• Jesper Ingemansson

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

I've always been a huge fan of the Call of Duty games, and it's not only cause it's been a thing in my family since the beginning, but also because they're part of one heck of a franchise. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the latest installment in the annual shooter series, is here and it's actually a bit different now. Is it for the better? We'll see. Activision were awesome enough to send me a review copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and I've now played through everything that the game offers. Read on and you'll find out exactly what I thought about the game. Let's go! 

Platform: Xbox One S.

Minor spoiler alert!

Introduction If you haven't lived under a rock for the past months, it's safe to say that you're aware of the odd fact that Activision decided to cut the campaign mode of their Black Ops series off. I think it's also safe to say that every real fan of Call of Duty felt like they were stabbed in the back, once they found out. I was horrified once I found out, not only because I love the campaign modes of the Call of Duty games, but also because I really do not want this to be the new norm. If we move on from this topic, though, let's talk about what's actually in the game. There's three modes like always, but there's now a Battle Royale mode called Blackout in the game, too (we'll get to it later). After seeing the success of PUBG and Fortnite, was it even weird to ever count Activision out of the picture? Clearly not. There's not really an introduction for the game since you're able to play any of the modes whenever you want to. I mean, after all, it's a Call of Duty game without an actual campaign, which is pretty much the main reason to why I love playing the games. Visuals/performance The Call of Duty games has always tried to up the ante when it comes to visuals/graphics but they've always lacked the will to creating a new game engine. Their current engine is very outdated, which clearly shows in terms of Black Ops 4's graphics and performance. The game should easily hit native 1080p at a rock-solid 60fps framerate BUT since they're still using their old outdated engine they've been using forever, the visuals and the framerate takes a hit (at least in Blackout). I do not know the exact resolution that it runs in on an Xbox One S but I'm pretty sure that it's at least native 900p at a 60fps framerate. 

In Blackout, there's a dynamic resolution scaler in place, however and I think the lowest resolution for the Xbox One S during hectic moments in Blackout, is 720p. The framerate overall, is great. Lovely 60fps gameplay throughout. The only time I've noticed a significant dip in the framerate is during gameplay of Blackout in split-screen, which is to be expected. I never notice any noticable dips when playing in any of the three modes. Graphics/visuals wise, the game looks stunningly good, for being a game made in an outdated old engine. Everything from puddles of water to huge scenery in the distance, looks gorgeous. Textures look like high resolution textures and character models are very detailed, they also seem very realistic. Blackout targets 60 fps on Xbox One S and it sticks to that target very well. Black Ops 4 is already running at 60fps on Xbox One S despite it looking better than PUBG. Like I've implied before, optimization is very important, and we get a perfect example of it here (excluding the resolution, which could've been better). Sound design is superb, too, everything sounds very authentic and it has a general great feel. 

Call of Duty has always had great audio design and Black Ops 4 is no exception. There's an awesome atmosphere anywhere I go. Overall, The game holds up very well in terms of visuals, resolution and performance. One example of great optimization (excluding the resolution, again, kind of) is Infinity Ward's work on Call of Futy: Infinite Warfare for Xbox One. It looks stunning and runs incredibly well, and they took great advantage of a superb anti-aliasing system. You might think that I'm biased since I love Infinity Ward so much but that doesn't count here: Infinite Warfare does look amazing, whether you like it or not. Multiplayer/PVP Let's start with the base mode of the three (since there's no campaign), the one we all love, multiplayer. Not only is Black Ops 4 different because of the lack of a campaign mode, and because there's a battle royale mode, too, but it's also different when it comes to the multiplayer mode. Think of it as a slight mix of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege + Call of Duty + Overwatch. Every player now has a health bar on top of their head for me to be able to know exactly how much health the player I'm shooting endlessly at (without thinking of the health bar) until it's dead, have left. I mean, I guess it's great for the people that prefer seeing a health bar but in my opinion, it's not a necessity. In case I ever miss NOT seeing a health bar, I can easily choose to just play hardcore game modes since they do not feature health bars or the ability to use a stim shot (which replenishes your health). 

