Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 on PS4
Call of Duty is one of the most straightforward franchises in gaming. It gets a new release every year, you’ll pay your money for it, and you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. This year, however, Activision and Treyarch are shaking things up a little bit with Black Ops 4. It’s almost as though they’ve realized that virtually no one cares about the series’ single-player story campaigns anymore, and they’ve gone all-out with their multiplayer focus.
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. For starters, yes, the single-player campaign is totally gone. In its place, however, is the Specialist HQ feature that allows you to get acquainted with the game’s different Specialists and their abilities before you jump into your online matches.
This is by far the weakest and most boring aspect of Black Ops 4. Upon starting it up, you’ll be treated to a CGI cutscene setting up the start of some brand new conflict, followed by the option for you to choose which Specialist you want to play as. These are essentially tutorial missions that are intercut with thin story exposition and dialogue. Regardless of which Specialist you choose, the missions all pretty much play out the same way, and the process is dragged out way longer than it should. Our advice? Just read up on your character’s abilities and skip Specialist HQ altogether. You’ll pick up the intricacies of each character as you continue playing.
Black Ops 4’s core traditional multiplayer modes also make a return, with the introduction of two new modes, Control and Heist. In Control, your team and the opposing team will take turns attacking and defending two zones with multiple entry points. And in Heist, you’ll take turns making a run for a grab bag and ferrying it back to an exfiltration zone.
Both modes serve as worthy additions to Call of Duty’s already expansive suite of multiplayer modes, and they’re also great playgrounds for you to show off your Specialists’ abilities. Indeed, the Specialists are the highlights of Black Ops 4. This year, Treyarch is adopting a few elements typically seen in hero shooters to vary up the gameplay a little. The core gameplay experience is still very boots-on-the-ground, but different Specialists will give you different kits to play around with in battle.
For instance, Torque is more of a defender/saboteur character who can set up razor wires to protect a zone. On the other hand, Ruin comes equipped with a grappling gun that lets him move through a map with ease. All Specialists also come with a special ‘super’ ability that can be activated once the meter is filled up, allowing you to decimate the other team if you use it properly. Couple these with the returning scorestreaks, and Black Ops 4’s traditional multiplayer modes feel more frantic than ever, not to mention somewhat refreshing as well.
Interestingly, each team can only have one of each Specialist per match. While you are able to switch Specialists mid-match, you can’t pick one that’s already in use by another player. This is also a great opportunity to take a look at which Specialists are currently on the enemy team, and figuring out who you should play as to undermine them.
Another new change in Black Ops 4 comes with the ability to heal yourself in battle. Surprisingly, the cooldown timer is pretty short, meaning that you could potentially break out of a gunfight to heal up quickly before mounting a counterattack against your opponent. It’s a nice touch that can give lesser players a fighting chance to strike back, but the time-to-kill (TTK) in Black Ops 4 is still rather short as a whole, and the respawn timer is still basically instant. So while players do have more leeway when it comes to escaping and surviving fights, the heal ability doesn’t really cause them to feel protracted or overly drawn out as a result, which is good.
In typical Call of Duty fashion, the more you play, the faster you level up. And, in turn, the faster you’ll be able to start customizing your weapon loadouts and get better unlocks as you progress. The leveling system continues to be the most compelling aspect of Black Ops 4, and it’s pretty streamlined in this entry as well. Most of the good stuff is locked behind character level requirements, so there’s always an incentive to keep pushing on, as you never know what new weapon or perk you’ll pick up next.
Aside from just the tried and true multiplayer modes, Black Ops 4 also marks Call of Duty’s first foray into the battle royale scene, and it’s certainly been a smashing success so far.
Blackout is easily the most polished battle royale game I’ve ever played, and Treyarch definitely made the right decision in having it completely in first-person mode. Blackout’s map is wonderfully varied, with tons of familiar areas that serve as callbacks to iconic Call of Duty maps. As you’d expect from your typical battle royale game, Blackout allows you to drop from a helicopter anytime you want, and you’ll have to pick up your equipment onsite if you want to have a chance of surviving.
Instead of just creating a generic military sim battle royale mode, the little Call of Duty twists introduced in Blackout also help to set it apart from the competition. Air drops are helpful, but they’ll also usually be surrounded by flesh-eating zombies. Dropping at the Lighthouse will reward you with good gear, but it’s also completely overrun by zombies. The zombies, in particular, are a fun little twist that you have to deal with while also trying to make sure that another player isn’t sneaking up on you.
Specialist gear can be picked up in Blackout as well, such as the sensor dart and the grappling gun. Play enough of Blackout, and you might also unlock a special character mission that lets you permanently unlock a Specialist character skin for that mode. There are other little tweaks that I found myself a lot more appreciative of as time went on, such as the speedy healing rate, and being able to pick up all sorts of ammo types without worrying about your inventory filling up. I’m still concerned about the longevity of Blackout as a battle royale game, and how it’ll be able to retain its player base as time goes on, but for now, if you’ve been itching for an extremely well-polished military sim battle royale game, Blackout is your go-to.
In fact, the only complaint I have with the mode is that vehicle and zombie spawn points aren’t quite varied enough, which can give matches an air of predictability the more you play. These are very minor gripes, though, and can be easily fixed if Treyarch ever feels it becomes enough of a problem to address.
Outside of that, Zombies mode is back, because of course it is. Full disclosure here: I’ve never been the biggest fan of Zombies because of how tedious it can be, but if you’re looking for more of the same stuff that Activision’s been doing over the years, you won’t be disappointed.
Black Ops 4’s Zombies mode comes with three maps: IX, Voyage of Despair, and Blood of the Dead, which is a continuation of Treyarch’s Aether Story. You’ll be glad to know that completing the trials for each map is still an incredibly arduous process that absolutely requires all four teammates to know exactly what they’re doing, or risk wasting time getting nothing done at all during that round. Still, having three different Zombies maps is certainly welcome, especially considering that they all feature such different locales for you to explore. Voyage of the Dead is set on a Titanic-like ship, IX is set in an arena from Ancient Rome, while Blood of the Dead takes us back to Alcatraz.
I will say, though, that this year’s Zombies mode does feel a tad more overwhelming than it used to be. Zombies mode can now be tailored to play however you want it, and players are able to choose which perks they want to spawn on the map, along with dozens of elixirs and weapon loadouts that you can experiment with. There isn’t really a proper tutorial to walk you through all these systems, which can make it pretty intimidating for newcomers just getting started in Zombies for the first time. Gee, if only Treyarch had cut back on Specialist HQ and made a more fleshed out tutorial for Zombies instead, huh?
Even so, once you get a hang of it, Zombies is still a great mode to play through with friends. You can also now choose between Classic and Rush mode, the latter of which allowing you to just focus on blasting the heads off the pesky zombies. Even Classic mode comes with four different difficulty levels, and you can pick the one that suits you best.
All in all, Black Ops 4 is a really solid and polished package of multiplayer goodness. As I made my way through the multiplayer ranks, I found myself thinking about the missing single-player campaign less. The number of modes and maps on offer here is staggering, and the core gameplay itself is satisfying and well-rounded for players of all play styles. Blackout is easily the biggest highlight here, and if Treyarch had to cut the single-player story in order to make this happen, I’d say it was a worthy trade.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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