We’ve known this was coming for quite some time. It’s no secret that battle royale has reached beyond the summit of Mt. Everest in terms of its height in popularity. Before Blackout mode was even announced, a battle royale mode in the next Call of Duty was pretty certain in the eyes of gaming industry pundits. The anticipation for Blackout – the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 version of battle royale – had solidified the idea that it needed to be reviewed separately from the rest of the competitive multiplayer aspects of Black Ops 4 here at Daily Esports.
With that being said, let’s cut right to the heart of the matter. The big question now is – does Blackout succeed in the battle royale sphere? To be honest, that’s a loaded question. It will be everyone’s instinct, mine included, to define “success” by comparing Blackout to the other major battle royale players. The obvious top two are Fortnite and PUBG. Fortnite, of course, is the current juggernaut to contend with, but PUBG still retains a faithful fan base as well. To answer that hefty question simply – yes, Blackout succeeds in many ways. Yes, Blackout offers a fresh, yet engaging experience in the battle royale space that has the potential for growth.
For the most part, just about everything works well in Blackout. The mode offers the most expansive and terrain-comprehensive map to date in Call of Duty. There’s much to explore here, and that in itself will keep you coming back for more. The map is dotted with hotspots that include a very vertically-structured construction site, a flat and desolate neighborhood in the old Nuketown region of the map, the old Verruckt zombies map in the corridors of the Asylum, and expansive and spacious waterways around a dam.
The map alone offers a deep variety of locales. In Fortnite, I usually find myself heading for a few specific spots that I’m familiar with right out of the party bus. But with Blackout, I was wanting to try landing at just about every new spot I could find. Blackout’s map certainly makes PUBG’s offerings a bit duller in comparison.
Blackout employs the fluid movements and shooting mechanics that we are familiar with in a Call of Duty game. The polish of Call of Duty’s refined action allows an increased element of freedom and a feeling of independence in Blackout that I’ve never experienced before in battle royale shooters. The tight, organic controls and top-notch frame rate really made it impossible for me to blame the game or anything else but myself for my failures. Conversely, it also felt hugely satisfying when I was successful. If you’re on the fence about whether to give this a try, just know that combining Call of Duty’s world-class shooter mechanics with a battle royale mode is an entirely new battle royale experience worth trying. That simple notion alone always gave Black Ops 4 an edge entering the battle royale space.
What players might fear is that the skill level will be high simply because it’s Call of Duty and the franchise has been known to cater to that crowd in the past. I can dispel those fears. The only thing Blackout asks of you, just like in other battle royale modes, is that you are aware of your surroundings. Those that are cautious and contemplative tend to win the day. After all, I am certainly no Call of Duty master, and once I was a #1 victor. Although, that is likely to not happen again for a long while.
But, even for less-skilled Call of Duty players, I’m here to tell you that you still have a chance. A player’s skill in the competitive multiplayer space of Call of Duty really has little bearing on what happens in the entirely different beast of Blackout. Squad up if you must. In my opinion, squad and duo play is more fun anyhow in battle royale.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is also the first entry to really make use of NPC enemies in a battle royale setting. Yes, as you may have already heard, zombies populate certain points on the map. Which points do you ask? Typically, zombies will appear within a significant radius of the famed mystery boxes. Mystery box locations are identifiable by giant beams in the sky. Mystery boxes could be a tool on your path towards victory. That’s what makes them so exciting. Some of the best weaponry can be pulled from the mystery boxes. Zombies also tend to drop some juicy loot. Keep in mind that you must destroy all of the zombies in the area in order for the mystery box to open for you. This can be challenging because other players could spring up on you while you’re contending with zombies.
The large map wasn’t the only major addition to a Call of Duty title. The use of vehicles in a multiplayer setting has also been added. This is something that top battle royale contender Fortnite hasn’t had – aside from the shopping carts and the ATKs (All Terrain Karts). Boats, trucks, ATVs, and even helicopters can be commandeered to help players glide across the map to safety or rapidly lay siege to the enemy. Not all vehicles you see in the map can be driven, however. That would make for a nice change in the future as vehicles aren’t always readily available. Of course, that may be intentional by design. But vehicular warfare can be an absolute blast with the right squadmates. And at times, I longed for it and wished it were more frequent.
Blackout’s loot is incredibly diverse when using PUBG and Fortnite as the standard. Weaponry is one thing. Being able to pick up and use inventory perks is something different entirely. Call of Duty aficionados are familiar with perks in competitive multiplayer. These are features that can be added to loadouts that provide players with specific advantages. For instance, the perk “Awareness” makes enemy footsteps louder. This is hugely advantageous in battle royale as players are constantly on the hunt. On the flip side, obtaining the “Dead Silence” perk makes your movements quiet to other players. There are several other perks that can be found throughout the map. Each perk you find is inventoried and can be used at any time. Once they are used, there is a fairly conservative timer for their expiration. So, be sure to use them at the right times.
In addition to perks, weapons, armor, and health boosts, players can also find equipment to deploy. The one-hit kill combat axes, cluster grenades, barricades, a remote-controlled scouting RC-style car, sensor darts, and more can be found throughout the map. Even grapple guns make an appearance in the Blackout map so you can go full Batman and scale buildings to find perfect vantage points. There is not a negative thing I can possibly say about the deep bench of loot pickups in Blackout.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout mode is hands down my favorite battle royale mode on the market. The level of polish is astounding, especially for a mode that I initially felt was going to be tacked on due to the mode’s popularity. Blackout is anything but “tacked on.” Treyarch invested some real effort in this, and I implore prospective buyers out there to at least give it a shot. Is the mode perfect? No, but what game or multiplayer mode is? Any complaints that I have would be, by and large, a bit too fastidious. At times, I wished that the audio cues or a broad map indicator would point me in the right direction of gunfire off in the distance. But even that complaint was so minor that it never truly hindered my experience.
Blackout is a worthy battle royale contender. If you’ve had the opportunity to try out the mode, or have been playing it since launch, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear about your experiences! And as always, stay tuned into Daily Esports for the latest on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided to us for this review.
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night. Somewhere in between all of that, I’m a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too. If a game is all about action, there’s a safe bet I’m playing it. I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin’ on the ol’ Atari and haven’t stopped since.