I am a huge fan of single-player COD campaigns. The Modern Warfare Trilogy, World At War and Black Ops are among my favourite shooter experiences, so when I heard this year’s version was dropping the single player I ruled it out as a purchase almost immediately. Fate intervened and a bit of disposable income, poor weather and an international break in football led me to pick up a copy from my local store. For once, an impulse buy has turned out for the best.
Black Ops 4 is a slickly made package that focuses on three core modes. Multiplayer, Zombies and Blackout, each of these has been engineered to within an inch of their lives and run silky smooth even on an Xbox One S. More than this not including a single-player campaign has given me a feeling I’ve not had for a while, guilt-free online shooting. What I mean by this comes down to time. When I’m in the mood for COD generally I am in the mood for the online version. With the single-player there if things aren’t going well online it is there as a crutch to fall back on instead of pushing myself to stick at it. The single-player campaigns as good as they can be, take you away from the skills and techniques needed to play the online game. I also needed to complete the campaign before getting stuck into the real reason many buy the game, remove this and suddenly you are out of excuses. Either get good or stop.
Back in the day, I was proficient at COD without being a world-beater. A healthy 1.75-2.0 Kill/Death ratio was what I always aimed for by the time the next game in the series came out. More often than not I was able to get this with the exception of the more modern entries where jetpacks and wall running replaced twitch skills. Black Ops 4 adds a few new modes to the mix but is ultimately boots on the ground with the exception of the grappling hook. As well as creating your own class, you have to select a ‘specialist’ who has a couple of unique traits. In a similar way to Rainbow Six Siege, these specialists have their own look and back-story and more will be added over the lifespan of the game. Some of the specialist traits can feel a little cheap. Prophet has an auto-controlled seeker car that finds the nearest enemy and stuns them in position for a few seconds leading to an early kill. Another has an attack dog and so on. Then when you have played well enough the alternative weapon is available for a while. This can be a rifle or the most hateful noob-tubing grenade launcher or flame thrower. Despite this, the addition of specialists and their back stories in the HQ which serve as tutorials are a welcome change to the formula. Hitboxes are still a little generous and enemies can feel a little bullet-spongey unless you nail a headshot compared to the old Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer efforts, despite this a good variety of maps and game modes, cater well to the COD veterans.
The battle royale crown jewel in the piece is COD’s take on the Battle Royale genre and it is immediately compelling. The COD shooting is there and coupled with a large map it answers the question of what COD would feel like over a much larger landscape. Gunplay is good and the option of quads, duos or single are enough to cater for anyone. The only issue at the moment seems to be friendly fire. When dropping in quads, many players like to stick with their teammates. Unfortunately, sometimes one member can decide to kill his team at no benefit to himself and unfortunately at no penalty either. Hopefully, this is just a case of people from PUBG and Fortnite getting confused but it leaves the system open to griefing. In play, the wingsuit drop and very quick respawn into a new game really helps you get over the disappointment of a kill and there is not many better experiences than playing this as a duo. I can see this hurting the PUBG community as it is the perfect mix of Fortnite’s user-friendliness and the more adult nature of PUBG. It is a surprise how well this feels to play.
Launching with three scenarios and a fully fledged bot experience for those looking to play this without the pressure of offline, Black Ops zombie mode has come a long way since it first debuted as an extra at the end of the World at War campaign. It is as enjoyable as you make it and the settings of a Titanic-like cruiseliner, Ancient Colluseum and Citadel like Blood of the Dead are unique and claustrophobic enough to get across the panic as wave after wave of the undead tries to come at you. The cast and cinematics are spot-on and you will enjoy finding the secrets each area has to uncover before the zombies overwhelm you.
For an impulse buy from a COD veteran who had left the series behind, Black Ops 4 is a wonderful surprise. It is slick, responsive and easy to pick up but it also can be horrifically challenging online which it has always been. If COD is your shooter of choice then the omission of a single player campaign should have no effect on your purchase as there is a wealth of content here to justify the price tag. If you want your single-player shooter campaigns, it is best to look elsewhere as there have been some stellar entries in the last few years.