UFG Returns to Black Ops 4 for “Blackout”

Everyone knew this was going to happen. By that I mean, because the battle royale subgenre is super popular, it was only a matter of time before major publishers/developers skydived from their floating fortresses into the fray…

And with that comes the eye rolling, long sighs, and all out contempt. I get it. The bandwagon was near capacity long before Fortnite started to dominate. Now we got the likes of Battlefield V and Black Ops 4 with their own versions. It’s maddening, especially in Call of Duty’s case; I’m not a fan of removing its campaign mode (more on that later). Basically, we’ve had enough of the “me too” like experiences. The thing is though – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode is actually really good!

Blackout is chock full of nostalgia. Everything from the characters (some of which were seen in past Zombie modes) to the large play area – a patch work of old CoD maps, seamlessly sewn together to look like one place – should be familiar to Black Ops fans. The same thing goes for the weapons, perks and other available loot. All of this helps in making Blackout feel like Call of Duty. A natural evolution of the series, that isn’t “offensive” early on. The first time I dropped into the remnants of nuketown from a transport helicopter, I knew I was in for a good time.

Beyond the trip down memory lane are the mechanics seen in most battle royale games. A large group of players (the count was 88 before being raised to 100) skydive onto a large map. They’ll spend the their first few minutes looking for weapons or items to help them fight off their peers. Fights will breakout as players wondering into each other, all while a force field of sorts closes in, cutting off areas of the map. An assortment of vehicles can help navigating to the center of the closing circle, where the shoot outs are more chaotic. The winner is the last person standing. Good times. Of course, Treyarch is adding their own spin to this familiar loop. The running and gunning showcase the first area of change. Blackout retains the speed and FPS trappings the series is known for, while also providing an experience that’s closer to PUBG than Fortnite; it offers a nice balance of realism and arcade-like shooting.

The second area of change goes against what I just said. Sure, for the most part, the game is realistic in nature – sans body armor, health packs, the ability to take multiple bullets to the torso before dying. That said, I was surprised to find weapons from past zombie modes. The first time I picked up a zapper I was taken back a bit. I thought “where have I seen this gun before and what is it doing in the middle of a game like this?” That is what really took Blackout to another level for me. Being able to offer a “serious” shooter while also finding space to have corky weapons shows a level of depth in battle royale that we haven’t seen before. This is especially rings true with the inclusion of zombies. Like, actual zombies (and zombie bosses) that roam sections of the map and drop loot upon death…er, re-death? There are also class kits around the map like engineer or medic, for example, which gives the player a unique skill that lasts for some time. They’re a rare find though, which keeps them from becoming a constantly overpowering element during matches.

Blackout sits in this weird shooter world where the normal and absurd clash. It works. I enjoyed running around and shooting with the occasional crazy moment/weapon spicing things up. That said, one thing that I have yet to experience in any other battle royale game (besides zombies and such) is air combat. I was completely caught off guard by a helicopter flying overhead on time. I am used to simply checking around corners for people and down the roads for incoming vehicles. But this was something entirely new. I will NEVER forget being chased down by a high-speed helicopter in an open field as a rival squad rained bullets down on me, totally ruining an otherwise successful run.

Blackout mode is fun. Period. There are some sticking points though, most of which are already being addressed – the balancing of weapons and armor, a faster pickup speed, audio adjustments, inventory improvements and more are being implemented based on the feedback from gamers. This is all very good news. I’m still a bit miffed about the campaign; the less is more approach doesn’t work here, considering what Blackout seems to offer. I don’t see it being anything more than an extra game mode. A widely popular one, true. But nothing that should cause the removal of a major element of the series. And yes, it is major despite the grumblings of those of us who “only play multiplayer”. I won’t go into how I feel about the season pass for a multiplayer only game when there’s Overwatch or what I could be getting for the same price with Battlefield V (which will also have a battle royale mode). I will say that I’m still looking forward to Black Ops 4. The multiplayer modes I played were really entertaining, Blackout is super polished which negates any reason to touch PUBG, and there’s still three different zombie modes to play. Hopefully, the final product’s quality will match my current eagerness to play.

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