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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2018

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4'

by Redmond Carolipio on May 18, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 features gritty, grounded, combat, along with new levels of customization and tactical gameplay, and a variety of new weaponry, maps and modes for the ultimate Black Ops multiplayer experience.

Pre-order Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

One thing that has struck me about the evolution of Call of Duty's Black Ops division has been how much "game" Treyarch stuffs into each title. I remember Black Ops 3 for a relatively thicker single-player campaign, a zombie mode that also featured its own characters and play types, and the franchise's signature feast of diverse multiplayer experiences. I found it to be less a first-person shooter game and more like a first-person shooter multiverse that was designed to cater to players of various types.

What would Black Ops 4 do to follow up? During an energetic community reveal event at the Jet Center in Hawthorne (an area that's also the home of Space-X), the answer appears to be that Treyarch will give players even more. Enter the announcement of Blackout, the game's new battle royale, last-man-standing mode. The news came in as the kicker at the end of the event's keynote presentation.


The introduction of Blackout means the absence of a traditional, single-player story campaign, according to Treyarch's David Vonderhaar. It's also going to feature a map that, for reference, will be 1,500 times larger than Nuketown. You'll also have access to land, sea and air vehicles, and it appears every character from the Black Ops universe — including anyone you saw in the zombie games — will make an appearance. Details such as how many players would be able to take part weren't made known, but the idea of playing a battle royale, Fortnite-style game with Call of Duty's established gameplay architecture garnered some of the biggest buzz at the event.

However, not to be lost in the Blackout news was a wealth of other adjustments and features designed to refine the experience of annihilating friends and strangers online. Among the highlights are the fact that wall-running and thrust-jumping no longer have a place in multiplayer matches, with Treyarch now opting for a "100 percent boots on the ground" experience. A subtle alteration in gameplay is how your gun is now almost always up, which means you're primed to fire from almost any position, like when you're using a grappling hook to zip from one place to another.


Weapon systems, especially the detail that goes into them, is another point of emphasis. Some guns are now going to have unique attachments and "operator mods" that give players the feeling of having gear and guns tailored to their liking while adding a sense of character to the weapons. Speaking of personality, the "specialists" who gained fame from the previous installment have now been fashionably re-styled, with each one featuring personalized weaponry (grappling hook, hammer, insta-kill revolver, etc.). Firebreak, one of the specialists, has a portable reactor core that deals harm to any enemies near it. That might not sound like much if you're dealing with the automatic healing of games past, but Black Ops 4 now turns healing into a manual affair by holding down the L1 button. I found this to add a different pace to how I would normally play. It allowed for more caution and deliberate thinking, as this is one act that leaves you completely vulnerable. I both killed people in the middle of patching themselves up and was sadly picked off myself when my choice of healing spot was less than ideal — or I simply forgot to heal and found myself in a firefight with something like 20 health. One touch of realism Treyarch mentioned was a "predictive recoil system," which added a more realistic feeling of heft behind your shots, forcing you to make adjustments as you fire.

Taking us from realism to surrealism in Black Ops 4 will be seemingly more robust Zombies content. Treyarch is promising a troika of zombie maps ready to roll once the game drops on Oct. 12, and this appears to be the portal to the game's whimsical, goofball side. Story-wise, it appears a group of four character archetypes is brought together to pursue an artifact that, when combined with a mystic key, unleashes a magic burst of doom that turns everyone into — you guessed it — zombies … or worse. The bad guys (or monsters) are tied to an ancient order who has yet-to-be-known motives. A group of random heroes being brought together to fight the denizens of darkness gives this a bit of a Gauntlet feel, which means this is the mode I'll likely spend the most hours on. We got cinematic glimpses of what the three zombie maps will bring: One was called "IX," which appears set in an Ancient Rome-like era of gladiators and coliseums; another is "Voyage of Despair," which looks like it'll be Zombies on the Titanic; and then there's "Blood of the Dead," which carries a prison theme.


For the isolationists out there, Treyarch's Jason Blundell noted that players are be able to go it alone with AI help through the Zombies storyline. There will also be adjustable difficulty levels and custom mutations, which help you tailor your own zombie experience.

Other bits of news about Black Ops 4 include the return of league play as well as Treyarch's joining of forces with Beemox and Blizzard to flesh out the COD experience for PC gamers. Blizzard will feature the game's release on Battlenet.

Our hands-on time with the game exposed us to three different multiplayer modes: Domination, a new one called Control (defend and capture rooms and areas, holding them for as long as you can), and Hardpoint to wrap things up. Of the selectable specialists, I tried Ruin, the mohawked "rusher" who has a grappling hook and a special hammer radius attack that charges up over time and can be unleashed for a bevy of kills if you find the right time to use it, like on a group of defenders surrounding a capture point in Domination. I found the sequence of grappling into an area and then triggering the hammer to be quite beneficial. I also used Seraph, whose full-power special gear is the Annihilator pistol that all but guarantees death to anyone who gets hit. For fair-to-middling players like myself, these devices can help the game feel more accessible to those just looking to contribute without having to worry too much about how many kills they tally.


In keeping with tradition, the visuals and effects were as sharp and fluid as one can expect in a COD game, if not even better with 4K-optimized stuff. I found myself playing a little catch-up with the speed of the game, though since the wall-running and thrust-jumping is gone, the action felt more pure and natural, as opposed to the circus you'd sometimes see in previous multiplayer matches. You can create your own classes and adjust your loadouts using a "pick 10" system, where you have to balance out how many attachments you need versus how many perks, boosts and rewards you want to bring into the field.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be the first in the Black Ops series that doesn't appear to have a story-driven campaign, which some people will see as a curious sacrifice in order to make room for a supremely upscale response to the Fortnite craze. Then again, like Black Ops 3, this looks to again be tightly packed — almost overflowing — with content in the hopes that it'll connect with everyone who comes across it, be they a veteran or a callow rookie. We will find out on Oct. 12.



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