No campaign, no problem
Going through the campaign for a Call of Duty game was a complete crapshoot. You never knew if you were going to get a great hamfest or something that took itself far too seriously, and now it’s completely out of the equation.
Starting with Black Ops 4, the focus is almost entirely on multiplayer. There’s three modes: no more, no less, and practically zero single player only components. Let’s go.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Released: October 12, 2018
Let’s keep things simple and break down my experience with every mode.
This is clearly the new main event and it shows.
Activision is taking on the Battle Royale genre and…surprisingly doing very well at it so far? Although I would hardly call Activision “first to market” with this new flavor of the year genre (for the publisher gold rush at least) they are one of the first big studios outside of Epic Games to fully embrace it. PUBG‘s lack of innovation will only carry it so far if other studios follow in the stead of Treyarch.
Blackout is basically Battle Royale on steroids: without being too obnoxious about it. There’s zombies, but only in select locations almost like an Easter egg inclusion. There’s gadgets without going too crazy with something wild like teleportation devices that players can get immediately. It’s still that grounded everyone for themselves mode that millions of people flocked to in this past year. Wait what the hell is a Battle Royale? Here’s a quick refresher: 100 people are dropped into a location (sometimes on teams) and have to kill each other. Good, you’re all caught up.
It’s not a terribly difficult thing to grasp and that’s why so many people find it easy to pick up and play. I’m finding myself gravitating toward it far more than multiplayer, which doesn’t do a whole lot for me this time around. The near-future theme that Black Ops evolved into was novel at first, but now it’s just too familiar.
Multiplayer in Black Ops 4 attempts to revert back to a more strategic approach while marrying the arcade-like supers and gadgets of newer iterations. Yet, it never really manages to hit the highs of either era.
Chucking regenerative health (something that quickly became a punching bag of sorts over a decade ago when it was subsequently added to every shooter) is a nice gesture, as is weapon feel re-balancing, but the perk/mod system ostensibly feels the same, as are many of the base game map layouts (most of the best boards come from DLC in modern Call of Duty games).
A lot of time was spent making everything else in Black Ops 4 stand out and multiplayer is the comfort food of the package. With Blackout in the picture this has actually become the weakest mode for me: a complete tonal shift. In a parallel universe Activision released Black Ops 4 with a mediocre campaign and a samey multiplayer element and killed off the franchise. But today is not that day.
Given the continued strength of zombies and the showmanship of Blackout that isn’t the case. I’ll be experimenting with the Solo Missions soon to see if they spice things up at all or merely serve as a tutorial.
Zombies truly is a compromise this time around: it’s as wacky or as familiar as you want it to be. A Roman Colosseum, cruise liner, and a prison are still perfect settings for zombies even if the latter is a redux of a prior stint.
That redux, mind, is put in purposefully for the hardcore crowd. While we do get a glimpse at a new team, the prison map (Blood of the Dead) is really where the meat lies. This one is going to take some time to dig into (especially the returning RPG-esque elements and mutations), but so far the total zombie angle seems to deliver on both casual and hardcore fronts. It’s zombies! Very seldom has any agent of Activision (including the father studio of zombies, Treyarch) screwed this up.
In a rare case in recent years, primarily due to Blackout, it feels like Call of Duty is getting with the times. Their typical tactic of stalwartly standing in a snowstorm in a big city isn’t going to cut it forever. That city inherently has a lot of potential customers, but over time not everyone is going to want to buy the same thing in a crowded holiday season.
So that’s what I have so far! Expect our full review sometime next week.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer. We also did not attend the industry review event.]