There's 10 modes and they are: Heist, Control, Free for All, Chaos TDM, Capture Moshpit, Kill Confirmed, Search and Destroy, Domination, Hardpoint and lastly, Team Deathmatch. Heist and Control are new modes. Heist is all about grabbing bags full of cash and moving them to an extraction site. It's actually basically like a match of Counterstrike since I do not get to use my own weapons, I instead have to depend on earning cash in order to buy new weapons (a pistol is the weapon you start with) with each round. Control is all about taking turns attacking and defending an objective. I think there's a great amount of modes but I hope that bonus modes like Gun Game and Prop Hunt will show up later, as well (me and my girlfriend love those modes). Regarding maps, there's a whopping 14 of them! They are: Arsenal, Contraband, Firing Range, Frequency, Gridlock, Hacienda, Icebreaker, Jungle, Militia, Morocco, Payload, Seaside, Slums and lastly, Summit. Some of them are "flashback" maps as in from the original Black Ops game (Firing Range, for example). The great thing with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is that it feels like a classic Call of Duty game, for once. Call of Duty: World War II was great and re-introduced the boots-on-the-ground gameplay that we all missed after Activision focused a bit too much on a futuristic setting for their games. However, World War II didn't fully have that, in my opinion, classic Call of Duty feeling that a few of the games have (Modern Warfare series, Black Ops 1 & 2, for example). I honestly did not think that Black Ops 4 would feel so great to play, especially after not having a campaign mode. I was wrong, very wrong. One of the reasons to why it has a classic Call of Duty feel to it, is probably because of the fact that it doesn't feature exo-suit gameplay, and because it is actually set around before Black Ops 3 (so, kind of a bit after Black Ops 2). 

Speaking of Black Ops 2, the game DOES feature a bit of campaign elements, in the form of a Specialist HQ mode where you're able to get to know all the different specialist characters that you use in multiplayer, in a more detailed manner. As in getting to know their backstory, and who they are. I get to choose what specialist I want to know more about, with a cut-scene introducing me to the specialist (as well as a cut-scene in the end of the mission as a way to finalize it) before getting to play a training mission where I get to know how the specialist works and what kind of traits it has. For me, it feels like it serves as a way to compensate at least a bit, all the players that felt they got stabbed in the back by the game not having a traditional campaign mode. I mean, it's at least something but I will still forever mourn the death of campaign mode (at least in Black Ops 4). By the way, Frank Woods is part of the Specialist HQ missions, which is downright awesome (the young Frank Woods, not the old)! I'll slightly accept the lack of campaign elements because of Frank being featured, Activision, SLIGHTLY. When it comes to create-a-class, customizing your weapon & emblem, scorestreaks and all that comes in between, it's basically a traditional Black Ops game overall. Which is awesome since I'm a huge fan of the older Black Ops games! I have 6 custom classes that I can alter, with one primary and secondary weapon in each class (I can choose to remove the secondary weapon, though, in order to reserve space for other important things). I'm also able to choose what perks (Scavenger, Flak Jacket, Lightweight, Cold Blooded, Ghost and Dead Silence, for example), what wildcards, what (for example, one wildcard can activate an ability that lets you use an additional attachment for one of your weapons), what gear (Stim shot and Body Armor, for example) and what kind of equipment (Combat Axe and Concussion grenade, for example) that you want to use. Customizing your weapon with attachments is as detailed as before and showcases my weapon in front of me, while I customize its parts. I love using a reflex sight, with a grip II, while also sporting FMJ which gives my weapon a boost in bullet penetration. This is just one of the many different ways I'm able to customize my weapon of choice in Black Ops 4. I've always loved the customization in the Call of Duty games and I think that Black Ops 4 offers great customization options that cater to everyone. Moving over to what kind of weapons there are, there's assault rifles (ICR-7, KN-57 & Maddox RFB, for example), submachine guns (MX9, Spitfire & Saug 9MM, for example), tactical rifles (basically it's DMR rifles: Auger DMR, ABR 223 & Swordfish), light machine guns (Titan, Hades & VKM 750), sniper rifles (Paladin HB50 & SDM, for example), pistols (Strife, RK 7 Garrison & MOZU), shotguns (MOG 12 & SG12), launchers (Hellion Salvo) and lastly, melee weapons (only one at the moment, Combat Knife). There's a total number of 27 weapons to use, at the moment, in Black Ops 4. There's 5 different gear options: Equipment Charge, Stim Shot, COMSEC Device, Body Armor & Acoustic Sensor. There's 13 perks: Scavenger, Engineer, Flak Jacket, Tactical Mask, Lightweight, Skulker, Cold Blooded, Gung-Ho, Dexterity, Ghost, Team Link, Dead Silence & Tracker. Every specialist has its own unique special issue equipment. For example, Ruin can use a grapple gun to quickly traverse a map and to get out of harm's way, and Torque has his razor wire that he can put at doorways to generally make it hard for enemies to advance with their objectives. 

