Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review

Treyarch took a leap of faith with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by completely abandoning the single-player campaign for a more centralized and focused multiplayer ensemble.

With an empty gap left gaping where the traditional single-player mode used to be, Treyarch has not completely ignored our lust for a “story” in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. There is a multiplayer tutorial designed mainly to introduce you to the basic mechanics of the game and each Specialist, while also featuring quite a bit of backstory for said Specialists. It may not be the campaign mode that most players really want, but there is more than enough stunning cinematics to sate our desires. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 boldly offers three completely different multiplayer experiences, each with their unique ingredients that ultimately cook up this yummy Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 buffet. These three spicy ingredients are, Traditional Multiplayer, fan favorite Zombie-Mode and the new color “black”, Battle Royale-Mode, Blackout!

Multiplayer Mayhem

Again, a term we have heard echo from developers since the announcement livestream for Call of Duty: World War II is “boots on the ground”. This mainly became a focus due to the consumer disapproval of fancy jetpacks and exo-suits that were used in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer. It was no surprise that Treyarch boasted a major rework to Black Ops 4 multiplayer with various changes designed to emphasize a “focus on tactical gameplay and player choice.” The choice comes in by selecting a specific Specialist, 1 of 10 in total or by creating a class based on the “Pick-10 System”. Four of the specialists are brand new in the Call of Duty mix, namely Ajax, Crash, Recon and Torque, and we see the return of Battery, Ruin, Nomad, Prophet, Seraph and Firebreak from Black Ops 3. In essence, the concept of a rework, worked, because each specialist has their own unique set off skills and equipment which exposes your play style.

Multiplayer at it’s finest
As for your specialist (class), the real choice platter arrives when you use the Pick-10 System, as you can completely customize your loadout to whatever your personal preferences are! Right from the get-go, SMG’s and assault rifles were and still seem to be the popular choice, most weapons generally feel balanced, including shotguns and pistols, so long as you compliment them with the right crowd control grenades.

Truth be told though, I do not see how this influences “tactical gameplay” in a multiplayer setting, because we all know that the key to a strong team is communication, and not how big their guns are. Too many players still play without headsets, or feel like Rambo and take the “Lone Wolf” approach, but almost every random team that you join up with, will have a clear “carry”, if it is not you, so it is really more of a personal strategy experience than a tactical truth if you want to win.

As mentioned above, wall-running and thrust-jumping in multiplayer are gone, but it is hilarious to still see so many “jump-shooting” players who clearly think it helps make them harder to hit, which in-fact just makes them comedy relief and great distractions to the enemy team if you are swooping in for a surprise attack. The multiplayer still feels exceptionally fast-paced in Black Ops 4, and movement is still fluid, basically more playable than the “where the heck is that enemy fire coming from” in Black Ops 3.

The most notable change to multiplayer is the removal of Call of Duty‘s signature health regeneration system. Instead, the development team has given players a seriously challenging system to keep an eye out for, in which you control when to heal yourself with a press of a button (which obviously has a cooldown). When you heal yourself (in or out of combat), you pull out a syringe and stab yourself and you can see your health regenerating rather quickly if you are not still taking fire. I say ” if not under fire” because healing does leave you vulnerable to attack and in a fast-paced game like Call of Duty, deciding when to heal or not is the difference between life or death. This manual healing mechanic adds an incredible layer of strategy to your overall match experience. Right now, Black Ops 4 is sadly lacking in the map department with only 14 maps available since launch. You might say 14 is a large number, but again, with the pace of the game, you can easily play through more than half of those in a single sitting and quickly get bored with the repetitive choices made through the map vote system. Four of the maps are beautiful remakes of their originals maps as well, but we await the additional 12 multiplayer maps that the Season Pass will give us with bated breath.

