Call of Duty has been a series that a lot of younger gamers have known all of their life. Hell, I still remember playing the first one back in college on the PC. At the time, I would have never known just how big the series would become, but here we are today, many games later with the latest in the series, Black Ops 4. With Black Ops 4, Treyarch decided to take a different approach to their release. Instead of putting in a campaign with multiplayer, they scrapped the story mode altogether and instead included 3 multiplayer modes. To be honest, I thought this idea was horrible when I first heard it. I’m one of the dozens of people who actually played Call of Duty for the story and removing that just felt like such a wasted opportunity. After putting a few weeks into the numerous multiplayer modes available in this release, my feelings have changed and I think a lot of others will as well. Call of Duty is changing with the times and focusing on what it does best, fast paced multiplayer combat. By trimming the fat, they are able to focus on what they are passionate about and from the looks of it, are doing a fine job. So, how do each of these modes hold up against competitors? Let’s dive into each one by one.
The first mode we’ll look at is the competitive multiplayer mode. This is the mode most will be familiar with as it has been included with most Call of Duty games for as long as I can remember. This is where you’ll find your Team Deathmatch, Control, Kill Confirmed, etc. I wasn’t the biggest competitive multiplayer gamer in the past, but in recent years I have been enjoying them more and more. Overwatch has a lot to do with that and I can see hints of Overwatch in this mode. While Black Ops 4 isn’t a hero shooter per se, it has specialists that each look unique and have a special ability and an “ultimate” ability if you will. At the start of each MP game you play, you’ll select a specialist. Each specialist can use any gun/perk/attachment etc. but the aforementioned skills are unique. If you play as Battery, for example, you’ll get a cluster grenade as your unique ability (RB/R1 ability) and a grenade launcher as your ultimate. Seraph, another specialist, throws down a beacon for others to spawn at while her ultimate ability is like Destiny 2’s golden gun, killing enemies in one shot. The specialists are all unique from Nomad’s trip mines and attack dog to Firebreak’s flamethrower and radiation device, you’ll quickly find a favorite and try to play as them often to master their abilities. It’s not as unique as Overwatch and it’s different weapons per hero, but honestly, I don’t think I would have wanted that here. I like the inclusion of the specialists and their unique abilities enough to get invested in them and really start to get better at using each.
As for the gameplay in the competitive multiplayer mode, it’s what you would expect. Same as previous years in terms of modes and the fast paced combat is expertly crafted to keep you wanting to play just one more round before you have to get ready for work. There will always be players much better than me in these games, but I found that after a couple weeks, I could hold my own against some. I usually prefer to play the team based games and if you travel with your team and work strategically, you’ll find that most obstacles can be overcome. It’s not as bad as Destiny 2’s PvP was at launch where you needed a team or else you were toast, more that it just helps if you’re learning the ropes or don’t have the best aim (like me.)
The Competitive Multiplayer portion of Black Ops 4 is the area I spent the most time with. The modes are varied and the specialists adds an additional level of uniqueness to this years mode. You can unlock special skins and emotes as well though playing the game and leveling up or you can straight up buy them via in game purchases. I never felt the need to buy currency from the store though and it looks like it’s just there as a means to get something quicker. Honestly, you can avoid it and wouldn’t miss a thing. If you have enjoyed CoD MP in the past, you’ll love this years offering for sure.
Another returning favorite this year is the Zombies mode. Zombies has been in a decent chunk of the Call of Duty games over the years and this years offering seems like more of the same. Honestly, I haven’t played this mode much in the past outside of a few matches here and there, but this time I really wanted to see what it was all about. One thing offered this year (and it could have in the past) is the beginner mode. This mode puts you and others players who are under level 20 into a game that seems to be a lot easier to manage. If you haven’t played zombie mode before, think of it like a horde mode of sorts that throws endless waves at you while you get points for kills and then trade in those points to buy guns, ammo, or unlock new areas of the map. There is a certain level of skill and knowledge of the maps required to progress far because the further you go into the map, the stronger the enemy waves will become. There are secrets throughout the levels to unlock and while I wasn’t privy to most of them, it seems others on my team were as they were quick to unlock shields or spawn special enemies.
