Even before Black Ops 4 was released, I was disappointed. The news that Black Ops 4 would ship without a campaign hit me hard. I’ve always been one who enjoyed the campaigns in the Call Of Duty series. Especially in the latest games where the facial capture and motion capture has been unparalleled. It’s something I’ve always been excited about, as the campaigns has been the mode that most efficiently puts the money on the screen. They have showed what a AAA game can do in terms of storytelling on a grand scale.
I also heard that like with WWII, the game would be boots on the ground. No exo suits. It seemed in all honesty like they were removing everything that the franchise had done to re-invent itself over the years. It felt like several steps back and no steps forward. And having gotten my hands on the game and given it a few hours, I feel I am finally ready to give my honest opinion on Black Ops 4.
This review will focus on each of the three available game modes. Multiplayer, Blackout and Zombies, as well as the Specialist HQ training mode. I will also give my thoughts on my experience as a whole. So let’s get started.
At the end of each match, rather than showing final kill, it shows best play.
If you’ve played any Call Of Duty in the past, then multiplayer should be familiar to you. That is, if the last Call Of Duty you played was Black Ops II. In terms of abilities, scorestreaks and weapons, everything has been massively scaled back. The most obvious change is that you no longer have exo suits. You’re firmly grounded, literally, and while you can slide, mantle and climb ladders, any verticality from the previous games is entirely gone. I know it was an unpopular change among some of the fanbase, but I see no reason why they chose this direction.
The maps feel like they were originally made with these abilities in mind. Not to mention coming from Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare makes it feel like someone clipped your wings. It’s not a very nice feeling at all. And this is still a fairly futuristic game with the specialists from Black Ops 3 returning, so why they chose to scrap the exo abilities is beyond me. It feels like a blatant attempt to satisfy the fanbase, instead of sticking to what I felt reinvigorated the franchise.
Scorestreaks have been scaled back to the point where they almost feel trivial. You no longer have memorable ultimate streaks like the nuke that would turn the entire battlefield into ruins. Or the exploding balls of doom. As the ultimate scorestreak you get to shoot people from a gunship. I’m pretty sure this was a lesser scorestreak in earlier games. All in all the entire scorestreak selection feels laughably pathetic. There’s no real sense of doom or danger from the final scorestreak and everything just feels kind of there. The sniper nest is annoying and frustrating when anyone calls it in, but it never feels threatening since you can just shoot it out with a couple rocket launcher rounds.
And speaking of Specialists, you get 2 females and 8 freaking males. The ratio of males to females is absolutely insane and what you often end up with is that people who wish to play as a female all pick either Battery or Seraph, while the rest are stuck with the male cast. Say what you want about Black Ops 3 but at least it had 3 females so there was one more to choose from. Look, I have nothing against males, but some equality in the gender representation would be nice. I really hope more female characters will be added in the future because this is pathetic and feels like they’re trying to avoid getting flack for having too much focus on strong female characters. What they end up with is the other extreme, that females are hideously underrepresented in the game.
The game is hardly good-looking by any standards and mostly just looks bland.
On the other hand, the specialists do have abilities that synergize very well with each other. There is a sort of rock, paper, scissors feel to the dynamic between them and how they interact when put against each other. For instance, in a recent match I was playing Battery (as I tend to do, given she’s one of only two female characters) and threw her sticky cluster grenade on someone playing Ajax. Ajax’ ability is that he has a riot shield that makes him pretty much invulnerable to any incoming damage from the front. Of course, Battery’s cluster grenade made that shield entirely pointless. It’s that sort of feeling of being able to completely out-smart your enemy with your abilities that brings some fun to the gameplay.
There are several playstyles as well. If you want more of a support role you can play as Crash who supplies the team with buffs. If you want to be a tank you can play the aforementioned Ajax. And if you wanna be a complete asshole you can play Firebreak. Nobody likes Firebreak. There are several other specialists to choose from, all with their own abilities so if you wanna read more about that, check out my article on them. And do you want more outfits for the specialists? Tough luck. All of that is locked behind a massive paywall as only people who bought the deluxe edition have access to extra skins for the specialists. Presumably more is to be added in the future, but, as I have stated before, the selection right now is bloody pathetic.
