Updated: Nov 13, 2019
The current trend of pushing out half-finished games continues
I'll admit I've never been that big of a fan of Treyarch's COD series (Black Ops, World at War, etc.) The old weapons and eventual "jump the shark moment" into hyper futuristic tech never grabbed me. For clarification, purposes I've beaten the single player campaigns of COD games (except Infinite Warfare) on veteran difficulties and played the multiplayer for at least a couple of weeks. To that extent I haven't played COD since Advanced Warfare's launch, of which I played for about a month then promptly moved on to other games. With this iteration though I decided to fully delve into Treyarch's murky depths by for the first time buying all the DLC and season pass for COD.
Right off the bat I was disappointed. The single player campaign is nowhere to be found and the "COD Points", the currency in the micro-transaction system is unusable as there is no micro-transaction system currently in the game. Whether this is because of recent law changes internationally that have made loot boxes officially recognized as gambling and therefore illegal it is unknown at this point.
In lieu of a single player campaign there are tutorials where you learn how to play each specialist. Completing these tutorials unlocks the story movies which disappointingly means there might not be any single player at all (akin to Zipper Interactive's SOCOM 4 which launched without a solo campaign shortly before the studio folded.) The tutorials themselves are nothing more than a short tutorial mission followed by 3 matches against bots on various difficulties. Playing against supposed "Veteran" difficulty bots is almost heartbreaking as you watch bots stare at floors and walls before promptly getting killed, never moving even though they are being shot at. This is the worst AI in any game let alone COD I've seen in a decade. Jim Sterling routinely pokes fun at this level of AI in indie Steam games where the development team consist of 1 person, but Treyarch has over 500 employees of which you can assume at least a few dozen are developers.
Onto the real meat and potatoes, the multiplayer. The calling card and emblem systems seem to be extremely toned down. I didn't notice the hundreds or even thousands of unique calling cards and add-ons for emblems you'd see in previous iterations. Multiplayer is broken down into 3 main categories (Blackout, Zombies, and normal multiplayer.) Each of those categories is then broken down into sub categories (for Zombies its: Public, Classic, Rush, Tutorial.)
"In Zombies we clearly see where all the production went."
I started off with the much touted Blackout mode, Treyarch's version of a battle royale akin to PUBG. It starts off the same as any other battle royal. You and 100 other players start in the "lobby", an area where you can goof off while the actual game loads. Once it loads you're in a plane and ready to parachute into action! Treyarch actually missed a chance here to really incorporate some of the single player story telling by show you actually in the plane, strapped in, maybe talking to other players as the tension builds (they could show a mini-map in the corner so that you know where you are) before you press 'F', unbuckle yourself and dramatically leap into battle!
My squad captain and I went for a nearby construction site of a mall. Immediately I noticed that there's a TON of weapons, ammo, accessories, etc. There are also "power ups" that you can find scattered about in droves. Treyarch has seen the slowness in some battle royale games and is really pushing action for it's casual COD fan base. My squad to a few people to pieces before I died after being jumped by another squad. Sound engineering is standard when compared to other COD games. Although I kept hearing footsteps around me, I couldn't really tell where my enemy was and it kept echoing off walls, making it seem like they were all over the place. Footsteps seem to be way too easily heard as well, as if Treyarch purposely increased the footstep sound to make it even easier to find and kill players. Overall the mode was fun, Treyarch has definitely taken efforts to make "Battle Royale" easier to get into for it's casual audience, down to even making it so that just double-clicking an accessory auto equips it to a compatible weapon.
In Zombies we clearly see where all the production went. Zombies has come a long way from it's introduction in World at War. The dramatics themes and voice acting, huge extensive levels, etc. are a far cry from the very basic, revolutionary game mode in World at War (where if I remember correctly you couldn't even open many passages if at all.) There are a few different timelines where you'll mainly fight in, one is in roman gladiator times another is aboard the Titanic with another being more modern in a city complete with prison, underground temple, etc.
"Normal multiplayer is back to the basics."
I was completely blown away yet overwhelmed by the entirety of this mode. You have classes of which you can create your own. You have talismans, power ups, potions, special abilities, etc. all of which can be unlocked, crafted, etc. to give you a truly custom experience. On top of that with such extensive levels it can be extremely hard to figure out where to go, me and other new players found ourselves constantly lost (which ended up working out as it spreads out the zombies.) That is...you think you're lost until you realize...unlike Ghost's Zombie mode, this never ends. The point is to survive as long as possible which is completely fine when you have an entire weekend to yourself and nothing to do. As for those that like some sort of resolution or end game, you won't find that in Treyarch's version of Zombies. As usual all the tips and tricks seem to work (shotguns work well for early rounds, move zombies in circles, get the alien laser gun, etc.) Although Treyarch has so many openings put into the maps that zombies can pour out of...most of which being unblock-able (a pet peeve of mine) it can make circling in some areas a nightmare as Zombies just rush you from every direction. That being said it makes the teleport ability crucial in getting you out of dire situations. Overall the zombie mode is definitely worth checking out, although you might want to set aside at least a couple hours to get a good run going.
Normal multiplayer is back to the basics. Boots on the ground is on full display albeit the futuristic weapons & abilities are still in-tact. Sound engineering is great as always as well. Network code has been cleaned up a bit, there's noticeably less network issues and games seem to run smoother than recent iterations of Call of Duty. I can't help but feel as though COD isn't as "lively" as it used to be. Hardcore modes seem to be almost dead with most modes taking forever to fill a lobby. Time-to-kill seems to be slower too. While it's not "Ghosts" level of slow it is a bit off putting at times how long it can take to find someone to kill.
The weapons are all created with slight differences between each gun in every category. I feel as though some weapons seem too similar between one another. Hit detection is nicely done although the "2-3 headshots to kill" is still there. You'll also find a lot of people jumping as soon as they see your for some odd reason, a tactic that would only throw off the aim of newcomers. Although there is a theory floating out there that the jumping might be a symptom of the "3-D" combat that players were forced into for the last couple of years.
Overall, I can't help but feel Black Ops 4 was rushed. It's missing major components like the cash shop and single player campaign. They missed a great opportunity to bring back beloved modes like "Spec-Ops" as well. Blackout mode adds on to the battle royale experience which is great. It seems like this one is still going to be in the oven for awhile similar Battlefield 4. The difference being Treyarch actually made a solid game that is complete for what they put out. Those of us hoping for a single player component among other things will have to wait a bit longer though.