As a continuation of the Black Ops subseries, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 both benefits from and is limited by its past. Its standard multiplayer mode feels only tangentially related to what came before, rather than explicitly building upon it, and the bigger changes lose impact as a result. Zombies, too, mixes old and new; it’s overflowing with content at launch, offering a brand-new story and a continuation of the existing one.
While Black Ops 4 doesn’t have a traditional single-player campaign, it does have a training mode with story cutscenes based on the characters from multiplayer. Because I played Black Ops 4 at a pre-launch event for these early review impressions, I haven’t yet had a chance to try it. Of course, the most intriguing of the three main modes is Black Ops 4’s take on the battle royale genre. Blackout is a big step forward for Call of Duty, and while it undoubtedly captures what makes battle royale so popular, I still need to play a lot more (and on live servers post-launch) before finalizing my review early next week.
Multiplayer is the most straightforward of the modes, and Black Ops 4 attempts to be more tactical than previous entries. The wall-running and thrust-jumping of Black Ops 3 is gone, replaced with a weighty, grounded feel that forces you to be a bit more thoughtful about positioning. Healing is now manual, too, and on a cooldown timer, adding another layer of consideration as you approach a firefight. Matches overall have a slightly slower, more cautious pace, but time-to-kill is still low and respawning still near-instant. Maps follow the familiar three-lane structure and are longer and narrower than those in Black Ops 3, with a mix of open areas and tighter spaces that provide opportunities for both long-range and close-quarters firefights.
Black Ops 3’s Specialists return with some tweaks; there are 10 total at launch, some new and some imported from the previous game. Each still has a unique weapon and ability, but instead of choosing one or the other, you now go into a match with both. The weapon is tied to a longer cooldown and functions as a superpowered attack, while the ability is a piece of equipment, like a grenade or a trap, with a more strategic purpose. More so than in Black Ops 3, the Specialists are clearly geared toward certain roles; Battery, for example, keeps her War Machine grenade launcher from 3 and trades her old defensive ability for a Cluster Grenade, making her an obvious offensive choice. Other Specialists fill defensive and supporting roles, and having the opportunity to take a step back from just shooting is a welcome one.
There are two new game types, Heist and Control, that join the core roster. Heist has you competing against another team to grab a bag of money and extract it, and each player has only one life. Killstreaks that can take out an entire team at once, like the Hellstorm missile, feel overpowered and out of place in Heist. The low time-to-kill coupled with no respawn makes it hard to implement any real strategy, too, since most rounds are over in a few short minutes.
Control, on the other hand, is an objective-based mode that is far better suited to and actively encourages you to use Specialist tactics. Each team, one attacking and one defending, shares 25 lives; you win by either exhausting all of the enemy team’s lives or maintaining control of the two objectives. A defensive Specialist like Torque, who has Razor Wire perfect for placement under windows and a Barricade “weapon” for extra cover, is a great option if you’re trying to hold an objective, for example, while offensive Specialists can aim to wipe out the enemy team.
But most of Black Ops 4’s multiplayer game types–the typical Call of Duty suite, including Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, and Domination–don’t require you to follow a Specialist strategy too closely. This isn’t a hero shooter, and your success is more dependent on the gun you choose and how good you are at shooting it than your skill with a particular Specialist or your team’s composition. As a result, the more tactical aspects feel robbed of their impact, and committing to them isn’t any more rewarding than a normal kill.
Black Ops 4’s Zombies is as broad as it is deep, with two separate storylines across three maps–four if you have the Black Ops pass included in the game’s special editions. The first two, IX and Voyage of Despair, are part of the brand-new Chaos story; the third, Blood of the Dead, and the optional Classified make up the returning Aether story. It’s a lot to take in at once, and I still need to really dive into each map. I’m most intrigued by Voyage of Despair, though–partially because of its Titanic setting, but also because its small spaces pose a greater challenge than IX’s more open arenas.
Black Ops 4 Zombies Mode Takes You Back To Alcatraz
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