This year is the first year Call Of Duty does not offer a single player campaign, from discussions I have read on the internet a lot of people are put off by this, for me personally even though I have enjoyed some of the campaigns in past editions of the game they have never been the strong point and it makes sense to make the switch to an online-only title. There is still some semblance of a single player mode in Black Ops 4 though as the game does feature some single player missions that serve as a backstory to the various "operators" or characters in the game, I found this to be a great way to learn some of the operator's various abilities and how it feels to play them before you step into the multi-player modes.
Black Ops 4 is set in the near future of 2043 and revolves around a trillionaire Savannah Mason hiring a squad of ten of the worlds most elite soldiers to avenge the death of her sister. The soldiers are trained by a revolutionary new combat immersion simulation led by an A.I program in the form of Sgt. Frank Woods. I won't give away any more of the "story" as it may spoil the twist, needless to say the backstory is all played out through the short operator specific missions which serves as the single player mode for this game.
COD Black Ops 4 actually feels like 3 separate titles tied into one, which offers extreme longevity and value for money since if you get bored of one mode you can easily just switch over to another and it practically feels like you are playing a different game. You have your normal multi-player modes such as team deathmatch, the ever popular zombies mode also returns and you also get Treyarchs's take on the currently popular battle royale genre with the Blackout mode.
In Black Ops 4 the biggest change to the gameplay formula this year is that there is no longer automatic health regeneration, if you are wounded you actually need to press a button (L1 for PS4) to inject yourself and recover health, of course you can't just continually spam this button in order to heal yourself completely each time you get hit, there is a time delay on the use of it, which really adds a tactical element to the gameplay. The other major change is that not only do you have to choose your weapons and perk layouts you also have to choose your character (which go by the name of specialists) each of these characters have a different skills and ultimate skills they can use once suitably charged, the ultimate skills work much in the same way as overwatch and charge as time goes by or with the number of kills you make, once unleashed these skills have the potential to turn the tide of battle within an instant. I think this is a great system and gives players a choice of playing a character that matches their particular skills, players who like to play solo will find suitable operators for their style whilst those who like to play support and more of a team role are also catered to.
The time to kill in the various multiplayer modes is an extremely small window, and most engagements and firefights are over within in a second, basically, if you shoot and hit first you are most likely going to defeat your opponent, this has something that has always frustrated me about most COD games as the limited time to kill definitely favors those with the quickest reflexes and leaves no room for strategy. The new health mechanic certainly helps to add a strategic element to these hyper-quick firefights by allowing you to duck behind cover and heal (if you are quick enough) but I still can't help but feel the time to kill is still way too quick, maybe this old dude just needs to GIT GUD! The normal COD upgrades and progression apply here, your character and your weapons level up which allows you to equip more perks to your operator and attachments to your weapons, in this version though the customisation options, especially visual customisation options such as weapon camos and operator skins, feel rather limited in this years version which is quite disappointing given that they decided to drop the campaign mode in favour of multiplayer, you would think this would mean the developers would take the time to focus on more customisation options and progression but this does not seem to be the case.
Blackout is hands down my favourite mode of this years iteration of COD, Blackout is Treyarch's vision of the currently massively popular battle royale genre of video games, I am not going to waste time explaining what battle royale is as surely you must of been living under a rock for the past few years if you are not familiar with the concept, enter Fortnite, PUBG or H1Z1 into google if you need clarification. Blackout gets it right over other games such as PUBG because each game feels so snappy and quick and the pace of the game and the way the circle shrinks along with the size of the map seems to push a lot of players into the same area very quickly, this makes for a more exciting spin on the genre and seems to prevent a lot of the camping behaviour that takes place in other titles such as PUBG.
The gunplay and variety of guns and attachments are also great and makes sure the game has a much more tactical element than the other multiplayer modes especially when playing in a 4 player squad. The only part that lets Blackout down is its progression system, it is tediously slow to rank up and earn rewards especially when a lot of the rewards can't even be used in the game mode and can only be used in the other multiplayer modes. Rewards mainly consist of unlocking new characters to play with, I would of rather seen a progression system that unlocked items so you could customise the way your character looks and dresses, even if it did mean dealing with loot boxes and RNG, there really just does not seem like there are enough progression and customisation options in this mode to differentiate and customise your character in a unique way, hopefully more customisation will be added down the track as in my opinion this will add much more longevity to this mode.
Zombies rounds out the trilogy of game modes and this year its bigger than ever, giving players a multitude of maps to unleash all kinds of zombie killing savagery over. I must admit this mode has never been one of my favourites of the series as I find the objectives are not pointed out clearly and sometimes it can be hard to work out what the next step is to progress, but this has been one of the more popular modes over the years so I am going to put my dislike aside for the sake of this review especially because this year Treyarch has included an excellent tutorial mode that helps new players to the mode grasp the mechanics. Traditionally played as a four player co-op mode Treyarch has also introduced the addition of bots this year in place of other players when there aren't enough online to fill up the full four player roster.
The AI is not incredibly smart and will not help you with any major objectives but it is intelligent enough to do a good job at keeping enemies at bay and also reviving other players when they are downed, it's a great edition. There are three maps on offer in the base game, The Titanic, Alcatraz and The Coliseum, all of them are fantastic designs and sufficiently different from each other that if you are a fan of this mode you will not be getting bored anytime soon. Along with the traditional zombie mode, a new mode called rush is also introduced this year, this is a more arcade styled version of the mode where weapons and ammo are free and the main objective is to rush through the map killing zombies as quickly as possible in order to build a score multiplier, this is a great change of pace for the mode as it generally provides quicker bite-sized pieces of action over the longer drawn out style of the normal mode. With zombies mode being much more friendly to new players this year largely due to the tutorial mode I can honestly say I am now a fan and will be returning to this mode a lot in the future.
Overall COD Black Ops 4 is a great addition to the series, especially for the fact you are essentially getting 3 games in one, there really is something for everyone here from COD veterans to new players alike, there are a few hiccups such as the progression system currently being a little too sparse and basic through to the menu system being overly complex especially when trying to customise your character but these are just minor niggles that can be improved over the next couple of patches. If you are an avid COD player or even someone just remotely interested in checking out the series then you can't really go wrong investing in this game.
Review code provided by Activision