When a specialist has charged its most powerful special issue equipment, I'm able to press LB + RB in order to activate it to really wreck some serious havoc. For example, Battery can use her War Machine to mowe down enemies (it's like a mini-gun), and Nomad is able to utilize his K9-Unit (dog) to hunt down enemies for him. I think all these specialists and their special abilities, really gives the multiplayer a lot more character and depth. There's also a lot of different attachments that you can attach to your weapons, like a Holographic sight & Threat Detector (as sights), Long Barrel & Laser Sight, as well as Extended Mags & Supressor for pistols (I think there's supressors for other weapons, too, of course). Overall, there's a high amount of attachments to choose from. There's also 16 different Wildcards to choose from. They can spice your class up a bit by unlocking an additional attachment slot for either your primary or secondary weapon, and one of them can also unlock the Operator Mod for your primary or secondary weapon, for example. If I have to describe the multiplayer in short: it's a lot like Black Ops 3 but it's even better now, and has a very good classic Call of Duty feel to it. Overall, a match feels and plays out amazingly good, giving me, the player, a superb multiplayer experience with a LOT to offer in terms of both amount of fun and ways you can customize everything (as well as everything else). Everytime I play a match, the multiplayer grows even more on me and that is awesome since I haven't felt that way about a Call of Duty title in a while. Thank you, Treyarch and Activision. Blackout Blackout. It's here! If you know me in real life, you know that I've become a huge fan of the battle royale genre since I started playing Player Unknown's Battlegrounds. Activision has done their own version of battle royale (even though it's VERY much like PUBG), and I honestly have to say that I completely love it. It will never take the belt from PUBG but it sure runs and looks great, while also offering a ton of fun. Let's get into the details then. Blackout is a huge battle royale experience where 100 players in one big match, all try to survive until the end in order to win, to become the sole survivor. Finding good weapons and equipment is very vital for each player's survival, with vehicles like the ATV, chopper, boat and truck offering a quick way to traverse the gigantic map of Blackout. 

Across the map of Blackout, there's many locations that I recognize from earlier Black Ops games, like Nuketown, Estates & Firing Range, turning it into one huge Black Ops experience for all kinds of fans. If I hold right D-pad, I can use my emotes or sprays to express myself out on the battlefield. I still can't believe that they actually managed to create a battle royale Call of Duty game. I mean, it runs at 10hz, TEN. To top it off, Call of Duty doesn't really have the best reputation when it comes to the game's amount of lag, as well net-code. One possible explaination to how they even managed to do it, is that Raven Software is the company that developed Blackout. The same company that developed the remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which was a great remaster, too. My take on it all is that Treyarch wasn't able to complete a task that big, so they brought out the big guns. The bottom line is that Raven Software has done a VERY impressive job developing, and optimizing Blackout for Xbox One S. 

Now, I fully understand if you think I am trying to trick you when writing this but: Blackout is fully playable with another player on the same console. That's right, you can actually play split-screen in Blackout! That is mindblowing! I never thought they would get it to work but here I am, playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale mode in split-screen with my girlfriend. There's a small performance catch, though (obviously). Since there's two screens, I can't really expect it to deliver a 60fps experience, which it doesn't. It runs at a framerate closer to 30fps instead and the resolution might've taken a small hit to. A thing that's been featured before in Treyarch's games, is back, too in Blackout: the dreaded black bars. I hate them and doesn't really understand why they're even there but I realize that it's most likely because they need to be there (why would they otherwise be there?). Like in many other battle royale games, I'm able to choose if I want to play with another player as a team of two (duos) or if I want to play with three other players as a team of four (quads), for all my teamwork needs. The visuals in Blackout are good looking and the scenery, as well as lightning looks amazing. 

A typical match starts like in PUBG of Fortnite: I start out in a chopper, I decide where I want to land (by putting a marker on the map), I jump out and land on the designated spot, I try to find the best possible equipment that I can find (weapons, medkits, attachments, armor and equipment), I try to stay hidden as much as possible (at least that's what I do) until the circle closes in, forcing me to get closer to it, I look for vehicles to aid me in getting to where I want quicker, and try to survive until I am the last one. It's very much like PUBG. Everything in Blackout looks gorgeous, I don't really know why but in some way, it looks different to other modes. I think it's because it's so much more open and has a ton of different nice looking scenery everywhere you look. The colors look a bit more vibrant or noticable for some reason, I can't really put a finger on it. Blackout looks amazing, though, wherever you are in the map. In short, Activision's take on the battle royale genre, offers an incredibly fun experience that looks gorgeous, and runs surprisingly well, and that will make you very addicted. 

