Every year, I find myself buying the newest Call of Duty, even though I’m not the biggest fan of the franchise. I like them, but every time a new CoD comes out, I find myself almost mindlessly picking up a copy, which then leads to me questioning myself over the next few days. The last two Call of Duty games I played(Infinite Warfare and WW2) I regret buying. So when I found myself buying this year’s CoD, I asked myself if I am going to regret this purchase like I have with the past two. Fortunately, I can say that this year, I don’t regret my purchase.
Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is a story-less game. There are stories scattered throughout this game, but their isn’t one universal story that ties the whole game together. Because of that as well as the nature of this game, I have decided to separate this review into multiple parts (for the multiple different experiences this game offers, respectively).
When it comes to multiplayer, there isn’t much to say. In large part, this is the Call of Duty multiplayer you have come to expect. Still, there are changes made here-and-there that can be talked about. The biggest addition to multiplayer are two new modes: heist and control. Heist combines buying screens and one-life-only mechanics of Counter Strike with capture the flag, while control gives each team a pool of health while they either try to capture or defend points. Both of these modes have proven to be fun, but I found myself ditching heist rather quickly because of the nature of the mode. Heist isn’t what I am looking for in a Call of Duty, but it is still fun nonetheless. Control, on the other hand, was a mode I played a lot of. But after awhile, I found the matchmaking in that mode to be particularly poor, so I moved on from that mode as well. In the end, I found myself going back back to the classic: hardcore team deathmatch.
I could talk about things like the manual healing system, but when you play a mode like hardcore team deathmatch where almost every gun is a one hit kill, you tend not to pay stuff like that any mind. What I can say about manual healing though is that I prefer it to auto healing because it allows me start the healing process faster than auto-healing, and that it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Instead, I want to talk about some of the other findings I had with multiplayer. For starters, I liked the amount of maps offered at launch. I remember CoD WW2 only having around nine maps at launch (which got repetitive real fast), so this game having fourteen, even if some are remasters, is nice. One thing that is lacking though are the amount of weapons. I feel that this has been an issue for a while, but this game has a serious shortage on guns. Some cuts, like only having one rocket launcher, feels like cutting the fat while many others, like only having two shotguns, feels bare. I get that this will probably lead to them selling you weapons for real money, but as it stands the amount of weapons feels rather low. Finally, I found the characters to be uninspired. Just like Black Ops 3, this game has you choosing characters with various abilities. While I do enjoy these abilities more than BO3, I found them to be cut-and-paste. I’m not joking when I say around half of the characters are from Black Ops 3, ability and personality-wise. It feels like a cheap move for something that I think shouldn’t even be there. In the end, I found myself playing as passive characters because I don’t even like the character abilities in the first place.
In the end, I don’t really have much to talk about because for the most part, this prong of the game has been untouched. There are changes I like and changes I don’t like, but these changes in large part are small. Call of Duty multiplayer is still fun to play, and it’s about what you expect.
Blackout, Call of Duty’s take on battle royale, is a controversial prong of the game. It took over the single player campaign Call of Duty used to offer every single year. So the big question is whether or not this is a suitable replacement. The answer is: yes, yes it is.
Blackout is the best battle royale mode I have ever played. I questioned whether Call of Duty, a game known for small maps and lobbies, could take on something so opposite of their status quo. I can say with certainty that they did with strides. The tight controls CoD is known for isn’t compromised by the mode’s large size. I love the map as for it feels less cut-and-paste than others and is the perfect size allowing for the perfect match length. Plenty of useful items are offered in-game such as weapons, attachments, armor, perks, equipment, and more. I like how the inventory works in this game because it allows me to be in-and-out of it a lot faster than other games, and on top of that this game has some other small quirks I like such as being able to heal while sprinting or being able to shoot while swimming. Blackout is a fantastic battle royale mode and I am glad that it is here.
