When Call of Duty Black Ops 4 was revealed earlier in the year confirming the rumours that it will not ship with a traditional singleplayer campaign, much of the internet responded in uproar and I was one of those that wasn’t best to pleased with the news. I know there are a lot of Call of Duty fans that pick up the game for the multiplayer or even the zombies mode, but for me, that’s often been the beauty of this series. In recent years, each yearly release has been packed with content and modes that cater for a wide variety of Call of Duty players and I for one loved delving into the singleplayer campaign and when that was done, my time would be invested in the multiplayer, although, I don’t really much care for the Zombies mode anymore. But regardless of your preference, whether you’re here for one mode or them all, there was just about something for everyone.
So with that said, I get why so many of us were upset that Call of Duty Black Ops 4 won’t have a singleplayer campaign, though there is a singleplayer mode of sorts, but I’ll get on to that a little later. So does Black Ops 4 represent good value for money? Well, if you’re a player that picks up each yearly instalment for just the singleplayer, then the answer is likely a no. However, if you are at least a player that picks up the game for singleplayer and dabbles in the multiplayer, then there could be some good value for you here, especially in terms of quality over quantity. Yet if you’re here for the multiplayer and/or the Zombies primarily, then you’re in for a treat with this year’s release.
Firstly let’s talk about the more traditional multiplayer. In a nutshell, if you’ve played plenty of Call of Duty multiplayer over the years, in the most part, you’ll know what to expect. However, for me, the biggest change to the multiplayer is the hit detection. Previously with just about every other game in the series, unless you’re a truly skilled player that always gets a headset blindfolded, for the vast majority of us more average players, it’s more of the case of who shoots first gets the kill. This in many respect was true regardless of where you’d hit your opponent. I always try to go for a headshot, it might take me a split-second longer then some, but in most cases I’m pretty accurate in that respect. However, if someone shot at me first in previous games, sometimes at the feet, it doesn’t matter if I landed a headshot with my second or third bullet, if my opposing player got the first few bullets at my feet, I’d be dead. I can’t speak for others of course, but this absolutely infuriated me as it made little sense. However, this issue has been largely fixed in Black Ops 4.
I know the updated hit detection didn’t go down well in the beta for some and there’s still probably some that don’t like it in this full release, but speaking on my own personal preference, I absolutely welcome this change. In Black Ops 4 each player’s character has a visible health meter that takes more damage to down an opponent than in previous games. In a nutshell what this means, is that if an opponent hits me in the foot first and I land bullets in their head instantly after, unless my aim is all over the place, I’ll likely get the kill and not the player that shoots me in the piggy toe. This in my humble opinion has improved my enjoyment with the Call of Duty multiplayer massively as it no longer relies on twitch style “who shot first” gameplay. In fact, if this aspect was reverted back to the twitch style shooting in next year’s game, it would take me some getting used to, unless it’s a historic themed setting like WWII, where our players are obviously not kitted out in futuristic heavy armour, where having less health would make sense.
Another big change made to the multiplayer of Black Ops 4 is the fact that you no longer automatically regenerate health when escaping enemy fire. Once you have taken health damage, you must inject yourself with a health boost, but choose wisely when you do this, because while you’re giving yourself a health boost shot, just like reloading a weapon, you will leave yourself vulnerable for those couple of seconds. Some may not prefer this method of healing, but I prefer it as it adds an extra layer of strategy and tension.
Black Ops 4 also expands on Black Ops 3 with the Specialists, the games take on the character-class. The Specialists are supped up Character Classes each with their own unique skill-sets and abilities, in total there are 10 Specialists in the base game. We have Firebreak who’s specialist ability is a Flamethrower and his specialist equipment that emits radiation that damages opponents health within its radius. Torque who’s specialist ability is a barricade that helps protect team members and objectives. And his specialist equipment is a Razor Wire that does damage to any enemies that runs into it. Ajax a man-tank that has a Ballistic Shield as is specialist ability and a Tactical Grenade that can flash stun and detonate, sending affected opponents into a blind frenzy.
Battery, who is my personal favourite, she has the War Machine as her specialist ability that fires bouncing grenades as specialist ability and her specialist equipment is the Cluster Grenade, a launcher that fires sticky grenades that explode into smaller grenades, blowing everything into pieces within its parameter. Prophet who is armed with the Tempest tactical rife as his specialist ability, fires electrically charged rounds that can incapacitate enemies and his specialist equipment is the Seeker Shock Mine, which is an awesome little drone that hunts down the opposition and sends those discovered into a shocking seize. Crash is a real team player that can provide team members with health and boosts (as well as to himself) with his TAK-5 specialist ability, while his Assault Pack specialist equipment provides ammo, which gives all players on your team bonus points for taking down enemies.
