In recent years, we have seen the Call of Duty franchise making the headlines for better or for worse, particularly the latter when it comes to the likes of Advanced and Infinite Warfare. The last entry of WW2 was perhaps more of a case of playing it safe by returning to a familiar and popular setting for fans of the series, though Treyarch have now thrown caution to the wind and taken a massive gamble of their own with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Thankfully, it has paid off.
Addressing the elephant in the room, as many of you will have heard by now that Black Ops 4 does not feature a traditional single-player campaign. This will be make-or-break for many of those sat on the fence on whether to buy this game, but in all honesty it shouldn’t be. We’ve seen a lot of statistics being thrown around since the announcement that a single-player campaign wouldn’t be featured, perhaps as a means to attempt to justify why Treyarch have chosen not to do so. For example, looking at the SPA (Story Participation Average) for CoD campaigns, only 20-30% have played even half of the campaigns over recent years, with even less having actually completed them overall.
Because of a lack of a typical story mode, the price tag for many will be difficult to justify, which is completely understandable. It’s not to say that there is a lack of content in the game. In fact, it’s far from it, and if it’s any consolation for those who are looking for that solo experience, there is an attempted soft replacement with the Specialist missions on offer, which provide a prologue of sorts from the last Black Ops title for the online characters complete with backstories and cutscenes that will either satisfy that hunger, or leave you yearning for a full campaign mode altogether. The Specialist Headquarters mode also serves as a tutorial, and is definitely worth looking into the get to grips with each Specialist before delving into Multiplayer. If narrative is something you are looking for from the Black Ops storyline, then this has been tailored to your needs to bring a backstory between the events of BO2 and 3. Not to mention the Zombies mode having a narrative of its own to boot.
With that out of the way, what Black Ops 4 does bring to the table is a complete all-round online experience with Multiplayer, Zombies and of course, Treyarch’s rendition of Battle Royale in the form of Blackout, where Black Ops 4 truly shines. Comparisons to powerhouses of the BR genre such as PUBG and Fortnite (PUBG in particular in this instance,) are to be expected, and Blackout is certainly worthy of being a contender for the best battle royale rendition on the market.
What separates it from the rest I found was the pacing. Looking at the layout of the map, it caters to more of an action focus rather than traipsing around a large area where gunfights are few and far between. If you have already checked out the multiplayer before grabbing your wingsuit and plunging into Blackout, then you will find a fair few familiar features from the get-go, and there are a few surprises thrown in for good measure such as having to battle zombies in order to obtain better weaponry.
Combining that with the usual conflict found in other games of this nature, dashing around an expansive map in a limited number of vehicles to acquire precious loot, track down supply drops and avoiding the outskirts of the dreaded circle, there is a very strong case for Blackout being the best way to experience battle royale at its finest.
So far, a personal highlight has been the traditional multiplayer. Treyarch has done away with the whole exosuits charade and brought back the boots-on-the-ground CoD gameplay we all know and love. There are a few significant tweaks, such as doing away with automatic healing to bring about a more tactical approach of avoiding certain death, and there’s more reward for playing as a team, which will be music to many fan’s ears I’m sure.
The hitscan feature has also been built upon, with weapons using projectile damage as well as hitscan, with weapons also being given a mixed ballistic system and predictive recoil patterns. The weapon upgrades and attachments are a massive bonus and there is far more emphasis on weapon customisation, with players being rewarded for good performances with their chosen weapon to unlock new scopes, weapon barrels, skins and more which should and will make all the difference when it comes to combat (perhaps not with the skins, but at least they look snazzy.) The level of graphic detail is impressive, especially with the attention to detail on both weaponry and the Specialists themselves. They’re as to be expected for an FPS game on this current generation, but there is a keen eye for many visual aspects, and that goes for all three major segments of BO4.
There’s a wide variety of game modes to choose from also, with everything from the usual choice of Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed to the King of the Hill-style Control and the Counter-Strike homage with Heist, in which players will be given the task of earning cash to purchase new weapons and items at the start of each round before being the first to extract a bag of cash before the other team does so.
Five maps have been subjected to remakes for BO4, including Firing Range, Jungle, Slums, Summit, and Nuketown, though only the first four are available at launch. One aspect of frustration has been the respawn points, which have on many occasions been less than courteous in terms of where the enemy team is located ready and waiting.
Which leaves us with Zombies, and given that it was Treyarch who introduced the now-expected mode back in World at War, it makes perfect sense for the BO4 take to be the most expansive yet. Conjuring up three separate experiences in the form of IX, Voyage of Despair and Blood of the Dead (a soft remake of BO2’s Mob of the Dead,) this is the sanctuary provided for those who feel they are missing out on something more story-based.
Exploring the Titanic on Voyage of Despair presented a mixture of claustrophobia with narrow hallways and sinking boiler rooms, to a sense of adrenaline when fighting off undead hordes on the vast decking. IX is probably the strongest of the three (or four if you have the season pass,) where players travel through time in the mythological Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Celtic settings where yes, zombie tigers are actually a thing.
Players take control of four new protagonists in IX and Voyage of Despair, with Scarlett, Stanton, Diego and Bruno making up a bizarre storyline to match the outrageous gameplay on show. To survive later rounds, Talismans and Elixirs will be your best friends, with the former granting you a one-use item that can either benefit your loadout or make life easier by reducing the cost of reviving yourself and so on. Elixirs meanwhile come in tiers, with the first classic tier allowing players to use them as many times as desired, though they become more limited as the tiers go on. They come in particularly handy in sticky situations, such as setting zombies ablaze when you’re hit with melee attacks or another that teleports you out of danger to another part of the map.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will come as a surprise to many with how good it actually is. It could be argued there isn’t quite enough there narrative-wise to cover the fact that there is no story campaign. But what makes up for it is that each component is strong enough to carry the game itself, and when combining the three together, it produces a multiplayer experience that is vast, well-rounded and ultimately makes BO4 the best entry into the Call of Duty franchise in many years.