The shooter landscape has experienced a shake-up in the last couple of years. Where once the regular Triple A games in this genre could expect healthy returns by kicking out a new iteration of an old template with some new tweaks, match-types and modes, now they’re having to take note of a new genre of game that has been eating their lunch with startling regularity: the Battle Royale.
The two leaders in this genre, Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), who not only dominate gaming publications’ headlines with stories concerning their regular updates and player antics, they routinely strip the lobbies of more traditional shooters. This may explain why Activision announced back in May this year that it was jumping on the Battle Royale bandwagon and it fell to Treyarch – the studio tasked with this year’s iteration – to make a go at it.
Before addressing Treyarch’s answer to this call is, Blackout, it’s worth taking a look at the game’s other two modes – Multiplayer and Zombies.
The former sees the return of the Specialists from COD: BLOPS III as well as a couple of new faces, the pace of the matches is less frenetic and the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ approach Treyarch has taken (no jet jumps or wall running) makes the mode feel smoother and a good deal more enjoyable. The Specialists themselves come equipped either with a control or an offensive perk – planting a steel barrier, or a gun that boasts a one-shot-one-kill affect are two example – and they’re balanced enough to make sure teams don’t gain an edge on each other should they pick a certain combination.
It would have been nice to have a few more new match modes and more variety in a couple of maps, but the satisfying shooting and the new heal-mechanic – which forces players to think tactically – will keep players glued.
Zombies is slick and stacked to the rafters with content boasting two storylines, deep maps set on the Titanic, the Colosseum and Alctraz, chargeable weapons, puzzles, and a new mode, Rush, which is essentially a fast-paced kill box where reflexes and twitch shooting is paramount. The mode isn’t perfect – one character’s over-the-top racial stereotype accent borders on offensive – but this is easily the best version of this mode Treyarch has ever made.
And then there’s Blackout, which is splendid. Like other games of this type, the mode puts a 100 players on the map in a shoot and loot scenario and the goal is to be the last player or squad who survives. But rather than trying to copy the genre’s heavy hitters move for move, Treyarch has added a distinctive COD twist to the proceedings. First up, the map is broken up into distinctive regions that contain references to other Black Ops games. Next, the signature COD polish on movement and shooting – as well as the plethora of gadgets – are a natural fit for this type of mode. While it won’t trouble Fortnite for players, Blackout really may put PUBG on notice.
So Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a triumph and Treyarch deserve more than a few bows for making this franchise not only relevant again, but dangerous. While it shares the franchise with two other studios – Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games – after Black Ops 4, Treyarch isn’t COD’s caretaker anymore. It’s the landlord.
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 was reviewed on a PS4. Review code was provided by the publisher.