Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 – A Knockout

Variety is the key

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Call of Duty title. Last years WW2 was a solid effort, but felt like more of the same, it featured a pretty decent campaign, a strong zombie mode, and the same tight competitive multiplayer the series is known for. It tried to throw in a few new wrinkles to help differentiate itself from other entries, but in the end it didn’t feel like it did enough. To be fair, it can be difficult to consider any real changes with a series that consistently tops the sales charts. Activision, for all it cares, can continue doing what it’s doing until the series eventually runs its course.

So why does Black Ops 4 feel so different?

Placing a heavy emphasis on multiplayer has created a more polished and focused product than in entries past. While there are Specialist missions, which act as tutorials to familiarize you with the different classes, there is no true campaign and BLOPS 4 is better off for it. There are three different multiplayer modes to take part in: competitive, battle royale, and zombies. All three are incredibly polished and a lot of fun to play.

Competitive multiplayer features 14 maps and 10 specialists. These maps include some throwbacks to other Black Ops titles and this is a nice nod to fans of the series. Each specialist comes with a special ability and equipment unique to their character. The biggest change to the competitive multiplayer involves the inability to regenerate health. You can equip a stimpack which will regenerate your health and has a short cooldown to ensure you can’t spam the ability. There is the option to replace the stimpack with another piece of equipment, but I haven’t found a reason to make that move.

Choosing a specialist will lock that character so it’s best to get acclimated with more than one to ensure you can be effective. This years entry has a heavier emphasis on teamwork as some of the specialists have abilities tailored for support in the field. You wont notice in deathmatch, but you will in those modes that require teamwork, such as control or domination. In control, teams will have to work to defend or attack designated points and this is where the specialist abilities really come into play. You only have so many lives so effective teamwork can lead to your team getting the W.

With these subtle changes, BLOPS 4 competitive multiplayer feels more balanced than previous entries. Seeing the amount of damage you’re doing is subtle but incredibly satisfying and less frustrating than assuming you’re being cheated because of a specific weapon someone is using. Specialist abilities are fun to tinker with and they can be the reason you get back into the fight. The pick 10 system’s return is a welcome one, adding a layer of strategy to how you prepare for a match.

While competitive multiplayer is an overall stronger effort in BLOPS 4, it can be argued that return of zombies and the introduction of Blackout easily overshadow the competitive multiplayer. Zombies has three separate campaigns that can be tackled cooperatively or solo. If you happen to play solo, bots can be activated so that you don’t go it alone. As in previous entries, you can set abilities and select buffs to help you combat the horde. Level design is easily the strongest in the series and once again, zombies has more than enough substance to keep you interested for hours.

Both of these modes are more than enough to recommend giving BLOPS 4 a try. But if I’m being honest, the main draw is Blackout, Call of Duty’s battle royale mode. It is a game changer for the series and is easily the best battle royale out there on the market. Combining polished Call of Duty gameplay in a battle royale setting is a recipe for success. The map is fairly large and features some of the best maps in Call of Duty. You can traverse the map either on foot or by commandeering a vehicle.

Picking up specialist abilities and equipment can create some exciting encounters, especially near the end of a match when things get tight. This is the organic element that the series has been sorely missing. Its challenging, addictive, and best experienced with friends. Seriously, this is worth the price of admission by itself. Blackout is that good and is a shot in the arm for the series. It helps reinforce the team concept that BLOPS 4 works hard to emphasize.

Even without a true campaign, there is more than enough variety in BLOPS 4 to help you find your niche. Its surprising, as while the core gameplay remains the same, there are enough changes to make a skeptic like myself feel reinvigorated about the series. Blackout sets the standard high for the battle royale genre and will seriously challenge for the crown. If you were tentative about playing Fortnite due to the building or unsure about PUBG because of its lack of polish, Blackout is the title for you. Coupled with the best zombie mode in the franchise and a balanced competitive multiplayer, this is the strongest entry in years.

Can’t believe I’m saying this but Black Ops 4 might just be the biggest surprise of the year.

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