Another notable change to the formula is that players now have a lot more health than in previous games. While this does make the game feel more fair, as you are less likely to be insta-killed (unless you face someone who love sniper rifles and quickscoping a bit too much and have probably spent far too much time playing the game), it can also make combat feel a bit spongy. Players tend to soak up a lot more bullets before going down than in previous games, and can even heal themselves on the fly with stimpacks. This isn’t really an issue for me as it does make the game feel less about getting kills and more about staying alive.
Where’s your head at? No seriously, where is it?
Another thing I find a bit lacking is the weapon selection. You have 5 SMGs, 5 assault rifles, 3 tactical rifles, 3 light machine guns, 4 sniper rifles, 3 pistols, 2 shotguns, ONE freaking rocket launcher and ONE freaking melee weapon! I assume more weapons will be added later but as of now this is a genuinely lackluster selection. And guess what, none of the pistols can be dual wielded. Dual wielding has been a staple of the franchise for a good time now. With games like Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare providing ample amounts of them. And in Black Ops 2 and 3 you could akimbo pretty much every pistol. But not here.
I’m not sure why this was done, if it was because everyone complained about akimbo weapons, or because they felt it was unrealistic. Regardless this is extremely disappointing and makes it feel very boring to use the weapons. One of my favored playstyles has always been running up in people’s faces with dual machine pistols and unloading on them. Granted, one of the operator mods allows dual wield for the Saug 9mm but you don’t unlock that weapon until level 52 which is 3 levels from the level cap. Which means you will spend most of the early game unable to use a single akimbo weapon.
Oh, and multiplayer is a hot mess at the moment. I’ve had more crashes and glitches than any of the previous games. Whether the game crashes because I use a broken attachment (specifically the FastLock attachment for the rocket launcher) or whether it just crashes for no good reason, Black Ops 4 seems to crash almost every session for me. The worst part being it doesn’t crash to the desktop. Oh no, this baby freezes so you have to force quit it in Task Manager. Which locks up my computer for a solid minute before I can do anything again. Yeah, not so much fun. Some glitches have been funny and harmless like Battery suddenly missing a head in multiplayer. Some have not been, such as my game crashing during a training mission in the Specialist HQ training mode.
And if your connection dies and you wanna play some offline bot matches or training missions… well f*** you. The game refuses to even show the main menu unless you have an online connection. Meaning that if your connection dies or the servers shut down, you can’t play the game. It’s entirely bricked. Over 50GB of data locked behind a connection error. Welcome to 2018.
If I were to describe multiplayer in a nutshell, then I would say it just feels par for the course. It’s not memorable or amazing, but it is fun. The specialist HQ training mode has some funny voice over lines by Frank Woods, and some impressive cutscenes, but overall feels pointless.
Time for the somehow mandatory Battle Royale mode.
So let’s get to their excuse for having no campaign. The Battle Royale inspired Blackout mode. I was completely indifferent to this when I heard about it as I don’t exactly play Call Of Duty to play Battle Royale. I’d play Fortnite or PUBG for that. And yeah, Blackout just feels… out of place. It feels like someone took PUBG and slapped a Call Of Duty skin on it. And so far it’s not even particularly fun to play.
You often face people who have snipers, rocket launchers and otherwise way stronger weapons than you. People love to kill people on their own team since friendly fire is on by default. And yeah it has the biggest map in CoD history. But that kind of leads to spending most of your time on it just hiding from people and trying not to get killed and it often just feels kind of empty. Sure it’s fun if this is your thing. But it’s not my thing and never will be.
The worst part about Blackout however is the lack of customization. You can choose between 4 heads per gender, and that’s it. That is seriously it. Oh, you have a LOT of characters to choose from but… GUESS WHAT! THEY’RE ALL F****ING LOCKED! You have to complete really specific challenges and go through hoops to unlock them which feels entirely unnecessary. WHY have extra characters when your players most likely cannot even play them? And why have such absolutely pathetic customization options for players? Have some hairstyles, have some different outfits. Just… SOMETHING! This is 2018 for f***’s sake! We have better customization in other games and have for years. Jesus Christ.
Blackout. The mode where you either die quickly because everyone else have better weapons than you. Or you die slowly because everyone else have better weapons than you.
