For almost anyone who has ever picked up a controller, one series has caused more stir within the gaming world and shaped the way we play than any other of its kind. Whether you have liked it or not, and regardless of where your loyalties lie, you cannot deny the sheer impact and driving force that the Call of Duty (COD) franchise has had on gaming, especially within the first-person-shooter genre. It has consistently changed what we thought warfare gaming could be, reinventing game engines, introducing graphics beyond our comprehension, and providing billions of hours of online game — it’s forced those titles around it to play catch-up at every release.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that, with the push towards pure multiplayer formats, the franchise is at the front of the pack. In the latest instalment, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, you’ll find a distinct lack of campaign mode. Yep, they’ve scrapped story time — the first time that it hasn’t been present in a COD game. It’s a ballsy step — campaigns make up a big selling point of any game — but, while there is no main line to follow, what we’re offered instead is the largest map in COD history in a battle royale–style death match that sees 100 players enter and only one emerge on top in Blackout mode.
The gameplay itself is slick, super slick — the kind of experience that we’ve come to expect from any COD. You know what we’re talking about: that adrenalin-filled combat sweet spot of fast-paced, hardcore warfare blended with over-the-top realism that forces strategic gameplay to ensure that you stay alive long enough to watch the world burn down — it’s a style that the franchise has championed since the original Modern Warfare, and suits the battle-royale format.
The map itself draws on locations from the franchise’s 15-year run. The wildly popular Nuketown has been reinvented as a dystopian island, and a handful of zones mash up the most famous maps or build on their concepts for fresh killing fields we’ve yet to see. Whether you enjoy long-range one-by-ones, close-quarter knife fights, or all-out spray-and-prays, the environment is built to suit your taste and to be taken from for your pleasure.
Perhaps the pièce de résistance for most, the weapons draw on all previous titles for a greatest-hits mix of pure military-based mayhem, with a few well-placed curveball options thrown in for good measure. If you find yourself stuck with a pistol and a single shot, mystery boxes drop from the skies like gifts from the gods and comprise even wilder weapons yanked straight from Zombies mode — and, yes, there is a sci-fi-spec laser ray gun. There are even AI zombies roaming the map for added body sheds in those intense shoot outs!
It takes only a few rounds to notice the effects of subtle changes. One of the biggest is the loss of regenerating health, replaced with a hefty 150-health-point life gauge that means you can trade more damage but don’t have the luxury of camping away until you’ve healed — the only way to replenish health is to jab yourself with a mystery serum found in-game. This forces more tactical decisions, so forget rushing large groups and expecting to get out alive. It’s now a fight-kill-reload-and-heal type of world.
Of course, what would COD be without a solid dose of undead murder!? As mentioned, Zombies mode is back, with the largest release-day offering that will see three different full story lines launched off the bat: IX, Voyage of Despair, and Blood of the Dead.
So, forget what you think you know, because Black Ops 4 is mixing the best of the past with exactly what the future demands, for an experience to which you’re undoubtedly going to lose a few night and days.