GAMING POINT OF LOU – A NOOBS JOURNEY INTO BLACK OPS 4
Call Of Duty has earned it’s place in the pantheon of all time great video game franchises. Having recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, the game that started it all debuted in 2003. Since then multiple developers have delivered core titles and spinoffs for almost every gaming platform imaginable, from Nokia’s N-Gage to the most current gaming consoles. If you have a way to play a game, there is probably a COD available to you.
However in all that time I have never really been a fan of the franchise. I did play 2016’s Infinite Warfare and 2017’s WW2 solely for their single player campaign’s and zombies mode (I loved Infinite Warfare, it was the Battlestar Galactica game we never got, but sorely needed). But, as most everyone knows, the single player campaign has never really been the headline attraction for COD. That spot is reserved for it’s PVP (player vs. player), which is so wildly popular that it spawned it’s own competitive league, the “Call Of Duty World League” which boasted a prize pool of $4.2 million last year.
Which brings us to the subject of my “Noobness”. Black Ops 4, released on the 12th of October, developer Treyarch’s most recent entry made the bold decision of eschewing the single player campaign and instead replaced it with a brand new mode called “Blackout”. It’s a Battle Royale (BR), which is COD’s answer to industry giants Fortnite and PUBG.
Firing it up for the first time, I used the games “Specialist HQ” mode to learn about the different specialists and how their abilities function within the game. Taking cues from both Overwatch and Activision’s other FPS franchise Destiny, Specialists each have their own suite of abilities which can affect gameplay. From Ajax’s ballistic shield to Firebreaks Purifier or Crash’s Tak-5, every character can dramatically affect gameplay at opportune moments. I’ve become quite the fan of Crash, solely because I have always leaned hard into support roles, and while he isn’t as dedicated a support as per se Lucio in Overwatch or a fully optimized Reclaimer build in The Division, he still gives me the “support” vibe.
Right out of the gate I have to say that the standard multiplayer has its fair share of issues, and all it takes is a short trip over to Reddit or Activison’s official forums to see many people pontificating over various weapon and ability balancing issues. (Submachine Guns, 9 Bangs, Dogs, Strike Team’s, and Akimbo SAUG’s I’m looking at you). There are sound issues where you can’t accurately track player footsteps (which in a game of this type is HUGE), or blatant server inconsistencies which can make killing someone feel more like luck than actual skill at times. There is no shortage of items that need adjusting. As of this writing this, Treyarch deployed a hefty balance patch on October 30th that has gone a LONG way towards bringing things in line, although I feel Submachine Guns are still the “go to” weapon at almost all ranges now. The game play’s much smoother (at least on console), and when I get killed (which happens A LOT) at least I know it’s my fault and not that I didn’t see the enemy because of frame drops.
I do find that my performances are wildly inconsistent, depending on which of the games 8 “core” multiplayer modes I choose and the relative skill level of the players I get matchmade with. I either feel like a competent player or a complete no-thumb scrub. I fully contend that the game could stand to have some form of skill based matchmaking so that players will have the opportunity to learn the ropes and move up tiers as they progress. Ending up in a lobby of 2x – 3x prestige MLG level players farming their K/D can be frustrating to say the least. I am well aware of how insanely hot button skill based matchmaking can be in these communities, but that doesn’t change my opinion. For the uninitiated, arguments for and against SBMM always go one of two ways: The players such as myself (average to say the least) would welcome the implementation so we can actually enjoy ourselves in an environment conducive to learning. While the top tier players don’t, because they would be forced to only play people at their level, and therefore not be able to stomp all over us scrubs. Even in Destiny, where I am a FAR better PVP player than I am in this game, I would still rather play people of my own rank rather than dump all over people far below my level. It’s just not a good look, and it will certainly alienate a large portion of their potential playerbase when the frustration of not improving sets in.
Blackout on the other hand is extremely fun. Ifyou aren’t caught up on the “Battle Royale” craze, let me quickly explain it. Up to 100 players all drop in to a giant (and constantly shrinking) map with nothing. You have to scramble around to find the best guns / armor / equipment available, and the last person standing wins. This is quite frankly the showpiece mode of the game and it’s obvious. The mode is playable either solo, in teams of 2 (duos), or 4 (quads). What makes BR’s addictive is the way that they adapt to different play styles, and since the final location is always random no two games ever play out the same. Matches can range from high octane frag fests, to the campiest of camp fests, with players finding those PERFECT spots and trying to outlast everyone. Longtime COD players will notice plenty of familiar locations such as Nuketown, a blown out wasteland on the western edge of the map. Treyarch has even upped the ante by mixing in PVE elements with the inclusion of ZOMBIES!!! Yes, that’s right, there are areas on the map populated by the walking dead (please don’t sue me). These are by far the highest risk / highest reward sections on the map, and if you manage to make your way out unscathed you can find yourself in possession of some of the strongest weapons in the game. PVP wise, I’ve had the best experiences in Blackout, as I am not forced into any specific type of engagement. I can pick and choose when and where I fight, and while I haven’t won a match yet, I have finished in the top 5 which is pretty good for an old guy!!!
And speaking of Zombies, what COD wouldn’t be complete without the fan favorite horde mode? Introduced all the way back in 2008’s World At War as a mini game, Zombies has since evolved into it’s own fully featured mode. And, while it may have evolved greatly in the past 10 years, the premise is still incredibly simple. Kill zombies, earn currency to purchase better guns, kill more zombies. This Purely PVE mode is playable either completely solo with A.I. Bots taking the place of humans, through standard matchmaking, or in a group of 4 of your best friends. Having played both Infinite Warfare’s 80’s themed version, and WW2’s far more story oriented offering. I feel that Black Ops 4’s version hits a pretty awesome sweet spot. Various arena’s such as The Roman Coliseum and a Sinking Titanic serve as backdrops for a mode that pulls out all the stops in terms of action oriented gameplay, giving players access to “Special Weapons” such as The Hammer of Valhalla (think Mjolnir). This allows you to destroy zombies with the efficiency of a certain Norse God. Zombie’s also has a “custom mutation” mode, which allows you to tailor a session to your liking. There is also “zombie rush mode”, which is as straight forward as it gets: all weapons are free, all doors are unlocked, survive as long as you can.
So, let’s quickly recap, there’s no Campaign, Only PVP and a BR mode. On the surface, I wouldn’t have gone near this game with a ten foot pole, but something kept nagging at me. The more I watched and read, the more I wanted to give it a try, I can’t point to any one specific thing, it was just a “feeling”, and surprisingly I took to it in a way that I never thought I would. The matches are FAST, and the skill ceiling is HIGH. I feel like I learn something every time I play that I can immediately take into the next match. Whether it’s unlocking a new weapon, attachment, or learning the layout of a map “just that much better”, every game is worth the time investment. I hope that Treyarch keeps the support and content rolling, as I can easily see myself having fun with this game for a long time. If I were to assign a letter grade on the game, in it’s current state it definitely earns a B+.
Until Next Time Everyone,
Be Good To Your Fellow Nerd.