Call of Duty Black Ops 4

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is the second Call of Duty I’ve ever written about. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not a series that’s ever really held much weight with me. As a Halo fanboy back in the day, “COD” was a dirty word.

Ridiculous as that is, that’s how it was.

But here we are now, where these games are still released annually, with mixed reviews and ratings, but the same solid core that makes each iteration fun at the most basic level.

Now, the illustrious “Black Ops” series has hit title number 4, and it’s pretty bloody good to be honest.

Taking a bold (bad?) step to remove a solo campaign, it sees Call of Duty focusing on being Call of Duty at it’s most basic. Multiplayer is their bread and butter and adding a battle royale, is of course the main attraction to me. I’ve found myself really getting sucked into the other modes, too.

 

Zombies….

Zombies is not for me. It’s as simple as that.

I enjoy a hoarde mode, and see the appeal, but it’s just a level of frustration that I don’t need to be honest.

Constant waves of zombies, increasing in mobility, health and damage output, until either completion, or in my case……death.

There appear to be some objectives to achieve, but I’ve not given it enough time to really go through it. When I get to wave 20 it’s carnage and just not that much fun to me.

The arenas look decent, and the weapons and power-ups are great. I definitely get some satisfaction from using abilities and high-powered gear.

Fighting wave after wave is fine. Playing with random strangers is frustrating when there’s no co-ordination, so it’s definitely a better mode with friends or at least some communication.

As far as I can tell, there’s back story and easter eggs to unlock. General consensus is that it isn’t the best Zombies mode in the franchise, but it’s fine.

I don’t mind dipping in and out on occasion, but it’s not something I can adequately comment on to be fair. Matchmaking has been fine, no real loss of frames when action gets intense.

A smooth experience that can be satisfying on occasion, but just not a mode I care enough about to see it all the way through.

That’s fine though, variety is key in Call of Duty Black Ops 4, and there’s plenty of good stuff to get stuck into.

 

Multiplayer

Call of Duty is known mostly for the multiplayer modes. Primarily Deathmatch.

Well, here it is! Fast-paced, unforgiving and as slick as ever.

Loads of game modes to play, to the point where it’s easier to play in one of the playlists so it mixes different variants into the matchmaking. Perhaps you want to play some deathmatch game types? Or some objective-based modes? No problem.

Heist is a nice take on the traditional Counter-Strike mode. Where you start with a bit of cash to buy the weapons you want, then as you go through each round, you earn more money to buy better gear.

There’s the “Gun Game” which sees everyone start with the same small gun, and each kill they get gives them the next step-up in weapon. Ending when someone gets a kill with the biggest weapon.

I could go through each mode, but they’re mostly Call of Duty and standard First-Person Shooter mainstays. It’s more important to know that if you want the standard COD experience online, it’s here in spades.

One thing I’ve never truly understood, is the kill streaks element (this is going to make me sound salty, I realise….). Why is it that the struggling team is only punished further, by the better team getting more and more advantages stacked up? There’s no means to give the team on the back-foot a change to spring back. It’s weird.

Arguably the core of every Call of Duty game in recent years, Black Ops 4 has it all. I didn’t think it would suck me in quite so much!

Loads of variety, loads to unlock (more on that later), fast-paced shooter fun. Call of Duty doing what Call of Duty does.

 

Blackout

The reason Black Ops 4 even came into my view is the addition of the “Blackout” battle royale mode.

Standard fare, 100 people, 1 island with various locales and an ever-shrinking safe area to stay in/get to.

It would be easy enough to just say that they’re jumping on the bandwagon here, and well……they are, aren’t they? That doesn’t mean it isn’t any good, or not worth playing though.

Honestly, I love it. It keeps the core fundamentals of the standard battle royale game, including weapon looting and air drops. But it delivers it with the finely-tuned Call of Duty experience.

Fluid movement, tight controls and a very nice looking map. It’s everything PUBG should be when you play in first-person. Although I think PUBG carries it’s own charm that still sets it apart.

Helicopters, Quad bikes, Gadgets. There’s enough here to make it different to the usual suspects. I have favourite drop points, I much prefer a wingsuit to just a free-fall (minor detail, I realise).

This is the slick end of the battle royale stick. Vibrant, strong audio design, accessible equipment collection and changing. It just works.

If anything, I feel that because it still “feels” like Call of Duty, I’m more confident when engaging in a gun fight. I know that the gunplay can be relied upon, and I’m not struggling with some poorly coded physics or weapon design.

I’m a more confident (borderline cocky) battle royale competitor in Blackout, and that makes it a different experience for me than the other titles (namely PUBG, Fortnite and Realm Royale).

This is a good iteration of the core battle royale design, with the slickness and polish you expect from Call of Duty. Excellent work here and a mode I love dropping into as often as possible!

 

Hero shooter?

One area that I think Treyarch have fumbled a bit, is the part where they’re trying to add another element of recent successful games into Black Ops 4. On the coattails of Overwatch, they’ve introduced a set of standard characters that have unique abilities…….