Blackout just feels uninspired. It feels like a cynical attempt at excusing a lack of campaign, and selling more copies to people who are hooked on the mode. The game blatantly rips off games that already do Battle Royale way better than it does. It does a good job at it, sure, but that’s just it. It’s still a knockoff. A good knockoff is still a knockoff. Regardless, it’s there. If this is your thing you’ll probably love it. But the lack of customization options and the unbalanced gameplay just kind of ruins it for me. It would be nice to have the option to vote for friendly fire. And it would be nice to have more customization options. I am not very likely to spend a lot of time in this mode at all.
Welcome to Titanic. Now with zombies.
Obviously a major reason people buy the Black Ops games is the staple Zombies mode. And yeah, it is here and surprisingly the most fun I’ve had in the game. Probably because it doesn’t really need exo suits to be enjoyable and it offers a co-op option in a game where two of its game modes are competitive. Yeah you know how Black Ops 3 had a co-op campaign which meant it had 2 co-op modes to choose from and one competitive? Wasn’t that great?
Anyway, you have two maps to choose from at the moment. IX which is set in a gladiator arena during the roman empire and Voyage Of Despair which is set on Titanic. You also have a third map called Blood Of The Dead. But you can’t play it unless you buy the season pass. Another example of how something is locked behind a paywall. And I highly doubt you’ll be able to play more zombies maps without paying for that season pass. As it stand right now, both maps are fun to play and can last for hours if you play with good people. But you’ll probably get pretty tired of them eventually. I know I do. Especially given the repetitive nature of constantly shooting the same enemies over and over as they get increasingly spongy and you die more and more.
Look, Zombies is not my thing. It has never been my thing. While I enjoy the co-op aspect it simply gets too boring and monotonic for me to really enjoy. It’s fun for maybe 5-10 minutes but after that it begins seriously outstaying its welcome. But I know a lot of people buy Black Ops 4 for Zombies and if you wanna do that, then you won’t be disappointed.
If shooting the same enemies over and over with weapons that feel out of place from the era, then Zombies might be your thing.
Graphics And Sound
Graphically the game looks alright. I won’t say it looks amazing. It has really great pre-rendered cutscenes but it often just looks kind of bland. On my Ryzen 7 1800X PC, running the game with an RX 580 8GB GPU gave me a very solid framerate that never dipped below 70 fps. It definitely runs pretty well, that is when it doesn’t crash or lag due to bad connection. Due to the nature of multiplayer you won’t really be able to enjoy the scenery much. I think the zombies mode definitely looks the best of the 3 modes. The effects on the Titanic level are seriously cool to look at. But for the most part, it looks average.
I would probably say the same about the sound. It’s average. The voice acting is pretty good, I like the dialogue in the zombies mode and some of the banter in multiplayer. And Frank Woods as the training instructor is a stroke of genius, and pretty much saves that entire mode. But overall, the music is forgettable, the sounds feel typical and nothing stands out.
Call Of Duty Black Ops 4 is a colossal disappointment. It’s not a bad game by any stretch but it misses so much of what used to make Call Of Duty fun for me. I was looking forward to the campaigns, I was excited by the new stuff they added. Black Ops 4 has one new thing, it has a battle royale mode. But everything else feels scaled back just for the sake of scaling back. It’s reached the point for me where the entire experience just feels mediocre. It’s fun, when it doesn’t crash. But it’s so lacking. It lacks customization options, it lacks weapons, and it lacks a lot of what I enjoyed about the previous games.
Most of all, I miss a co-op campaign. I miss a story and being able to experience it with a friend. If there is one single thing I would want back then it is a co-op campaign. I don’t care if the exo suits don’t come back. If Activision wants to keep everything “boots on the ground” then that’s fine. It feels even more lacking than Titanfall. Because Titanfall was a new IP, there were no preconceptions of what it should be like.
But as it stands, Black Ops 4 is NOT, by ANY STRETCH OF THE WORD, worth $60. It’s worth it at a 90% discount. Because most likely you are getting the game for only one of the modes. I cannot recommend this game unless you are either a hardcore fan or have too much money to spend. Because if that is a legit problem you have, then Black Ops 4 is literally the same as burning money.