This mode will have it’s following, for sure, but it was never more than a nice diversion for me. It’s very hard to get into because the game doesn’t really tell you much. And to be honest, I think that’s why a lot of it’s fan base love it. Unlocking the secrets of each level and sharing this online via forums and Reddit sounds like it could be a lot of fun if you are really into this mode. But, if you aren’t, rest assured it’s still a fun jaunt although it may not hold your attention for too long, especially with the other two very good modes in this game.
The newest addition to the stable of Call of Duty multiplayer is a mode that everyone is probably sick of hearing about this year – Battle Royale. This insanely popular form of multiplayer gaming has made it’s way into every game and it seems and Black Ops 4 is no different. Before I get into my feelings of the mode, let me preface by saying I am not the best Battle Royale player. I played some games of Fortnite and PUBG and while neither held me for very long, I thought PUBG was the far superior game mainly because it didn’t focus on the building mechanic I could never wrap my head around. If I had to explain how Black Ops 4 handled the implementation of Battle Royale into their game, it would be as thus: PUBG but with a much higher budget and Call of Duty shooting.
The focus on PUBG’s more realistic approach to 1 vs. many combat serves the mode well. Call of Duty is a gritty military style shooter and the weapons, armor, and vehicles lend itself well to this style. Just like in other games, you’ll begin in a plane and have to sky dive onto a large map with only the clothes on your back. You, along with everyone else playing this round, will frantically scrounge for weapons and supplies while trying to kill each other and remain the last person standing. To top it off, the map corrals people into a central area with an ever shrinking map that will kill you if you are outside of the circle. This leads to frantic gameplay and edge of your seat stress as you are constantly looking over your shoulder for the other players.
If this is your first time playing a Battle Royale mode, you’re going to be awful. Hell, I’m a couple levels in and I am still awful. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. You get one life and the simplest mistake can tip off other players to your location and end your round prematurely. But, the next round is just a button press away and you’re back in the mix quickly. There are three options to play Blackout: Solo, Duos, or Quads. Playing solo is what you would expect was where I spent most of my time. If you have friends or want to test out the public matchmaking option, you can hop into a group and the style of gameplay changes dramatically. You’re no longer going at it alone but rather watching your teammates backs as they do the same for you. Being downed isn’t the end of the game as your friends can revive you if they are close and large firefights often break out at a moments notice.
I was skeptical when I read a Battle Royale mode would make it into Black Ops 4 this year, but honestly, it’s probably the best Battle Royale game out there. The extra budget, increased fidelity in graphics, and weapons you already know and love form the Call of Duty series meshes to make a great game mode that I found myself constantly going back to. Learning tricks in the competitive multiplayer mode helped me become a better Blackout player as well as I would use things like mesh mines strategically to give me an upper hand in firefights. Overall, a great addition to the game.
While I may have been initially dismayed about the real lack of a single player story in Black Ops 4, I can honestly say I don’t miss it. The focus on multiplayer modes might not appeal to everyone, but for those of us who enjoy a good team shooter , you’ll find a lot to love here. The specialists in the competitive multiplayer is my personal favorite addition (although I know they have been in the past versions) and the unlocking of skins and emotes kept me playing well into the evening. If you have young kids in the house, there is a mode that turns zombies and graphic content down to be more manageable (no blood, cartoony aesthetic with zombies, etc.) and that was a welcome feature in our house in the off chance my son would walk by when I was playing. If you are a fan of multiplayer games, be it Battle Royale or competitive, you’ll find a ton to do in this year’s release. It’s my favorite Call of Duty game in years and I hope the series continues down this path. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 comes highly recommend by us at The Dadcade.
*Review code for the Xbox One version of Black Ops 4 provided by Activision.