With last year’s underwhelming Call of Duty: World War 2 now firmly in the rear view mirror for series fans, it’s Treyarch’s turn to step up to the development plate.
Has the studio’s bold decision to remove a single player campaign to make room for a battle royale mode proven to be the shot in the arm the series needed, or have they simply shot themselves in the foot? The answer isn’t so clear just yet.
Simply a better paced, smoother version of PUBG.
Multiplayer is up first, and while hardly revolutionising the mode, Treyarch has given us the most refined and addictive iteration yet, with a slew of new game modes, a renewed emphasis on teamwork, and some pretty fundamental changes to the combat loop.
Firstly, the time-to-kill has been upped in order to give players a chance to react and respond. Coupling this welcome change with the new manual healing mechanic drastically increases the fairness of combat encounters and raises the skill ceiling, meaning you won’t be mercilessly dominated by toddlers as often as in previous games.
But aside from these tweaks to the familiar formula, the multiplayer portion of Black Ops 4 delivers what you’d expect from a Treyarch entry, with smart map layouts, smooth traversal (thankfully with your boots firmly on the ground for the majority of the time) and some particularly punchy weapons giving great aural and visual feedback.
Treyarch has given us the most refined and addictive iteration yet.
Moving on from the multiplayer, we have Zombies. While I’m a stickler for the more simplistic level design found in Treyarch’s earlier Zombies outings, the base offering here is undeniably stronger than that of Black Ops 3, with two wholly original maps and a substantial remake of Black Ops 2 fan favourite, Mob of the Dead.
Like the multiplayer, Zombies remains as chaotic yet considered in its design as it ever has been. However, the inclusion of such a wealth of content for this mode is necessary considering the removal of a single player campaign, meaning Zombies is picking up the slack in the narrative department.
This absolutely shows, with flashy cutscenes playing before each stage, and a higher density of voice lines accompanying the action.
This is also true of the Specialist HQ missions. However, beyond learning how best to utilise the abilities of each specialist character, these missions hold little narrative value and can easily be ignored.
Zombies remains as chaotic yet considered in its design as it ever has been.
Finally, there’s Blackout and despite the buzz surrounding this mode I have very little to actually say about it. It’s a well-designed battle royale mode, but currently it does little to distinguish itself from the competition. With exception to some welcome nods to the history of the Black Ops series, Blackout is simply a better paced, smoother version of PUBG.
Although considering Black Ops 3’s story was something you’d think was written in faeces on a bathroom wall by robot fetishists, I’d be hard-pressed to say that Blackout’s introduction is a regression for the series.
But whether or not it will elevate the franchise in the long run, will only become clear with time.
Last modified: 1st September 2019