But it’s still Call of Duty. I’ve not seen any kind of balance or any signs of there being a finely tuned counter to each solider. No classes (tank, healer etc), just random people with abilities that you earn.

I don’t think that the abilities are bad per se, it all just seems a bit redundant. Half-implemented, trying to cash-in on another successful genre when they’re already at the top of the food chain in the first-person arena.

Maybe I’m missing something? The ideas behind each character are great, and I suppose the tide could be change in a battle with the right use of an ability, but it all just feels a little bit “off”.

The game modes don’t really support it, and there’s no real need for it. I would rather play just a generic (or ideally custom) avatar, and use my loadouts as they are. All I want is a grenade! So I’m constantly using Battery, just to have the cluster bomb.

Without proper balance, and cause for people to fulfil specific roles, I just don’t really see the value.

I could be wrong. But I know how it “feels” and it doesn’t seem like a natural fit or a particularly well considered one.

 

Cost

Here’s something I hate about the current state of games. It’s the “battle pass” model.

The model itself is fine, in free-to-play games. But implementing another level of potential monetisation above an in-game store and having already paid full price for the game. It’s just poor form.

I didn’t like it in PUBG and I don’t like it in Call of Duty. At least PUBG was relatively cheap to buy in the first place….

Granted, it’s all cosmetic stuff, and honestly, a lot of it is crap anyway. But it isn’t the point. The target audience will likely be teens who covet this stuff, and no doubt demand instant satisfaction. Meaning it’s “pay for it” instead of “grind for it”.

It just seems a little scummy, considering Call of Duty Black Ops 4 costs the price of a full Triple-A title, removed a campaign, and includes a store that requires you to buy special currency for, anyway.

Fact is, it should all just be unlockable, and adding two systems is just bullshit.

With the recent furore surrounding the cost of a red-dot sight in the store, it’s pretty clear that people aren’t happy.

We have a solid game, with decent modes. We paid full retail price for it, and yet shiny stuff that we should be able to unlock is behind another paywall?

It screams “Activision”, but that doesn’t change anything. It’s all there, milking loyal customers instead of giving them content. Especially when the content isn’t particularly worth the money anyway!

 

Unlocks

Now I’ve gotten the store/battle pass thing off my chest. It’s worth pointing out that there’s actually quite a lot to be unlock through just playing the game.

It’s a game that constantly rewards you. Whether that’s XP leading you to levelling-up, or XP for the weapons you’re using and getting now attachments for. Call of Duty wants to drip-feed that dopamine, and it bloody works!

Seeing those medals pop up on screen as you play, seeing the XP bar fill up and bubble over into the next rank. All the nameplates, items and XP bonuses you’re getting. There’s some serious satisfaction to be had here.

Sure, I use one or two loadouts primarily, but that’s fine, I’m still levelling things up and changing how I use them.

There’s the illustrious “prestige” to happen, whereby you max out your rank and can re-set it all. Leaving you to re-unlock everything again.

Always working towards something, usually by accident. Constantly unlocking things.

Because of this, and all the cool little bits that you can get (so much stuff!!). I understand the in-game store and battle pass even less.

I really enjoy seeing that I’ve done something and I’m being rewarded. Of course I do. I mean, who wouldn’t? Looking at other games that have these systems in place, you’ve got to hand it to Call of Duty. It’s quick, it’s visual and it’s really quite satisfying.

 

All-in-all

Reading through this, it looks like I’m conflicted.

Zombies is pretty slick, but it’s just not my bag. It does it’s thing and I dip in from time to time.

Multiplayer is the meat and it’s bloody good. Super satisfying and loads to do, with plenty to unlock and work towards. A great time to be had, and a real time-suck. Those double XP weekends really get me into it!

Blackout is a solid addition to the franchise and a fantastic addition to the battle royale genre. I’d go so far as to say it’s as good as PUBG, albeit a different, slicker delivery.

So, yeah. I’ve got a lot out of Call of Duty Black Ops 4 already, and I envisage playing for a lot longer over the next few months.

The terrible implementation of store items and a battle pass really sour me on my overall view of the game to be honest. However, it doesn’t actually impact the gameplay itself.

A lot of people work on these games, and the product itself is a well polished, tightly crafted gem of online first-person action. It’s unfair to tar them with the same brush as those in corporate finance that are looking for the best way to milk their audience.

Based solely on the game itself, and in spite of the omission of a single-player campaign, it’s an easy “exceptional”.

If I’m having this much fun, both on my own and with friends, how can it be anything else? Well-made online fun and in the top echelon of the modern day console shooter.

Bad practices and terrible micro-transactions aren’t actually hampering the fun, nor are they stopping any gameplay functionality/giving others an upper-hand.

It isn’t an excuse, the practice is absolute bullshit and it needs to be addressed.

Maybe Treyarch could “pull a Bungie” and wriggle out of the contract with the seemingly relentless crap that Activision are pulling? I mean, I know that kind of already happened with Infinity Ward/Respawn, minus taking the franchise. So maybe they can do something similar and create something as good as Titanfall?

tldr; Great game, bullshit tactics to squeeze every last penny out of the consumer make me sad.

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