This year, Activision made the bold move of removing the campaign mode from their new Call of Duty instalment. And while opting for online gaming and zombies sounded controversial at release, we actually think they are onto something here.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the most recent addition to the first-person-shooter series, made by Treyarch — the guys best known for 2008’s World at War and, of course, all the Black Ops titles.
At launch, the developers said they wanted to make ‘the most replayable game ever’, and that’s exactly what they did.
Black Ops has always featured some decent storylines with well-rounded characters and great missions, but that’s not truly what made Black Ops the game we know today. With the substantial rise in online competitive multiplayer over the last few years, the shift to online-only makes a lot of sense.
That surely doesn’t mean the Black Ops story is dead? No. The game features a solo introductory tutorial section for each of the Specialists. These Specialists were first introduced in Black Ops 3, and the lineup has increased since then.
Although limited and quite short, the solo missions give players insight into each Specialist’s story, why they are here and what they went through. The most notable of these (for us, at least) is the South African Specialist, Ajax.
Ajax is a South African recruit who barks out very distinct South African phrases in the Blackout mode (where players can use responses and emotes to communicate). Imagine our surprise when he said ‘Lekker!’ while showing a ‘shap’ sign when prompted to say ’I’m good’. We won’t go into detail about his story because, well… you should see it yourself.
Players can use the solo missions to get comfortable with the specialists they like in a not-so-competitive environment. Especially since the new multiplayer modes rely heavily on teamwork. This brings a new layer to competitive online multiplayer — something other than the ‘if it moves, kill it’ strategy and it helps to have some idea what you’re doing before you let your team down.
The game also features a Black Market, like before, but this time it’s a battle-pass, and not really a market. Players don’t need to pay more than their initial investment of buying the game, and unlock emotes, calling cards and a variety of other cosmetics by levelling up. It’s a great motivator, to be honest, because all humans like cosmetic things — we are vain like that.
Along with the solo missions, the game features the much-loved Black Ops Zombies, a range of online multiplayer modes and the newly introduced Blackout battle royale mode. Let’s get into it.
Keep your friends close
Whether you’re into hardcore or core, team deathmatch or domination, you’ll likely need to find new teammates. Because the rules have changed, kinda.
This time around Treyarch teamed up with Overwatch developers, Blizzard, and they’ve added a real team-based mechanic that you have to take into account when playing online multiplayer. Another new mechanic you have to be aware of is manual healing. Now you need to heal yourself (think Far Cry-style) when you’ve taken damage. This will definitely influence play-types, so keep it in mind.
Only one of each specialist can be picked for your team, so players have to coordinate and work together to clear an objective, whether it’s team deathmatch, domination or the new multiplayer mode: Control. This forces players to use the skills specific to their chosen specialist to help the team and, hopefully, ultimately win.
We’re not going to explore the abilities of each and every specialist — there are other places on the internet that can help you with that. But here’s a breakdown of our favourite things: attack dogs, flash bangs, the War Machine, sensor drone, and ballistics shield. Do with that information what you like, and just buy the game.
And your enemies even further away
We were all very excited to see what the first big-name game developer will do with the battle royale game mode, and boy are we impressed.
Don’t tell anyone, but we’ve opted to delete Fortnite from our chosen platform completely following Call of Duty’s Blackout.
Treyarch didn’t hold back on anything, from an amazing map compiled from signature Black Ops maps, to the fast-paced gun-battles that only Call of Duty an pull off, and even zombies… this one’s got immense replay-value, which is what Treyarch was going for.
If we can look past the ‘we did it first’ narrative around battle royale games, and just accept that it’s a mode that’s here to stay (and dominate 2018), then we can accept that Blackout is a much better version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
If you’re not up to date with the battle royale game mode, picture this: you drop into a huge map with up to 100 players, and you’ll have to fight to survive with only the equipment spread across the map. Last man standing wins.
The map is basically a greatest hits of the Black Ops series. There’s Nuketown, which you’ll want to avoid unless you want a tricky route to the safe circle, and there’s even the Asylum which offers zombies to fight if you’d like a break from the tension of PvP. Here you’ll find some premium zombie weaponry, which might give you the firepower needed to win against human foes.
If you’re not up to facing the undead, you won’t be left empty-handed. The map is literally sprawling with equipment and attachments — with what feels like guns and loot everywhere.
If you landed on a dead patch of land, don’t worry, because vehicles are very handy. Our favourite is the quad bike for the Duos mode: with one player the Designated Driver, the second will have a 360-degree field of view. The trucks and helicopters are pretty noisy — so if you’re going for a stealth tactic, better avoid them.
There are also special pickups that enhance certain abilities — like faster healing, sprinting while crouching and Iron Lung for better sniper shots. These don’t guarantee a win, though — this is still Call of Duty after all.
Join Richtofen and friends against the undead
We’ve had the new Black Ops instalment for three-odd weeks, and it’s safe to say we put in many more hours into Zombies than we’d like to admit. But it’s just as fun as ever.
This time around Treyarch gave us even more storyline and more maps at launch, which makes it very clear that Zombies is a big deal for Treyarch, and the amount of achievements/trophies on offer confirms it.
There’s been an arsenal of power-up type drinks over the generations of Zombies, and now we’ve got Elixirs. These magical potions give you ‘abilities’. Because a mere human won’t be able to defeat a constantly growing horde of zombies, now would they?
In-game currency can be used to buy these Elixirs at random. They’ll give you abilities ranging from the spawn of a nuke power-up, or to teleport to a random spot on the map, or the chance to electrocute on melee attack.
The main difference this time around, is the Perk-A-Cola mechanism. Now, you get to build a custom ‘loadout’ with your chosen Perk-A-Colas. These are then linked to certain types of Colas, for which there are machines placed around the map. When you drink a certain Cola, you’ll get the correlating perk that you set up in your loadout.
For us, the new system seems unnecessary — it was a lot of fun planning your game around the Colas you’d like for a certain situation. The gun box gave you a below-par gun? Then opt for Double Tap first. Trying to complete an insane easter egg? Then get your hands on some Speed Cola. Now you’re limited to the Colas in your loadout.
The newly added Rush Mode offers an arcade-like experience which removes the need to unlock doors with credits gained in-game. Now it focuses more on scoring against your friends. We’re not convinced this mode works well considering Zombies is a mainly co-op based game that relies on teamwork, not working against each other.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Verdict
As we expected, Black Ops 4 is a good-looking game, and even though the game is sans-campaign, it feels like it’s worth every cent. All the modes are massive and glorious, with rich characters and proper COD gameplay and weaponry.
It’s fast paced, but not too fast, and the multiplayer maps feel tighter but not too small, so as to give the snipers some ‘space’ to flex their egos… ahem, we mean skills.
This is a shooter that can (and likely will) bring back people who dabble in COD online, but never stick with it. It nails the gun-feel like only Black Ops titles can, and surprisingly, it still nails the in-game content and narrative.
Ultimately, some die-hard fans will miss the single-player, and many newcomers will likely be too intimidated to really take it on. For us, Blackout is the perfect mode for first-person players who just couldn’t get into Fortnite, but were looking for that battle royale thrill.
Zombies is as fun as ever, and any CoD Zombies fan will likely enjoy the interesting maps, extensive easter eggs (which actually uncover the main storyline) and amazing thrill of blasting through massive hordes of the undead. Sure, there are some changes that weren’t completely welcome, but it’s still great fun.
We can come out and say that this is the best title Call of Duty has released in years, and we’re intrigued to see where they go with this next. But this game has a lot of replay value — and that’s what game developers want right now.