When it comes to the gameplay side of things, Black Ops 4 does almost everything right. And while some of the changes may frustrate a few veteran players, its undeniable that Black Ops 4 is a breath of fresh air from the static Call of Duty formula.
A nice change of pace
Black Ops 4 brings a huge amount of changes to the table, and it does so in a way that fans of the long-running series will enjoy if they come in to the game with an open mind. With the removal of key mechanics like regenerative health and the replacement of the normal campaign with a Battle Royale mode, long time players might be returning to a game that looks like Call of Duty but feels quite different.
When it comes down to things, many of Call of Duty’s traits are still there. Gameplay is extremely fast paced, the guns control like they would in any other Call of Duty, and movement is as fluid as ever.
What makes the game feel so different is the increased focus on specialists, the lack of auto-regen health, and the hefty increase to player health. These changes don’t change anything drastically, but they help the game to feel slightly more tactical.
Specialists are a huge focus this time around. Black Ops 3 introduced specialists to Call of Duty, but they always seemed to be more of an after-thought rather than a core element of the gameplay. Black Ops 4 takes a page from Rainbow 6 Siege’s book and makes Specialists the core of most of the multiplayer gameplay.
In Black Ops 4, each specialist has 2 abilities. Their equipment is usually on a fairly speedy recharge and replaces what would usually be your grenade slot. Each specialist also has their own ability. Each ability can only be used once or twice a game due to the extremely long charge rate. These abilities can drastically shift a game and are even more powerful when used alongside other specialist abilities.
In game mode like Free for All and Team Deathmatch, specialists won’t make a huge impact on the game. While it’s still important to understand the specialists and their abilities in these modes, which specialist you play as won’t determine the game or anything that drastic.
However, objective based game modes help show the importance of specialists. In game modes like Control, Hardpoint, and Domination specialists can easily change the outcome of a game.
Goodbye PUBG, hello Blackout
Black Ops 4’s new Battle Royale mode, Blackout, was pushed aside by many to be nothing more than a Fortnite/PUBG rip-off following its announcement, but it was sure to blow expectations out of the water with its release.
I’m not a fan of the Battle Royale genre by any means. I played PUBG for a few hours, but performance issues and a good amount of boredom drove me away. Fortnite was a little more fun due to its differences in mechanics, but I had enough of my share during the PC only era of the game.
Blackout was just another game in the Battle Royale trend when I heard its announcement, but it blew me away the first time I played it, and it still is a blast to come back to.
The mode plays like a more refined, faster paced Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. In a way, that makes it sound likes the exact opposite of the poorly optimized and slow paced PUBG, but it just looks and feels similar. But comparing it to PUBG at all would be an insult to Blackout as the mode as a whole is just better in almost every way.
Blackout is either 88 or 100 players depending on the mode you’re playing (88 for solos and duos, 100 for quads). This battle Royale game mode starts just like the rest, jumping out of an aerial vehicle onto the open map, but Blackout doesn’t use the normal skydive into a parachute that the other games do.
This time you fly down using a wingsuit. It’s a small change but it makes a huge difference. Once you get good at using the wingsuit you’ll be able to use it to glide huge distance and go basically wherever you want on the map no matter the distance from your initial drop. The wingsuits can also be deployed at anytime during the game making for some speedy travel from high places.
The mode continues normally as any Battle Royale would with the numbers and circle size slowly dwindling until a victory is claimed. The mode is much faster paced than both Fortnite and PUBG though, and this speedy pace helps it stand out from the crowd.
Sure, you’ll have your downtime to loot, but action can be heard and seen no matter where you are on the map.The map is also a standout for the game mode as it is comprised of various iconic Call of Duty maps and locations from the Black Ops series of games. You’ll get to explore an abandoned Nuketown, scavenge Black Ops’s Array multiplayer map for loot, or kill zombies in the classic Verruckt zombies map. All of these locations and more are jammed together in one huge map, and it makes for a huge nostalgia trip for series fans.
Oh yeah, the zombies. Blackout has zombies to deal with on top of the normal players you’ll be hunting. At two locations at a time, marked by the iconic blue beam of light, a mystery box will spawn with rare and powerful loot. But with the loot comes its guardians, a mass of zombies that spawn with each mystery box.
The zombies aren’t a ton to handle as they don’t do a ton of damage but killing them attracts a lot of attention from nearby players. And you’ll need to kill all the zombies to unlock the mystery box to possibly get your hands on items like the cymbal monkey bombs or the illusive Ray Gun.
Blackout also features is own ensemble of vehicles to ride to victory on. Find them in the world and you’ll have your choice of the ATV, the cargo truck, the boat, or the helicopter. Each of the vehicles plays like you’d expect, but it’s nice to see the return of vehicles to Call of Duty in some form.
A trip back in time
From the specialists to the health regen, multiplayer has seen its fair share of changes this time around. But these changes don’t take away from the fact that the core of the multiplayer plays incredibly like Black Ops 2.
And that’s a good thing as Black Ops 2 had some of the most refined multiplayer in the Call of Duty series. Gunplay is tight, action is fast, and score streaks wreak havoc. After the past 2 years of Call of Duty multiplayer let a lot of people down, this year Treyarch nailed it with changes that actually effected gameplay but were changes that improved the overall experience. Forcing players to heal themselves allows for smarter engagements, and specialists make players choose how they want to help the team.
Usually in Call of Duty games teamwork is scoffed at, but it seems that the player base has adopted the push towards working together mostly.
The game has a decent amount of maps this time around too. Of the maps, 4 are just remasters of previous Black Ops maps, but they’re all classics and they all play really well still to this day.