Nomad unleashes a bullet sponging Attack Dog as a specialist ability that can either be instructed to stay by your side or ordered to patrol a designated path. Nomad’s specialist equipment is the Mesh Mine which plants explosive tripwires which will blow your foe into tiny pieces! Recon, the stealth expert has the Vision Pulse as his specialist ability, which reveals all enemies within its radius for a short period of time to you and your team. While his Sensor Dart specialist equipment reveals enemies on the mini-map for your entire team, which is effectively a UAV. Ruin has the Grave Slam as his specialist ability, a thumping leap from the air that will kill any enemies within its radius. Ruin’s specialist equipment is a Grapple Gun which can pull you across the map from a long distance or to higher vantage points. Finally we have Seraph, who has the Annihilator as her specialist ability which is a high calibre hand cannon that deals big damage and her specialist equipment, the Tac Deploy allows your team members to re-deploy to its surrounding area, which is handy for getting your team out of tight spots.
Now I swear that some of the developers of Treyarch tried to bill this as a campaign of sorts, but believe me, it is not. Basically tied to each of the ten Specialists are background stories. How this will work is that during the multiplayer menus, you can select to play-out a back-story for your selected Specialist, but don’t get excited…at all. All these comprise of are a cut-scene, a tutorial of how to use their specialist ability and equipment, and when that is all done, you play a multiplayer mode with a team of dumb bots. So while it does provide some detail to each of the characters, these are nothing more then glorified tutorials that will only take you about an hour to fly through them all.
Unlike previous Call of Duty games with Zombies bundled in, Black Ops 4 have three chapters from the get-go, instead of just the one. Treyarch has billed this as a “Zombies campaign”, but it’s really just three larger maps with a stronger than usual narrative perspective. Don’t get me wrong, this is probably the most in-depth and one of the best Zombies modes to date, but this is not a campaign as you might think. The three chapters take you to the Voyage of Despair, a luxury cruise ship which you and your team aim to retrieve a mysterious artefact. IX takes you to ancient Rome where you go all Russell Crowe in a gladiator arena, only here you’re battling it out against demonic creatures. Finally Blood of the Dead brings us back to the fan-favourite location of Alcatraz, which first appeared as Mob of the Dead from Black Ops 2. In a nutshell, Zombies is Black Ops 4 can still be a lot of fun when playing as a well-oiled team, but it’s more of the same as before, just a lot bigger and a little bit better.
The star of the Black Ops 4 show and what the developers say is the replacement for the campaign is the Blackout mode, the attempt by the Call of Duty franchise to take on the immensely popular battle royale formula, and in doing so, has found its own identity in this packed genre. In Blackout you can either play as a solo player which can accommodate up-to 100 players, and you can also play in teams with Duo or Quad modes, which at this time has a maximum player limit of 88. Blackout without a doubt brings the largest map ever seen in the series which is approximately the size of 4x4km or 16 square km and there’s a lot going in the map with various locations inspired by popular Call of Duty multiplayer maps of old. There’s even a Zombie asylum, infested by AI zombies and if you manage to survive their onslaught, then you will receive some juicy rewards, but you must also be weary of fellow online players, as well as the flesh eaters.
Once players drop into the huge map, the first thing you must do is search for some weapons and ammo loot, though as a handy tip, once you dive into the map, lie as low as possible, because more experienced players will instantly know where to find the loot and they will be waiting in a sniping position, so until you find yourself some weapons, try to make yourself as little of a target as possible. As with other popular battle royale modes, over time the map will also compress, forcing players to group closer to one-another, making the action more close-quartered and intense. However, unlike some other battle royale modes, Blackout also features vehicles scattered throughout the map such as quad bikes, helicopters, inflatable boats and cargo trucks. However, I wouldn’t spend too much time in the vehicles, as you’ll make yourself a blatant target, but they are handy for getting yourself to known loot at the beginning of the match or towards its very end.
In conclusion, to address the obvious elephant in the room, as much as I’ve enjoyed Black Ops 4 far more than expected (despite being a life-long fan), I can’t help but miss a proper, good old singleplayer campaign, especially as the Black Ops series has often brought me my most favourite moments over the years. Yes, the multiplayer is jacked in Black Ops 4, but the singleplayer discrepancy still leaves me wanting. However, in my humble opinion, in terms of multiplayer, this is one of the best Call of Duty experiences in its history, whether your preference is more of the traditional multiplayer, Zombies or the series take on the battle royale genre with Blackout.
Yet, is this worth the £50/$60 RRP entry fee? Maybe if your sole intention has also been to play the multiplayer, but this is still a full price game that has plenty of micro-transactions and for that reason, perhaps £35/$45 would have been fairer and that’s not even taking into account the more pricey deluxe editions. Especially as there is a blatant forced grind to tempt players into purchasing cosmetic micro-transactions, such skins from popular characters from the franchise. For a full price AAA game, I believe it would have been fairer to make some cosmetics less of a grind, unlike what you might see in free-to-play games. So for that reason, it might be worth holding out for the Christmas and the New Year sales, but in saying that, this is the best Call of Duty multiplayer experience in quite some time and if that’s what you’re after, I very much doubt you’ll be left too disappointed.