Last week saw the release of this year’s Call of Duty game, with Treyarch taking the helm and continuing their Black Ops franchise for its fourth entry. Easily the biggest news to arise upon the day of the game’s official unveiling was the newest title’s abandoning of one of the series’ staple modes, the single-player campaign, in favor of the latest multiplayer trend, battle royale. Known as Blackout, this mysterious mode was continuously teased until its first gameplay trailer arrived last month, and an onslaught of information was provided ahead of the mode’s closed beta. Our beta preview and final review both praised the mode in-depth, calling it “the most exciting addition to Call of Duty in years,” thanks to a large map filled with classic environments, refined and polished gunplay, and a variety of traversal methods that marks a series first for its multiplayer elements. If Treyarch is looking to compete with the likes of Fortnite and PUBG, however, the hard work has only just begun, as there are several aspects of the game at launch that are already in need of some additional improvements to continue to raise Blackout’s level of quality for the months to come.
Visual and Audio Improvements
Compared to the Multiplayer and Zombie modes, Blackout is easily the least visually consistent of Black Ops 4’s available options, with a significant amount of textures and items still popping into view even as the player has already hit the ground and started to loot. In particular, Duos is the biggest culprit, as the only sub-mode to feature one hundred players as opposed to the standard 88, and seems to suffer the most for it, which makes that distinction in player count a perplexing one at launch. Even after the map fully loads in, footsteps and vehicle movement can often be poorly indicative of the actual location of a given player, which is a crucial aspect of the battle royale genre as fewer players remain and the user needs every possible piece of information to best secure their chance at an already-difficult victory. If Blackout is looking to maintain a consistent audience of players, Treyarch would do well to focus on the overall presentation to provide a more reliable gameplay experience.
Blackout offers a respectable number of characters at launch for players to impersonate, many of which are unlocked by completing character-specific missions during specific times. While it’s promising to see Treyarch not embrace the easy route and allow users to simply buy new outfits with real-world money, a notable number of missions require players to survive for an extended period of time as they complete arbitrary tasks or risk losing all progress in a mode where death can come from anywhere at anytime. While Fortnite’s method for offering customization makes sense for a free-to-play game, PUBG originally featured a rather straightforward but effective way of rewarding players: the better you performed, the easier it was to obtain loot to decorate your character with. Since Blackout already contains its own leveling system, it would not seem too out-of-place for characters to also feature an unlock tier simply for doing well and leveling up, in addition to the missions which present players an opportunity to access them sooner if they’re able to go the extra mile.
Refined Vehicle Controls
As mentioned earlier, fully drivable vehicles have finally made their way into a multiplayer Call of Duty mode, having previously only been featured in select sequences during the single player campaigns or as scorestreaks with limited usage for the more skilled players. As a result, it would not have been surprising if the driving was a little rough around the edges, but the developer’s insistence on analog-stick based acceleration and steering as opposed to the more standard trigger-based acceleration is baffling, particularly for the ATVs and helicopters with slight movements sending them in often-unintended directions. Performing a complete overhaul may be too ambitious, particularly for an annual title, but some additional refining of the ways each of the four vehicles control can help to lessen the amount of accidental stumbles or deaths.
This suggestion is made with the full awareness of the status of Duos, which as discussed earlier, is currently in a noticeably rougher state than its compatriots from a visual standpoint. As opposed to rushing this drastic change, it would make more sense for Treyarch to create a stable presentation across all three sub-modes, and then look into increasing Solo and Squads’ player counts to reach the genre-standard one hundred players. Having only Duos reach this standard almost feels punishing for players enjoying Blackout by themselves or in larger groups, which is a fully avoidable consequence of this odd distinction. While it would be preferable to push Solo and Squad into triple-digit territory, dropping Duos down to 88, even as a temporary measure, could prove to be a boon that side steps any potential divide that could arise in the community from this discrepancy in player count.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.