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Game Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Review – COD goes multiplayer-only in enjoyable, if not formulaic revamp

In a world dominated by Fortnite and Battlegrounds, COD strives for newfound relevance with its own twist on the battle royale genre

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

So, the cycle continues. A new Call of Duty is released, the merchandise is produced, Reddit goes in to a whirlwind of feverish suggestions, and fans around the entire world wait in anticipation to get their hands on the game. But at a price tag of around £50, is it worth buying? I’ve had the game for around a week and here are some of my views on Treyarch’s newest instalment in the Call of Duty franchise.

Starting with the multiplayer, one of the main problems I have is the lack of guns. Compared to Black Ops 3 there are seven less guns on launch. Not only that but shotguns have been demoted to a secondary weapon and are no longer a primary. Black Ops 4 does however introduce the category of tactical rifles, which contains an underwhelming three guns. All in all, this makes the customisable classes feel repetitive. Many have suggested that they are holding guns back to be released in the supply drops that are coming to the game. We saw this in Black Ops 3, with a staggering forty-seven weapons released in supply drops after launch. These supply drops aren’t free though, you can either grind for hours upon hours in game to acquire them, or you can take the shortcut and buy CoD points with real money to get them.

“It feels like the days of Modern Warfare 2’s wild grenade throws across the map are soon to become a distant memory. Sure it was chaotic but gunfights and war are supposed to be, aren’t they?”

Another aspect of Black Ops 4 multiplayer that I am unsure of is the changes that have been made to the specialist system. We saw the specialists in Black Ops 3 that gave an extra layer of immersion to the game. Instead of playing as faceless grunts you were the Outrider, an archer who grew up in the Brazilian favelas, or you were Prophet, the cybernetically enhanced soldier from Britain. Each specialist had their own ultimate ability that either gave the player a huge tactical advantage or a devastating weapon. That’s where the specialists ended; a bit of extra flavour and a cool ultimate ability.

Now, in Black Ops 4 we see some of the same specialists return and some get replaced. This wouldn’t be a problem but Treyarch made the decision to replace the grenade slot, both tactical and lethal, with another specialist ability, less powerful than the ultimate but still unique to each class. The choice to remove the grenade slot and replace it with an ability that has a cool down is an odd one to me. It feels like Treyarch are taking a leaf from Overwatch’s book. Less class customisation, with the focus more on the individual specialists and their abilities. It feels like the days of Modern Warfare 2’s wild grenade throws across the map are soon to become a distant memory. Sure it was chaotic but gunfights and war are supposed to be, aren’t they?

On to the next topic, the mode that started as an Easter egg in Call of Duty: World at War – Zombies. Treyarch were the Call of Duty Zombies’ originators. Both of the other Call of Duty studios, Sledgehammer and Infinity Ward, have tried to do Zombies as well, but none have quite reached the bar that Treyarch set. Black Ops 4 boasts an impressive three maps on launch – four if you have the season pass. We have IX, set in a gladiatorial arena from roman times, Voyage of Despair, set on the soon to be sinking Titanic, and a remake of an absolute classic, Blood of The Dead, taking place on the abandoned island of Alcatraz.

“In this market of new battle royale games, where does Blackout sit? The game mode for me feels like a well-polished and optimised version of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. The change from a three-lane structured map to a wide-open arena feels seamless.”

Season pass owners also have access to Classified, a remake of another fan favourite, Five. Now four maps at launch is impressive, but I believe the mode may have suffered because of it. The UI is messy and sprawling and it feels like a step back from Black Ops 3. The maps constantly crash on high rounds or when attempting the Easter eggs and the changes to the perk system feel lacklustre. I feel like my main problem with Zombies is that it is no longer a self-contained mode. Everything used to happen within the map, you spawned, spent the rounds doing challenges and getting points, only to eventually die. Now, you pick what perks you want the map to contain, you pick what wonder weapon you start the game with, what type of grenade you have, what your staring weapon is, all before killing a single zombie.

Don’t get me wrong, Zombies is still a very fun game mode; IX is a great map that isn’t too challenging, visually very appealing too. Blood of The Dead feels like the second part in a great story, set in a nostalgic environment. It’s just that the mode feels too fleshed out now. It has lost its rustic charm that maps like Nacht der Untoten and Verruckt had.

On to the third and final mode for Black Ops 4 – the replacement for story mode, Blackout, Treyarch’s take on the increasingly popular battle royale genre. The genre has been around for a while with games like H1Z1 and Arma 3 but has recently exploded into the mainstream with the success of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. In this market of new battle royale games, where does Blackout sit? The game mode for me feels like a well-polished and optimised version of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. The change from a three-lane structured map to a wide-open arena feels seamless. The game mode is very fun and only suffers from a few problems here and there, all of which could be sorted with a small patch.

That being said, at times the Blackout map feels sparse and empty. There is a lot of dead space, especially around the east and south of the map. A good portion of the map is taken up by ocean as well. It is a good game mode, but it feels like the space was poorly used. However, I think Treyarch made the right decision in not including a campaign, opting for Blackout instead. Black Ops 3’s campaign was below average, Call of Duty: WW2’s campaign was ok. It feels like the mode had become tired.

I think the lack of a campaign in this game will give Treyarch the time needed to create a future campaign that has a story worth telling, rather than a story just for the sake of it. With all that said, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is an enjoyable game that suffers from sticking to formulas set by other similar games.