Black Ops 4 has a story to tell but it’s not the traditional one. Gone is the long-winded single player campaign mode with its serious war story and in it’s place are three distinct games compiled in this single package.
The new Call of Duty certainly feels different. It’s more a compilation than a distinct single game. On one side you have the Blackout mode, jumping on the success of the Battle Royale craze started by PUBG and Fortnite and on the other you have the standard online bullet-fest that almost remains unchanged from its many years in service. Sandwiched in between is the Zombies mode, the fun, throwaway game that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
There is no single player mode this year and I’m still in two minds as to whether I miss it. The Specialist HQ sections which act as the training missions for each class of character are the only place you’ll find a story and they do provide at least some narrative, albeit one that’s chopped up into sections. In some respects the stories told by Black Ops games were always a little cheesy and full of so much testosterone filled patriotism they almost fell into parody territory, but they provided a different experience to the multiplayer and I think I miss it here.
Blackout, then, is where I’ll start and it’s a good take on the Battle Royale game. Treyarch have obviously been paying attention to what works in the rival games and have created a solid entry in the genre that both looks good and plays well. There are bugs, this feels like a genre that attracts them, to be honest, but they don’t spoil the enjoyment of the game.
Unlike the standard multiplayer game, Blackout is a far tighter, more frantic battle to stay alive. The decreasing radius of play and the likelihood of being killed at any moment by one of the many players on the battlefield make this a very different experience.
Adding characters from previous games, including the Zombies mode is a nice touch that makes it still feel like Call of Duty rather than another generic Battle Royale, as does the supply drops and shooting mechanic, which are unashamedly COD based, but the gameplay provides a far more tense and exciting experience than standard multiplayer and it’s very welcome here. Oh, and zombies themselves make an appearance to mix things up slightly.
It differs from the other aforementioned games in that it has far more weapons available from the outset and the game just feels a little more solid here. It’s more populated thanks to the zombies providing additional cannon fodder on top of the live players and the whole thing moves at a pretty swift pace with a real sense of achievement for even getting half way through the player list before being killed off.
Blackout lifts the whole package and it’s worth the entry price of Black Ops 4 just for this mode alone, even if some of the elements are still a little new and need tinkering with to get the balance right.
Zombies Mode is, well, same as it ever was and that, to me, is a good thing. It’s an often silly horde mode experience built for teams to enjoy together and the refinements to the series found here make it a smoother game with much better matchmaking and team options than before. I love the rush mode with it’s hectic run and gun approach where split second decisions can mean life or death (before a quick respawn, of course).
Finally, multiplayer has been rejigged in this year’s attempt to breathe new life into it. Health in particular is much more important with nan active heal that feels more natural and lets you concentrate on finding cover or providing covering fire for others in your team. New weapons and a greater emphasis on using specialists helps to make this a more thoughtful attempt at the tradition multiplayer, though there’s still plenty of room for fast paced run and gun style action and, of course, those who just wish to camp out with a sniper. The maps, though, still feel like they’re stuck in the past a little while Battlefield provides a more expanded area to fight in, these are more old-school COD corridors, funnelling you through their pathways.
Placed together, the package is quite impressive with each game having its own set of strengths and weaknesses but coming together to create something for everyone unless, of course, you want a story. There are elements that could still be worked on and some more effort to join the games would be nice but generally it’s a solid set of three game styles in one package and an interesting direction for the series to take.