiplayer portion that gives players insight into the interesting narrative of Blackout. Black Ops 4 doesn’t have a normal campaign, but it still manages to tell multiple interesting stories through a clever collection of tutorials.
Fourteen multiplayer maps make up the rotation, with four being remakes of the most popular maps in the Black Ops series. A Russian version of Nuketown is set to join the lineup in November, free to all players, and free events are planned for the coming years. Even with a noteworthy amount of content being paid DLC, it’s nice to see that plenty of free updates are on the way as well.
Even though the standard multiplayer modes are all available, it’s the new things that make Black Ops 4 great. While Blackout is sure to take up most of the spotlight, Heist and Control shouldn’t be forgotten about. Heist is a phenomenal Search and Destroy-like mode that plays like Counter Strike, with players buying weapons and equipment as the rounds progress. Health and ammo must be looted from around the map, a great touch that helps keep things interesting. Control is even better, and it has the potential to replace domination as the go-to objective-based mode for Call of Duty fans. It functions similarly to Rush from the Battlefield series, with one side having to defend two zones and the other needing to attack. Both sides have a limited number of lives too, making each respawn matter.
The quality of Heist and Control are representative of all of Black Ops 4’s new additions, as Call of Duty finally feels fresh again.
This is... Zombies
No mode has benefitted more from the removal of a campaign than Zombies, as the campaign team as joined with the Zombies team to focus entirely on supporting the popular co-op mode. Due to this, there are three full maps (and a fourth as a season pass bonus) on launch for the first time ever. All four maps are wildly different from one another, yet each offers dozens of hours of content and plenty of different challenges.
Treyarch has learned from their mistakes, as in previous iterations of their Zombies mode there were rarely difficulty options and never a tutorial mode. With the maps becoming more complex as time has gone on, casual players were left behind, and new players never even had a chance to learn. Now, a tutorial shows new and returning players the basics and casual difficulty gives every novice a chance. Once players have gotten ahold of the basics, they’re free to see all Zombies has to offer... and it has a whole lot to offer.
Split between two storylines (the Aether story being the classic plot that has gone on for a decade and the Chaos story being a whole new tale), the maps all have a personality of their own. One Chaos Story map takes place on the Titanic during its well-documented clash with an iceberg, whereas IX takes place in a Colosseum filled with zombified tigers and monstrous gladiators. The Aether story sees a remake of the fan favorite map Blood of the Dead, and it’s great to experience the full version of Alcatraz island that the developers intended to release back in 2013. Seeing iconic enemies like Brutus in Mob of the Dead is a joy, and features such as the crowd throwing items to players in IX gives the map a feeling that no Zombies map has ever had before. There’s also a bonus mode called Zombie Rush, where players are moved through the map and given different objectives to outscore their friends. It doesn’t compare with the main experience, but it is a nice way to kill time and get a shorter Zombies game in.
Each map has their own powerful weapon, from a three-barrel cannonball to a gun that is literally a scorpion, but players also have access to a special weapon that can be used any time throughout the game. There are eight of them, with four for each storyline, and kills charge up the weapon for use throughout the game. It can be leveled up three times, with the third level putting insane levels of power in the player’s hands.
Special weapons are equipped to loadouts, which are a fresh addition to Treyarch Zombies. Here, players can choose their starting weapon, starting explosives, perks and elixers. Elixers are like gobblegums from Black Ops 3, offering small boosts for the player such as two minutes where headshots have a chance to insta-kill. Unlike perks they can be activated at any time, which is a solid improvement over Black Ops 3’s system. Speaking of perks, they function similarly to how they have over the years, with the key difference being what perks are in Black Ops 4 and the fact that players choose what perks are in the match. Classic perks such as Juggernog and Speed Cola are no longer present, as most perks are brand new. Treyarch has decided that variety and balance were more important than nostalgia this time around, and they were right to make the decision that they did. There are no longer “must have” perks in the game, with everything being equally beneficial. Not filling all four perk slots with the same things is exciting and adds plenty of variety to the Zombies experience. With this new system begging players to try new things, dozens of easter eggs, hundreds of challenges and plenty of camos to unlock, it will be a long time before players see everything there is to see in Zombies.
While Zombies (and Black Ops 4 in general) offers more content than ever before and is consistently fun to play, one key issue holds it back: stability. While regular games where players are just surviving usually run fine, any players attempting to do the main story quests in any zombie map were met with constant crashes for the entirety of launch week. Given the importance of these quests to the Zombies community, the way in which the game ran was inexcusable. This is coupled with visual and audio glitches that further dampen the experience, and it’s a genuine shame that the game launched how it did.
Still, if there is a bright side to such a frustrating problem, it’s how quickly Treyarch fixed the issues. They’ve been updating the game every few days, and the experience is becoming increasingly stable with every fix. Zombies was promised to receive just as much support as multiplayer this time around, and as of now, Treyarch has kept that promise. Fans felt certain enemies were too strong and starting health was too low, so Treyarch adjusted and the game benefitted from the changes. Plenty of smart changes were made to the mode this year, such as the way drops function and the way players can shoot while consuming a perk, and it’s great to see Treyarch continuing to improve upon the mode post-launch. It’s truly exciting to see where they can take the mode when they can start to focus on content updates rather than bug fixes.
Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is deserving of attention from huge fans and series newcomers alike, as it provides a genuinely jaw-dropping amount of content. Every game mode feels balanced, and because of that, fun for all players. New features have been added to Zombies and Multiplayer that greatly improve upon the formula, and Blackout is the best version of a Battle Royale mode release thus far. True, there may be some technical problems, but as long as Treyarch stays as focused on improving the game as they are right now, it’s only a matter of time before Call of Duty becomes the household name it once was.
Even with some pesky bugs, Black Ops 4 delivers hours of fun with all three of its main game modes.
Blackout lives up to the hype +2.5
Zombies is better than ever +2.5
Smart multiplayer additions +2
High Quality new games modes +1
Specialist tutorials are surprisingly interesting +1
Promising support early on... +1
...but that support has to be focused on fixing all the crashing and bugs -.75
FINAL SCORE: 9.25