Call of Duty: Black Ops IV Review: A lot to appreciate, but much less to enjoy
Played On: PS4 (Original)
It’s amazing to think that Call of Duty is no longer the only name people associate with great multiplayer shooters. Dice has made tidal waves with the Battlefield series and Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege has gained both mainstream success and love in the professional gaming community. Not to mention, battle royale has made huge waves in the gaming community and Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have given big franchises a run for its money lately. Even with stiffer competition now, though, Activision and Treyarch hoped to revitalize hope in the franchise with Black Ops IV and not only bring the franchise back to its roots with “boots on the ground” gameplay, but also incorporate new elements to the series for the first time.
Unfortunately, their efforts didn’t fully pay off as Black Ops IV comes with plenty of issues and it’s not from what you might expect it to be. Ironically, I actually found their choice to not have a single-player campaign, for the first time in the series, to be a good one and the game didn’t feel any less complete from not including it.
While I’m a big proponent of having a solid story with Call of Duty, there’s plenty of other enticing things to do in Black Ops IV that will keep players interested. However, there was definitely a quantity over quality approach taken with Black Ops IV as across the player vs. player (PVP) multiplayer, the battle royale mode, and zombies it constantly feels like there was a lack of care taken to make everything as smooth as possible for players.
But let’s start with where the game technically wants you to start with the smaller mode known as Specialist HQ. This is where players can learn more about the game’s specialist and their abilities and get a sense of how to use them in battle. While basically a tutorial, I actually found this mode to be a little helpful with learning how to use abilities and getting accustomed to each of their playing styles. However, this was labeled as the “campaign story” element to Black Ops IV and it couldn’t be farther from that. Each specialist really comes with a tutorial, a quick cutscene, and then an extremely boring game of team deathmatch versus bots.
This feels like such a waste of time and these missions could’ve been cooler and more in-depth with a little more care. Not to mention, players are lead through this mode by Frank Woods, a true fan-favorite from the Black Ops series, but he is incredibly annoying this time around. He is constantly talking through missions and making groan-worthy quips that made me feel like they were slowly ruining such a great character.
The PVP multiplayer also was a use miss as it has trouble balancing the specialist’s abilities and pacing the fight as a whole. Some of the specialist’s abilities are actually pretty useful and can turn the tide of battle. Torque’s razor wire can actually cause some trouble for enemies vaulting over windows or sprinting through corridors and Nomad’s mesh mines will make players be a little more careful when walking through an open doorway. However, the practicality of these tools becomes very limited as other players get used to seeing them and there is even a perk that players can get early on that basically makes these abilities useless.
Not to mention, some abilities feel a little over-powered and mess with the pace of battle as a whole. Is it really necessary for the Seraph’s revolver to have six shots when it already is a one-hit kill and can go through multiple enemies with one shot or for the Nomad’s dog to take more than a full assault rifle clip to kill? All of this really messes with the usually fast-paced game of Call of Duty and makes some fights feel a little unfair. The ten point system for a player’s class can be a little frustrating as well and players could be unable to use their favorite attachment because of it. Also, the fact that a frag grenade, a piece of equipment that is usually added at the beginning of the game, can’t be unlocked until level 42 speaks volumes of how this system can feel a little unfair.
Even with all of this, though, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with PVP multiplayer and with Treyarch bringing back a bunch of classic Black Ops maps throughout the series, fans will undoubtedly feel a little nostalgic. Playing on classic maps, like Firing Range and Slums, feels right and with player’s health being displayed for everyone to see, it feels like a fresh experience.
Black Ops IV’s battle royale mode, Blackout, also has some nostalgia of its own with characters, vehicles, and locations that gives battle royale some Call of Duty flair. Blackout actually slowly became one of my favorite modes the more I played it and I especially loved having to find attachments for my guns and attaching them on the spot. The landscape is also extremely varied with lush forests, high rise construction, farmland, and rocky deserts scattered throughout the map.
There was clearly a good amount of care put into it (mostly to compete with Fortnite), but it’s definitely not a perfect work of battle royale. There really needs to be a tier system for the weapons as most players wouldn’t have memorized what guns are better than each other or if they are an assault rifle or a sniper rifle just by the name. It can definitely add some frustration and a color coded system could’ve easily fixed this. They also could’ve implement backpacks better and the menus for items are really confusing and not something you want to be worrying about when you’re facing off against 99 other players.
Now, Call of Duty and especially Treyarch have been known for having players face off against hordes of zombies like no one else and Black Ops IV is a bit of testament for that. Fighting off zombies in a gladiator arena and even on the titanic feels truly unique and atmospheric and I liked hearing the characters comment on their surrounding and have conversations with one another. Yet even with all of this there, zombies still feels empty somehow. It almost felt boring in a sense and I almost felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything even after I completed each wave. There’s some interesting zombie types they put in, but it never hooked me enough to want come back and slaughter more zombies.
So while there’s plenty to appreciate with Black Ops IV, it constantly feels like it there’s a lot more to gripe about. Black Ops IV feels like it’s trying too hard to be relevant and Treyarch spent more time putting effort into Blackout when they really didn’t want to. Hopefully, they look at what Sledgehammer did with Call of Duty WW2 and implement more of the community-building aspects that they made instead of the crowd-pleasing they tried here.