Blackout Blowout

The announcement of Call of Duty‘s take on the popular battle royale genre literally filled the media room with cheers and excited faces. Too many developers have tried to copy or present a similar battle royale champion like the two top popular contenders, and so many have failed, yet Call of Duty 4 has truly succeeded in creating a masterpiece in a saturated world filled with battle royale and give it a bold unique flair that makes it stand out from the rest. Blackout is so robust, it feels like it could be a Call of Duty title on it’s own, not just a simple third section of the new release. I cannot stress enough how polished it feels. The devoted development team over at Treyarch have clearly put a plethora of thought into making this mode a unique success and fantastic feature and addition to the Call of Duty franchise. Blackout features points of interest inspired by Nuketown, Array and Turbine as well as weapons and vehicles all inspired by previous Black Ops games too, so roll on nostalgia!

You are free to choose Who, What and How
If you have never played a battle royale, and you are wondering what I am babbling on about, firstly, where the heck have you been for the past year or so, and secondly it is very easy to explain. In a battle royale, you start off in an aircraft and decide where on the map you want to land with 99 other players who are doing the same. You are unarmed and without armor and med-packs. Once you pick a location, you drop onto the map, find a weapon and survive until the round is over. The round ends by you surviving as the last person (solo) or squad left standing. You also have a storm to run away from, which is a slowly enclosing biome, or circle of play, which brings all the surviving players into close proximity of one another. The traditional Call of Duty pace, fluid movement and combat mechanics lend themselves fantastically to this sort of game or mode. From parachuting, running and sliding into cover and actually engaging in a firefight, Blackout is one of the best combat-centric battle royale experiences available on the market to date.

Your arsenal consists of all past traditional Black Ops weapons, various attachments for those weapons, armor and health items, as well as temporary perks that you can use in a pinch. Perks are essentially temporary buffs inspired by the class perks and abilities that you find in the above Black Ops multiplayer mode, which brilliantly encourages you to not just stick to one section of the game, but to switch between game modes to hone your skills. With the amount of available items, Blackout delivers a satisfactory loot spawning experience, specifically because all weapons, ammo and gear do not spawn until the first player actually hits the ground. This breaks the mold of other battle royale titles, because your loadout becomes more of a random roll of a dice at the start of a match, eliminating the “head start” those who have mastered the art of parachuting usually gained in other battle royale titles.

I will be honest though, I find that Blackout’s loot management system is very hard to master or use, either the design is flawed, or I just suck. The inventory system makes it difficult to sort through your loot, so thankfully weapon mods and attachments auto equip at first, but if you felt like swapping them to another weapon I have only been able to successfully do that by dropping them all on the ground. The final cherry for me is that the Black Ops‘ signature zombies also make an appearance in Blackout! They spawn in specific Zombie-inspired locations and upon killing these zombies, you are rewarded with a mystery box, adding a dash of spice to the recipe as I stated in my intro. It really is quite pointless, but is more of a homage to the fan-favorite zombies mode than anything else, giving you a triple decker experience of all three modes in one.

Zombies For Days

Zombie mode has gone nowhere, and provides you with a welcome break from the standard PvP (Player-versus-Player) core of Call of Duty 4. Treyarch, who originally coined this mode have crafted the best Zombie experience I have ever had! As much of a die-hard zombies fan I am, previous zombie modes did feel like a semi-by-thought mode, giving you something else to do after the campaign was done. With Call of Duty 4 Zombie mode though, a totally unique experience complete with power-ups, a perk and elixir system, and intriguing hidden quests await you with frightful delight!

You can Ra-n (run) but you can’t hide
The Black Ops 4 Zombies is split into two separate “storylines”, namely Chaos and Aether, each offering their own characters and customization options, along with a unique backstory and hidden challenges. The Chaos storyline sends you back in time to an alternate version of history and is comprised of two distinct Zombie maps. The IX map takes you to a gladiatorial arena where you’ll fight through a labyrinth of tombs, crypts and temples and discover the powers of ancient gods. The Voyage of Despair map places you aboard the RMS Titanic right after the ship struck the iceberg. You then fight your way through the various rooms and galleys of the iconic ship, with its crew and passengers all transformed into zombies ranging in variety and exponential difficulty.

