Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Review
Earlier this year when the first rumors emerged that Call of Duty Black Ops 4 was going to be without a single player campaign, my initial reaction was negative. The game had already been available for preorder post the initial announcement, before its full reveal. This rumor leaked in the middle of that time period. I already had the game preordered and I very much considered canceling because of that. See, I am in the minority of Call of Duty players where I play through the entire campaign before even touching multi-player. Liking the campaign for Call of Duty isn’t far fetched as Call of Duty used to be known for their good narratives back in the Modern Warfare and early Black Ops days. It wasn’t until games like Ghosts and Infinite Warfare that people really started to dislike the campaigns. While I enjoyed Advanced Warfare’s and WWII’s campaign, many were not liking the multiplayer. I have always played Call of Duty for its crazy over the top set pieces and fun stories, and multiplayer was a nice add on for continued play. So the idea of a Call of Duty game that was solely multiplayer did not appeal to me. When these rumors came out many reacted similar to me. Then came the actual reveal where we got to see the whole game. Activision got up on stage and touted the game as the definitive COD multiplayer experience, and no campaign was shown. Instead we got an in depth look at the new multiplayer system.
(Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Launch Trailer - Source Call of Duty Youtube Channel)
One thing I really have to give them credit for, is knowing how to market this game. They got up on stage with such an exciting rockstar performance that people would have thanked them for removing anything. While I disagree with their decision to not have a campaign, I understand it from a marketing and business sense. They saw decreasing percentages of players even playing the campaign over the last several COD games (granted those campaigns simply weren’t great). They said in a release that they didn’t want to invest so much time and effort into a mode if players weren’t going to enjoy it. Plus, Activision saw the rise of something else. Two games dominated 2017 and 2018, PUBG and Fortnite. These games have one thing in common, Battle Royale. Battle Royale is a large open map with 100 or so players battling it out to the death. This, simply by the numbers is what the masses want. So during the reveal we learn that BLACKOUT, is Call of Duty’s answer to battle royale. This is the mode we got instead of a campaign.
One of my favorite Youtuber’s Angry Joe did his reaction to the reveal and ripped into them for charging the same if not more for less. I agreed with him, I wanted a campaign and never really had cared about Battle Royale.
(Call of Duty Black Ops 4 BLACKOUT - Source Call of Duty Youtube Channel)
Fast forward to the beta. I had the opportunity to play the beta for BLACKOUT. Wow was I wrong. Blackout is the freshest and biggest change to Call of Duty in years. That beta sold me on the game. Frankly, we have enough great single player campaigns coming out this time of year. Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Darksiders 3, Spiderman, are picking up the slack well enough. BLACKOUT is easily my favorite mode and the one I have spent the most hours in. The mode is polished. It is easy to work with a squad and strategize. They’ve really tweaked the Call of Duty Experience to account for a battleroyale size map. They added bullet drop for long ranges. They added on the go modding of weapons so everyone has a chance for good guns. One of my least favorite things about Call of Duty multi-players is everyone starts off with bad level one guns, and its takes a lot of playtime and effort to upgrade weapons. I always felt like my deaths were against superior level 87 players with 5x zoom and super fast aiming and trigger speeds. It feels like you are running around with a squirt gun while they insta-kill you. Not in Blackout. Everyone starts off with nothing, with everyone equal you get kills with pure skill.
The map is fun, and you quickly develop your favorite spots. The vehicles in the game are fun but take a little getting used to. I am also impressed at the intial lack of freemium content and in your face micro transactions in the game.
The progression feels very slow and extra punishes players for not being the best. You only earn points for being in the top 15 or winning, getting kills, or completing random challenges. In a game mode where 70-85 players will always die before getting in the top 15, in a mode where matches are much longer than normal, it seems a little unfair to only dish out points for being in the very top. Even kills are only worth 10 points, and typically the ones getting the kills will be in the top anyways. It feels weird to build progression in a way that the majority of people will play match after match with no points. While it makes victory all the more sweeter, it still feels cheap to beat 50 some other people and still leave with nothing. I need meaningless points to tell me I’m great! Progression across the different modes seems inconsistant, some ingame content doesn't work across all modes. The game is also riddled with locked items with little to know explanation on how to unlock them. The progression and UI could use some refinement and streamlining across modes.
Multi-player has a nice new coat of paint as well. My favorite online game so far is Overwatch, and what I like most about is the overwatch like feel of multi-player. While time to death and weapon upgrading still needs some tweaking, the focus on specialists with powers really feels more like a hero shooter rather than before. The game still suffers from poor match making, where you find yourself facing much higher class players with better weapons. Don’t even try Hardcore until you have better weapons, as you can’t possibly raise your weapon fast enough to kill. Some Specialists feel more useful than others. Specialists like Recon or Ajax feel useful, where as characters like Sereph feel completely useless.
(Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Zombies - Source Call of Duty Youtube Channel)
Meh: Zombies Zombies is fun zombie mode. It is always a fun zombie mode. For COD Zombies players you are going to like it. Honestly, if it were up to me I would have picked Zombies to be subbed out for Blackout instead of the campaign. I know I am the minority, but I am tired of Zombie games. While COD does it well, it is not why I bout BO4. New additions like the pseudo-story mode and rush mode are fun. The new maps, and battling zombies on the titanic is exhilarating. However, it just feels like more zombies. In a game where multi-player and battle Royale feel so fresh, Zombies feels just like more of the same.
Dispite not being convinced about the strategy for Black Ops 4, I am convinced this was an amazing game. Blackout is my favorite battle royale having now played Fortnite and PUBG. The gameplay is polished and smooth. While I hope that following Call of Duty's bring back the campaign, this game is definitely the most fresh COD in years.