Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout Impressions: A AAA Battle Royale Experience
Until last week, information surrounding Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode was pretty hard to find. Then they released the Blackout beta to let everyone try the battle royale mode for themselves. Throughout the week, a number of changes and updates were made based on feedback and data that Treyarch was collecting. The player count rose from just 80 players to the industry standard battle royale number of 100. Numerous tweaks and adjustments were made to the likes of weapons, character unlocks, and even an added kill cam so that you know exactly what mistakes you made before you were domed.
Treyarch also outlined changes that they weren’t able to work into the beta period, but that will be coming to the final version of the game. Things like a detailed kill feed, more focus on merits and leveling, and changes to how bullet penetration works on various objects. It was a whirlwind week that seemed to fly by, and the beta was over before I knew it, but not before I grabbed some valuable time with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout. When one of the top selling video game series ever decides to jump into the battle royale, competitors better watch out. This is battle royale with that special brand of Treyarch care.
Looks Like Call of Duty
The first thing I learned very quickly was that I’m not good at battle royale games. I’d just as soon hide in a convenience store bathroom with my gun trained at the door, waiting for the impending storm to get me as I would venture out and seek the downfall of players around me. I probably preferred to play quads for this very reason. The ability to lean on my teammates was an invaluable resource that helped me last longer than the times I was sniped from across the map. Fortunately load-in seems to be much quicker than other battle royale games I’ve played, so even after a quick knockout, there wasn’t much waiting around for the next match.
I have my own set of opinions on the battle royale genre in general, but that doesn’t take away from the immense quality that Blackout holds. It’s immediately obvious this is a Treyarch Call of Duty game. It retains that same feel, so Call of Duty players will be right at home with a controller in their hands, facing off against 99 other players. Otherwise, it doesn’t mess with the tried and true battle royale formula much, if at all. The studio has taken game mechanics that are proven to work and simply applied Call of Duty to them.
Smells Like Call of Duty
I’ve always held the opinion that battle royale is not a genre, but rather a mode. It would be like calling team deathmatch a genre of game. Battle royale is a mode that other games can apply their particular brand to and often feels too generic without that branding or skin surrounding. As one part of a great whole, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout can lean on everything else in the game—not to mention the entire series—to prop it up.
The entire map is made up of previous Call of Duty: Black Ops series maps that will be immediately recognizable to longtime players. Characters from across the franchise become the players’ avatars. There are even some great Zombies Easter eggs if you head into the graveyard. I didn’t expect to be assaulted by the undead while scavenging for gear and fending off would-be attackers. The Call of Duty brand is where Blackout’s real strength lies. It looks like Call of Duty. It plays like Call of Duty. But it’s a massive battle royale mode that jumps on gaming’s latest trend, doing it better because it has a longtime Treyarch history to support it. This is what it looks like when a AAA developer makes a battle royale game that is part of a larger paid package, rather than relying on the free-to-play model to generate income.
Must be Call of Duty
I don’t think that Blackout is going to change my mind personally about battle royale (that’s for another time and another place), but I can see the collision of two very popular things only being great for Treyarch, Activision, and the players. Reception to Blackout during the beta period was exceptionally positive, both from native Call of Duty players and battle royale players who migrated over from other games to try this one out. It’s got a lot of potential, and if Treyarch can continue to pour the time and resources into it that they did during the beta, I can see Blackout having a long tail as the third major pillar in Black Ops 4.