These maps are linked by a recurring theme in the story involving an ancient cult referred to as The Chaos Order. A brief cinematic sequence introduces each experience, but most of the story detail exists in the background and is gained either through taking note to the character banter or through thorough exploration. In both instances, it really is difficult to follow everything, as it’s hard to keep up with the back-and-forth chatter or fully take in the environment clues while staying strategically focused on fending off zombies that want to nibble at your throat.

The Aether storyline, takes you to a secret laboratory beneath the prison of Alcatraz and is set across multiple remastered Zombie maps from the past Black Ops titles that are linked through a time travel story. Again, a developmental homage to the previous Call of Duty titles that the die-hards like myself can really appreciate, and again, like with Chaos, the storyline can be difficult to follow, it’s fun to see the return of the previous four characters from World at War.

Every part of zombies is unique from each other in both aesthetics and layout design. The hidden challenges encourage you to play through them more than once to really be able to say you experienced it fully and took everything in and add a nice breakaway to simply just surviving till the next round. Like with multiplayer, Zombies also has a strong focus on personalization with “custom mutations”, meaning you can create a Zombies experience that is personalized for you and your friends, with so many variables to adjust, including the usual difficulty, zombie speed, health and damage. As with Call of Duty: World War II, you’re able to create custom loadouts for your character. You can select your starting weapon, and keep upgrading or replacing it by purchasing new weapons as you progress through the game. The most vital customizations are centered around your special weapons, perks and elixirs which you will unlock throughout the whole Zombie experience.

Special weapons, are chosen at the start of a game and are mysterious artifacts that offer unique powers when used. The Hammer of Valhalla, as an example, provides protective armor around you and your allies with each swing. The Scepter of Ra burns and slows enemies, while also healing allies. These special weapons are incredibly fun to use and regenerate fairly quickly but are best saved for when you inevitably find yourself cornered or when boss waves arrive. Then, new to Zombies are the Elixirs, which are temporary power ups that grant bonuses to your character. You can select four Elixirs at the start of a match, and they all work on a cooldown timer. Elixirs are not as powerful as special weapons due to them working on cooldown, but they can save your life if things get too intense and you or a teammate have your backs up against a wall. This is when you could use the “Now You See Me” elixir, as an example, as it makes all zombies chase the person that activated it for 15 seconds, perfect for when a teammate is trapped or just has too many zombies swarmed around them and not enough ammo to pop them all in the head. The best is “Join the Party”, because it revives all dead or spectating players immediately! Granted, not all of these powerful elixirs are available at the start, which gives you some incentive to level up.

Lastly, once you have played through both main stories, there is another mode that will unlock, called Rush. This is more like an arcade style take on the traditional Zombies mode, as all weapons, ammo and perks are free, with the goal being to kill zombies and collect as many Rush Points as possible. You gain score multipliers based on the amount of damage you do, but alternatively by taking damage, your multiplier will decrease. Call me bias, but I am sure you can tell which of the three Call of Duty 4 offerings is my favorite.

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Conclusion

Developed by Treyarch, Beenox and Raven Software and Published by Activision, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was released on 12 October 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, as well as PC. As fantastic as I have found the whole title to be, it continues to experience network issues and data loss. Treyarch has worked tirelessly since launch to fix these issues, but weeks later, I am still experiencing connectivity issues, server disconnects and lag spikes. I have also had to start from scratch three times already due to data corruption of my stored data, which I do admit, I am clueless as to whether it is a problem with my PlayStation 4 or with the network issues to and from the server, however this is the only game I have this problem with. Regarding longevity, I can foresee this title standing out above the rest, even without a single player campaign, as this is all about that multiplayer experience that leagues have been begging for, drawing the spotlight on a well timed title to serve the eSports sector with panache. At the time of this review, you can grab a PlayStation 4 copy or Xbox One copy from BT Games for R935.00 and a PC copy from Takealot for R799.00 (including free delivery).

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