No one was surprised when Treyarch announced Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 would launch with a battle royale mode. Revealed back in May, Treyarch’s big announcement generated a mixed response. While Blackout specifically created plenty of excitement, there were also many upset that Treyarch cut the campaign in favor of battle royale. Going into the beta, Blackout needed to prove its worth. With the beta now over, it’s clear Blackout has.
As a battle royale mode, Blackout doesn’t deviate too much from the set-up established in PUBG and Fortnite. A large group of players drop into a giant map, collect loot, and procedurally take each other out until only one person or squad remains. The mode does feature some key differentiators that help it stand out from the competition. The map is appropriately sized. Big enough to house 100 players (Treyarch set it to 100 shortly before the beta’s end) without completely feeling like you’re wandering around. It’s nowhere near the size of a PUBG map, but that’s just fine. Blackout’s map forces confrontation over camping with its smaller size, a handful of large locales, and quick circle degeneration. As such, matches move very quickly. For those turned away from battle royale games due to long stretches of nothing happening, Blackout aims to provide a solid middle ground.
It’s also a nice map for Treyarch fans to appreciate. The amount of fan-service stuffed into the many kilometers is a sight to behold. Players can visit fan-favorite maps from past Call of Duty games (Raid, Firing Range, Nuketown, Array, Asylum, etc.), acquire various weapons and gadgets from the different eras and even run into zombies. For Zombie aficionados, putting down zombies has the potential to net you fun Zombies gear.
Blackout’s strength is how well the Call of Duty formula translates to the battle royale genre. The fast-paced shooting and movement feels natural and helps matches move along at a fast pace. Even more impressive is just how optimized Blackout feels. Even in its beta state, the mode performed wonderfully running on a PS4 Pro. Now, there were a few server issues, such as the game kicking out a team member during matchmaking, but overall the process was very smooth. Considering PUBG has been on the market for a year and still isn’t well optimized, it’s impressive what Treyarch has done in the amount of time they’ve had.
Not everything from a gameplay perspective is perfect. It’s a hassle to pick up items off the ground, forcing players to look away from the action. In standard multiplayer, players can pick up dropped weapons without having to take their eyes off of what’s in front of them, which is how it should be in Blackout too. Then there’s armor, which has been out of whack since the beta launched. Treyarch has done a solid job updating the stats so that Armor Lvl 3 isn’t the god-tier item it was at the beta’s launch. Still, the armor is too ubiquitous, and it’s disheartening to get the drop on a player and lose a gunfight merely because they had better armor.
Those hopping into Blackout probably already didn’t expect a visually impressive game, but it’s worth noting that Blackout is not a looker. Utilizing simple textures and geometry, Treyarch instead focused on delivering a solid performance. From that perspective, they succeeded with Blackout holding close to 60fps. The art direction is also stellar with Treyarch successfully reimagining several of their classic maps. PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, and PC users can enjoy higher resolutions, which helps smooth out the image. It’s not a beautiful mode, but its impressive Treyarch was able to do so much on the ancient Call of Duty engine.
To Treyarch’s credit, they’ve done a fantastic job keeping up with the community’s criticisms and adjusting the game behind-the-scenes. From body armor downgrades to vehicle upgrades to increasing the player count, the studio has shown fantastic support over the past week. The team has already indicated they’ve learned a lot from the beta and we’ll likely see an improved product when the mode officially launches.
Blackout isn’t the most original game mode ever, but it’s executed so well that it nearly blows the competition out of the water. Treyarch has created a well-optimized, fun experience that players are bound to get sucked into. While improvements are necessary to further balance and optimize the experience, Treyarch has shown the past week they’re dedicated to working with the community to fix them. Blackout is shaping up to be an exciting addition to the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 experience.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is out October 12 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.