Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 review: A promising new future

Treyarch Studios
Treyarch Studios /
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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout
Treyarch /

Black Ops 4 Blackout

The third and final mode of play for Black Ops 4 is Blackout; Call of Duty‘s take on the popular battle royale genre that is sweeping the industry. While numerous developers have tried to emulate Fortnite and PUBG, few have found success. But where others have failed, Treyarch has truly succeeded in creating an iteration of battle royale that doesn’t just feel like a blatant copy.

Blackout feels like its own Call of Duty mode, not a simple tacked-on cash grab. Most importantly, it’s a polished experience – something not a lot of battle royale clones can say. Treyarch has clearly put the thought into how to make this mode unique to Call of Duty, and they’ve succeeded. The mode features points of interest, weapons and vehicles all inspired by previous Black Ops games.

For those who have never played a battle royale mode, the concept is simple: drop into a map, find a weapon and survive until the end until you’re the last person or squad left standing. Call of Duty‘s fast and fluid movement and combat mechanics lend themselves quite nicely to this sort of mode. From parachuting to running and sliding to cover to actually engaging in a firefight, Blackout is one of the best combat-centric battle royale experiences available.

Loot consists of traditional Black Ops weapons, various attachments for said weapons, armor and health items and temporary perks that you can activate at your discretion. Perks are essentially temporary buffs inspired by the class perks and abilities you find in standard Black Ops multiplayer, which was a clever way for Treyarch to incorporate these abilities into a battle royale gameplay mode.

It’s a varied assortment of items and Blackout does a mostly good job of loot spawning, aided by the fact that weapons and ammo don’t render until you are actually on the ground. The tradeoff is that this removes the strategy of coordinating your landing and makes it much more of a random dice roll at the start of a match, therefore punishing those who have mastered the art of parachuting.

Blackout’s biggest weakness is how you manage all of your loot. A clunky inventory system makes it difficult to sort through your loot and while attachments do auto equip at first, swapping them to another weapon is a lengthy and awkward process that involves dropping them all on the ground.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Treyarch /

Hosting up to 100 players, Blackout’s map feels like a good size. Points of interest are basically areas inspired by classic Black Ops maps, such as Nuketown, Array and Turbine. While these typically contain some sort of tribute to the classic maps, much of Blackout’s map exists as a single biome with not a lot of variety in either environmental appearance or building structures.

Black Ops‘ signature zombies also make an appearance, spawning in specific Zombie-inspired locations. Killing these NPCs will reward you with a mystery box, adding a nice wrinkle to the mode and loot system. It’s more of an homage to the fan-favorite mode than anything else, and it’s a nice touch that doesn’t interfere too much with the core battle royale experience.

All this said, Blackout is my least favorite of the three Black Ops 4 multiplayer experiences, mostly due to the pace of play. I’m used to the quick nature of a standard Call of Duty multiplayer match. Blackout slows this down considerably as much of the time is spent looting, running from the storm and preparing for the final 20 or so top players.

Sure, you can drop to a hotly contested area and engage in some riveting firefights early on, but matches in Blackout can typically last anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes. That’s more than double the length of a standard multiplayer match. Once that initial batch of early engagements is over, it can sometimes take a while before you encounter other players.

Perhaps it is my approach to the mode, but there seems to be a lot of dead time spent playing the mode. Even while actively hunting for enemies, encounters with other players are much less frequent than your typical multiplayer match. Of course, this is an obvious note given the nature of battle royale’s existence, but jumping from traditional Call of Duty multiplayer can be a bit jarring.  You have to enter Blackout with a totally different mindset and approach.