It's way better than Fortnite, at least. One cool thing that they decided to put in Blackout is zombies, that spawn at specific locations throughout the map (one example is the cemetary). These locations offer great equipment, too! I honestly can say that I prefer Blackout's 60fps gameplay and better graphics, but equally, PUBG and Blackout are two perfect Battle Royale experiences. I will never forget the awesome feeling of winning my first match in Blackout (which was actually done in split-screen with my girlfriend). You've done incredible work, Raven. Zombies With Call of Duty: World at War, Treyarch introduced a new concept to the Call of Duty games in the form of a zombie mode. In this mode, you defended yourself from nazi zombies that came out of windows and doors, which you could also barricade in order to defend yourself. Every game Treyach has made after that, have had a zombie mode. The zombie mode is insanely popular among Call of Duty fans and with Black Ops 4, they've taken it even further. One thing that I miss from the first zombie mode back in World at War, is that it was downright horrifying to play. It had a real sense of horror to it! We don't really get that anymore because of the escalation of the mode. In Black Ops 4, there's three maps to choose from. Voyage of Despair: this map is set on Titanic in the early 1900s. I really like this map, they've really captured the beautiful look of Titanic (with some damage taken during its crash with an iceberg). It's a great concept for a zombie map and it's fairly big, too.

Throughout our my time on Titanic, I was tasked with completing puzzles in order to get closer to the truth about why the Titanic just got invaded by zombies. In the Titanic map, you play as one of four adventurers that just pulled of a heist on the ship. Scarlett, Diego, Bruno & Stanton now have to survive as long as possible while defending from the forces of evil. Aether: Richtofen, Dempsey, Takeo and Nikolai are back (seems to be different incarnations of them, though)! In Aether, the squad returns and this time they're in a place they've been before (I'm fairly certain that it's the prison map from the second Black Ops game). I love the fact that they're back in the prison map, it's such a classic awesome zombie map. It still looks as good as it always have looked, with some small differences throughout. 

Overall, it's a great zombie map and it feels great to be back with Richtofen and his team. IX: Scarlett, Diego, Bruno and Shaw gets transported across the Millenia. They soon realize that they're stuck in a sinister ritual, forced to become gladiators in order to fend off the zombies. Every zombie map has its own different mini-boss that sometimes spawn, and in IX, it's a champion. They're a bit tougher to kill than a regular zombie but they go down fairly easy. This is definitely the best zombie map in Black Ops 4 and it's also the best looking one. Treyarch did a great job designing this map, it's look stunning. It really shows evidence of them getting very creative, and I love that! It's a perfect concept overall. In IX, I was sometimes forced to fight in a pit against zombies in order to progress to the next round, and I thought it was a great way to give the map more varied gameplay. 

I was never bored while playing in any of the maps and I could honestly say that Black Ops 4's zombie mode is the best Activision have put out in a while. In general, zombie mode runs great and looks stunningly good. I never stumbled upon any glitch either. The zombie mode is like the third game's zombie mode in terms of the ability to customize your weapons and also because it features bubble-gum powers, again. All in all Black Ops 4 is the ultimate multiplayer Call of Duty installment, delivering an amazingly fun and fast paced experience, which is kind of rare lately with Call of Duty. Some might say that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 isn't a real Call of Duty game because of its lack of a campaign mode but it really isn't like that. I never expected myself to enjoy playing Black Ops 4 this much, and I'm not saying that lightly! It's probably the best Call of Duty game in a while, even with WWII's release last year. I've enjoyed every second spent in Black Ops 4 and it really shines with its Blackout mode. Blackout is the most thrilling part of the game and I see myself getting back into it all the time. It's a great classic Call of Duty game and there's no emphasis on a futuristic setting. The multiplayer portion is the most fun I've had in multiplayer, in a while and with zombie mode being even bigger now, the experience never stop being fun. I fully recommend purchasing Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.  

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is now available both digitally and physically, with a price of $60. A review copy was provided for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson and is based upon his honest opinion about the game. 

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