Friday, 9 November 2018

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ★★★★☆


It’s best to start by addressing the elephant in the room.

Despite the large array of content, the lack of a single-player mode in Black Ops IV is a strange decision. It’s a big middle finger to fans who were eager for a typical all-action campaign, but maybe they were right to focus on multiplayer matters. It’s not like recent titles like Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 have shown there’s a willing audience for solo experiences, but it was culled nonetheless. Instead, Activision Blizzard opted for a Battle Royale mode to accompany Zombies and normal multiplayer.


Dubbed Blackout, the trend-following addition follows the same generic formula, as you hop out of a plane with no equipment, battling against other players for the best loadout you can find on the ground. Whatever your misgivings about COD copying Fortnite, PUBG and their ilk, there’s no denying the fun that can be had when you make it into the final ten. The pressure builds like Search and Destroy on steroids, while the area gets ever smaller, and shots get nearer and louder with each passing second.

If Blackout is the sole reason for your interest it’s still worth checking out, but it’s hard to argue for the overall value when their main competition offers the first hit for free. It’s still refreshing to learn the large map slowly, and classic COD weapons and areas make it a nostalgic experience for older players.


Activision Blizzard are aiming to extract the largest amount of cash from player’s wallets, so there’s the usual range of DLC outfits and extras for each character. That’s along with the decision to begin “redefining the digital content season”, or making it more expensive to purchase map packs individually. It leaves a sour taste, and it’s a shame to see from a former industry leader. Even so, if you’re still sitting on the fence, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re getting a lot of content for the (initial) asking price.

Zombies are back once more, with the four-player co-op mode placing you in the shoes of a new set of distinctive characters. The story is unrelated to previous versions, but there’s nothing wrong with a fresh take on an idea that’s already arguably run its course creatively. It’s as grindy as ever, but there’s still a thrill when you’re the last one alive, desperately trying to survive with low ammo while being chased by a rampaging horde. Normal multiplayer is back on the ground, with specialist characters that have different classes and abilities. The usual suspects from Black Ops 3 make a return, and there are 14 maps in the base game. (Nuketown will be free for everyone in November, making 15 in total.)


The specialists and weapons are still being balanced nearly a month after release, giving some indication as to the amount of time and effort being put into making the online mode a success. If you’ve played a COD game you’ll know what you’re in for, while Blackout is more reminiscent of PUBG than anything else. That’s by no means a bad thing, allowing for something in between cartoonish violence and an attempt at realism. COD is just as immersive as either of the main competitors in the world of Battle Royale, with production values to match the massive marketing budget. After several years and numerous iterations, the latest Call of Duty game does break the mould, although not always for the right reasons. The core mechanics are still good enough to enjoy for a couple of hours, but it’s hard to say whether it’ll be as popular after the likely Xmas influx of players.

★★★★☆

James Millin-Ashmore

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at CeX




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