Now all of what I said is pretty much a summary of my experience with the beta of blackout. All of that stuff is still true, so I wanted to now spend the time to talk about what is different. Pretty much all of the changes and/or improvements are outside of the game mode itself. Maybe there are some tweaks and balances to items in-game, but the things I found worth talking about are what you are doing outside of the game. Unfortunately, I think where this game mode falters the most is outside of the gameplay. The game offers a rank to level up and characters to unlock. There are also things that transfer between multiplayer and blackout like emotes and sprays, but I found myself ignoring that stuff. Anyways, I found that there is little to do outside of the mode.
For starters, the level doesn’t really get you a lot. The max level is 100, and I believe you only unlock five characters; one for every twenty levels. I know in some other BR games, you can unlock skins for weapons, and I would love to see the skin unlocking systems from multiplayer brought over to here, but as it stands all you can get are characters. On top of that, the game offers a bunch of other characters to unlock through challenges. I think this is a really cool idea and is something worth working towards…if it wasn’t for the fact that the challenges are way too specific. The character challenges rely on finding a specific item in-game, and completing a set of tasks, all within the same game session. I found the challenges to be way too hard and rely too much on luck. I get that the developers didn’t want people to just unlock everybody fast, but I still feel that the challenges should be more basic. One thing you do work on while playing the game though is a battle pass. This battle pass is something that can be worked on by playing both multiplayer and blackout. The only issue is, there isn’t a lot to get for blackout. Again, you can get sprays and emotes that can be used in blackout, but they aren’t something I personally used. Other than that, all you can really get are multiplayer character skins that can be used on multiplayer characters (if you can unlock them in blackout) and a blackout character that takes an ungodly amount of time (or money) to get.
In the end, I love this mode a lot. The gameplay is fast and fluid like it should be. I wish there were more to do in terms of unlocks, but I believe that this version of battle royale is the best we have seen yet.
Zombies has now become a Call of Duty staple. Even non-Treyarch studios are making their versions of CoD zombies. Still, these other studios still don’t make them like Treyarch does, and Black Ops 4 shows how it’s done.
At launch (not counting the battle pass), Black Ops 4 offers three maps. Two are new maps and one is a remake of an older one. The two new maps take place on the Titanic and in a gladiatorial arena, while the remake is of Black Ops 2’s Alcatraz map. I didn’t like the Titanic map all that much because of how empty it felt, but I really liked the other two maps. I wish the gladiatorial map was more melee focused, but I really liked how symmetrical and cool the map and the themes were. As for the Alcatraz map, I liked how it wasn’t a one-to-one remake of the original. This edition adds new areas to the map, making it feel fresh. There are some parts missing like the bridge area and a lack of the ghost ability, but overall I think this map as well as the maps in general are solid.
The main thing I wanted to focus on though are the elements outside of gameplay. Black Ops 4 makes some pretty big changes and adds some pretty big improvements that enhances the mode quite a bit. For starters, the game offers a tutorial for both new and returning players that teaches the basics of the zombie mode as well as the new mechanics in this game. This isn’t the first Call of Duty to have a zombies tutorial mode, but I am still glad that it’s there. The biggest change though is how perks work. Before, perk machines were scattered around the map, and you got what they gave you. This time, there are only four perk machines on the map, and you choose what perks go into what machines before you start the round. Also, a lot of the basic perks of previous games have been stripped or morphed into other perks. These changes feel really good, as for the perk machine mechanic allows you to pick the perks you want, and the changes made to the perks allow you to fit your perks more to your play style. Juggernog and quick revive (if playing solo) felt like necessary perks to have, which only left you with two perk spots to spare. Now, the game just starts you at full health and the self revive is built-in, allowing for more customization. I really like the changes made to the perks, and I hope they stick with future titles.
On top of changes made, this game adds new features to zombies. One of these additions are mutations to a match. These mutations allows the player to make changes to the match to fit how they want to play the game. I really like this addition, but none of it counts towards your zombie rank. I get the reasoning for that, but I also wish they would just scale the amount of xp gained based on what mutations are being used. The game also adds bots that you can add if you feel lonely. Since I couldn’t control the bots, I decided to just keep them off. A score-based mode called Rush is also new, but it wasn’t something that interested me so I passed it up. Finally, zombies offers a cel-shaded cartoon filter that is actually pretty cool.