No Campaign at all? Well, not exactly…
It’s old news now that Black Ops 4 is lacking a campaign mode. The announcement was made month ago that it would be replaced by the Blackout Battle Royale mode, but it seems they Treyarch still scrapped together a decent little mini campaign.
The new Specialist HQ mode features full, big-budget cutscenes to watch and missions to play. The mode adds some story behind Black Ops 4’s specialists, and while the mode plays like a glorified bot mode, it’s nice to see the team at Treyarch at least try to give the fans something they were told wouldn’t even be there.
Ultimis, Primis, and Chaos? The whole gang’s here!
There is more zombies content in Black Ops 4 at launch than any other Black Ops game, or Call of Duty game for that matter, in history.
Black Ops 4 launches with 3 maps and a 4th if you picked up the Black Ops Pass.
The new cast of characters, who are said to have an entirely separate story from the original 4 characters, have 2 maps; IX and Voyage of Despair.
The map IX takes place in an area based off the Roman Empire. It features the new Chaos storyline Crew; Scarlett, Diego, Bruno, and Stanton.
You and your 3 allies are thrown into a gladiator pit surrounded by spectators as you battle hordes of normal zombies, undead gladiators, and zombie tigers. The map is extremely challenging but well designed.
Voyage of Despair also features the Chaos crew and takes place on none other than the Titanic. The map is huge, intricate, and maze-like, but its so fun to play.
The Primis crew (Nicholai, Dempsey, Takeo, and Richtofen from Origins and Black Ops 3) is featured in the new Blood of the Dead map. Fans of Black Ops 2 will recognize this remake of Mob of the Dead, but they will be glad to know that is more than just a remaster. Instead, Treyarch is dubbing this as a sequel to the beloved Alcatraz based map. The map features the same areas as Mob of the Dead, but they have been expanded on with tons of new areas to explore.
Finally, those who bought into the Black Ops Pass will get access to Classified, the remaster of Five from the original Black Ops featuring the Ultimis crew (Nicholai, Dempsey, Takeo, and Richtofen from Black Ops 1 and World at War). The map aims at tying up some loose ends with the original Five zombies map’s story, and features some new areas as well.
What makes zombies worth coming back for again isn’t just the new maps this time around. Just like in the multiplayer, Treyarch has gone out of their way to shake things up.
Perks have been completely reworked from the ground up. Staples like Juggernog, Speed Cola, and Double Tap are gone. Instead, a new customizable perk system has been introduced. Each map has 4 perk locations, and each player has the ability to customize their individual perk machine loadout.
Want Quick Revive to be the first perk machine? You got it. Want it to be Stamin-Up instead? Sure, why not?
On top of this, a new special weapon has been introduced. Each player can choose a special weapon for their loadout. The special weapons are extremely powerful but have a long recharge rate for each use.
While these changes are definitely jarring the first time around, they could end up helping zombies players break away from old crutches like Juggernog. I think these changes are a welcome addition, and Treyarch is already adjusting balance and listening to community feedback to further improve the experience.
Progression done the right way
One thing that has really impressed me with Black Ops 4 is the amount of meaningful progression. Black Ops 4 still doesn’t have any sign of Supply Drops (loot boxes), and according to recent news, it looks like they may be gone for good.
Assuming Black Ops 4 is trending towards the Supply Stream reward system mentioned in the linked article, it seems that Treyarch really wants players to play their game. Everything unlockable is earned through grinding playtime instead of random chance loot boxes. Earning gun camos in multiplayer is done the old-fashioned Call of Duty way, through headshots and challenges instead of Supply Drops, and leveling up in zombies mode is purely based on playing the game.
Blackout has my favorite progression system of all. Players are only rewarded Merits (Blackout’s word for XP) based on their skill. Dying in 80th place and hiding until being 25th aren’t rewarded here. To be rewarded you must get kills or land in the top 15. There isn’t much in the way of rewards currently, but level up enough and every 20 levels you will be given a new Blackout character skin.
Blackout also has playable characters from other games in the Black Ops universe including the specialists, Sgt. Woods, Mason, and the entire zombies crew.
These characters can only be earned through in-game missions. Once you’ve dropped into the map, items relating to the characters will be scattered around the playable area. If you find one of their items and put it into your inventory that character’s mission can be seen. Complete the mission to earn the character.
It sounds simple, but the missions can be extremely difficult, but this gives value to the skins which I rather enjoy.
A few hiccups along the way
Black Ops 4 isn’t without its issues. Camos have been noticeably buggy on both console and PC. Multiple times I had camos disappearing from my gun mid game causing my red dot sight to also disappear. Many players have also noted the camo issues with one user on reddit posting a picture of the camo texture replacing their red dot sight entirely.
The biggest issue currently is the extremely iffy spawn system. I like what Treyarch says they are going for, but right now spawns can have the tendency to be extremely frustrating.
Treyarch says their current plan is to make it so that spawns flip less often, but as they’ve said this tends to make it easier to become spawn trapped. If this were the only issue with spawns it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not.
Often times I would find myself spawning directly in enemy lines of sight, in between enemies, or even the exact point I just died in.
The spawns aren’t unbearable, they’re actually fine most of the time, but there will be moments of frustration as you die twice to the same enemy because you spawned into his sniper scope again.
Changes worth celebrating
Black Ops 4 took some big risks. Some players might not be happy with them, but as a long-time player I was very happy with the changes Treyarch made.
The game feels and plays like Black Ops 2 but looks like a slightly improved Black Ops 3.
If Treyarch can keep up the support they are promising, then Black Ops 4 has a bright future ahead of itself.