All of these changes and additions are cool and all, but over time I have slowly become less of a fan of the zombies mode. I still enjoy a good zombie match, but I feel that I have hit this point where I am good enough to get to whatever round I want to but bad enough to complete the main easter egg of each map. Because of that, I found myself ditching this mode shortly after picking up this game, because I felt I have experienced all that I wanted to. Still, I think this version of zombies is a really solid package that zombie fans will love.
I wanted to spend this fourth part talking about everything else. I want to talk about the lack of single player as well as the microtransactions. But before all of that, I want to start with one of the dumbest modes ever put into a Call of Duty: specialist HQ.
Specialist HQ is a set of single player missions that is meant to walk you through the basics of the multiplayer characters. It starts with a heavily-guided part making you use the character’s various abilities, and ends with a multiplayer bot match. What’s the issue? All of it. For starters, this isn’t a tutorial on how to play the game. This is a tutorial on how to use the characters. This means that you know how to play the game, but you don’t know how to use the characters. So where is the issue here? The characters are incredibly easy to use and aren’t that useful as, say, Overwatch characters. There is even a video that plays before each mission that gives the rundown of each character, and that is plenty of information as to how to play this game. On top of that, you can’t choose the difficulty of each mission, the bots in the multiplayer match at the end are as dumb as a brick, the game tries to add a story that feels like first grader wrote it then took out every other paragraph, character cutscenes range from goofy to kind of brutal, and Woods from the first Black Ops game constantly annoys you with terrible one-liners and then gets weird when he gets really philosophical with you. This mode feels utterly useless because again, it isn’t a tutorial as to how to play the game. If this was, then I would just leave it alone, but instead it is a complete waste of time and I wish the developers would have put the time making this game mode into something else. Still, this is a tiny mode that doesn’t advertise itself as anything but a small tutorial, which compared to the other three modes doesn’t weigh down the experience that much.
The biggest controversy to come out of all of this, of course, is the lack of single player. Does this game suffer without it? No, no it doesn’t. I don’t see this move as a way of saying single player games are dead or that the Call of Duty series has lost its identity or anything like that. Simply put, I see this move as cutting the fat. Call of Duty campaigns are not that good, and the amount of time they have to put into making a campaign feels useless. It is something that is played once or twice by some players, and that’s it. Personally, I only played the campaign because it was there, not because I loved it. So a change from something that is only played once to something that can be played multiple times is a nice one. I hope the future Call of Duty games have their third mode be whatever is trending, because I would love to see CoD’s take on it.
The last thing I wanted to talk about are the microtransactions. Instead of loot boxes, Black Ops 4 decided to put in a battle pass. Sure, there are loot boxes in the battle pass, but it doesn’t really make a difference. Anyways, I actually kind of like the idea of a battle pass. Now if I had the option, I would just turn all microtransactions off, but I know that’s not how Call of Duty works anymore. So, I see that the choice is either this battle pass or loot boxes, so I choose battle pass. While I do like this battle pass idea, I wish it was better. The main issue I have with it is that I don’t care about the loot and the amount of time it takes to level it up is way too long. Some things like a daily tier skip alleviates that issue a bit, but it feels really difficult to get through 200 tiers with speeds that slow. Still, if it is choice of which is the lesser evil, then I guess the battle pass is the way to go.
In conclusion, Black Ops 4 is a pretty large step in a new direction, and for the most part they succeed. While there are some bumps in the road like specialist HQ, I think the package this year is solid. Multiplayer is about what you expect, blackout is a really good one of those, and zombies has been refreshed. If you are looking for a single player only experience, then I don’t know why you would look at any of the previous Call of Duty games, but especially don’t look here. But if you are looking for a good Call of Duty game, a good battle royale game, or a good multiplayer game in general, then you have come to the right place.