Black Ops 4 marks the first Treyarch developed COD game since 2015 and the extra time taken for its development certainly shows. While not perfect, this year’s Call of Duty has taken on a lot of praise from skeptics and loyalists alike. There’s a reason why sales in the series have been going downhill whenever Treyarch isn’t involved, and with BO4 they’ve proven once again that they’re not to be underestimated. At the top of the priority list for BO4 is quality, performance, precision, and a brand-new take on battle royale.
There’s a lot of reason as to why players may be hesitant to embrace a Call of Duty game with no offline campaign mode, including previous problems in the series like Treyarch de-ranking players in Black Ops 2 for having high-speed internet, rather than admitting their own game engine problems. While those kinks have been ironed out this time around, there’s still a few issues to be had. Despite a well-intended Black Ops Pass and reduced Black Market grind, the micro-transactions in Black Ops 4 don’t manage to feel appropriate.
With all of that being said, the game still accomplishes a lot for the series and has won back many gamers leading to over $500 million USD in sales within the first 24 hours alone. For the 30% (on average) of folks who earn trophies in the single player campaign modes of COD, you’ll have to dedicate to online multiplayer this time around. However, for the other 70% of the franchise audience, you’ve been given more bang for the buck with 3 full online games packed into one – and hosting many different modes and variations.
In terms of the controls and feel of the gameplay, Black Ops 4 is perhaps one of the best, if not the best Call of Duty game. The fine tuned twitch shooting players know and love is back – with a smoothness to it that hasn’t been seen before in the franchise. The feeling of fairness in the game is at an all-time high with server tick rates originally debuting at 60Hz but then reduced to 20Hz until some issues were ironed out.
The server tick rates have been brought up to 64Hz by the time of this posting, twice the amount of Battlefield V’s gameplay – making Black Ops 4 a much more accurate game. That means if your connection is good, no more “shoot first, die first” syndrome! The net code of this game is on point. Hit detection is so precise, you really need to aim for the head if you want to survive a head-on fire fight.
Gore is back as well, limbs will get blown off. One thing that seems strange is that often times the announcer seems delayed in multiplayer matches by seconds which count a lot. How many CODs does it take before this is fixed? An enemy isn’t taking C anymore by the time I am warned about it, causing me to waste my time running there when my team has already handled it and I was needed elsewhere!
There are much less lag issues than past games, but it’s still possible that someone is hosting and has a terrible connection. This is a plague caused by peer to peer servers which I wish could be fixed. Microsoft was providing dedicated servers for a short time on Advanced Warfare for Xbox One but there were so many people gaming it was only for certain matches and later shut down altogether. I wish it was financially feasible for COD to use dedicated servers for ALL matches. I would even be willing to pay extra for it. But for now at least, Treyarch has finally perfected the player hosted experience on current-gen hardware.
The biggest change to Black Ops 4 is its new health system. When you’ve been playing Call of Duty for over 10 years you probably get used to certain things. In BO4 your health does not regenerate, and we feel this was the right move for this game. It takes some getting used to, but players have healing injections that they can run around a corner and use. The way you approach a gun fight can often be much more cautious and calculating due to this factor. The healing injection has a cool down time which can be reduced if players sacrifice some of their custom class set up to make it so.
Multiplayer maps included in the base game of BO4 are all solid. That being said, 4 out of the 14 maps are remastered maps from various installments in the Black Ops franchise. Slums, Firing Range, Jungle, and Summit are the remade maps with the 10 new maps being Arsenal, Contraband, Frequency, Gridlock, Hacienda, Icebreaker, Militia, Morocco, Payload, and Seaside. Custom Games also make their return with various maps, modes, and adjustments to the rules available for private matches containing bots or players from your online friends list.
Game modes currently include Control, Heist, Free For All, Kill Confirmed, Search and Destroy, Domination, Hardpoint, Team Deathmatch, Hardcore Free For All, Hardcore Team Deathmatch, Hardcore Kill Confirmed, Hardcore Domination, Hardcore Search and Destroy, Hardcore Control, Mercenary playlists, and more modes are slowly being added to the game including Gun Game. Depending on the mode, matches can be 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, or 6v6. Gound War will be added at some point allowing for 9v9 Team Deathmatches and objective matches
Somehow it feels like the returning maps come up too often, even though they are really good. None of the new maps in the game are terrible. Standing out the most is probably Contraband, an uncharted island off the coast of Colombia with beach combat, swimming, and stone buildings with a great design for choke-points. Every map has its sweet spots. Mastering each requires patience.
Perks this time around include the following:
Perk 1 Slot:
- Flak Jacket
- Tactical Mask
Perk 2 Slot:
- Cold Blooded
Perk 3 Slot:
- Team Link
- Dead Silence
Wildcards can be used to shift up the structure of a custom class including expanding how the various combinations of Perks fit together, adding a higher amount of attachments per weapon, using two primary weapons in one class, unlocking an “Operator Mod” which allows for big advantages on each weapon, and more. This is all balanced by a count system allowing only 10 objects to be in play at any given time within the custom class.
Specialists have their own special equipment but players can swap specialist equipment out for an extra item such as trophy system, combat axe, frag grenade, molotov cocktail, or concussion grenade. One downside of the game is that it feels like there aren’t enough guns (especially Shotguns and Sidearms). However, each gun does feel unique and well balanced versus past games with a lot of repetitive motion throughout their weapons lineups. It’s also a dangerous notion that weapons could be sold at a later date, which would surely take away from the game’s well-balanced feel.
Throughout the multiplayer campaign of Black Ops 4 players are able to unlock emblems, calling cards, paint jobs for their guns (also known as gun skins), and create their own customized emblems, gun graphics, and more. Cosmetic upgrades like covering guns in gold or exotic camouflage are gained through the completion of interesting challenges, gun-specific achievements, and also by leveling up or completing prestige levels for your account and individual guns.
Thankfully there’s still equipment to unlock, custom classes to build, various scopes (including magnification, biometric detection, and thermal imaging), extended magazines, grips, barrels, stocks, and silencers. There’s also full metal jacket bullets, bullet proof vests, and a variety of perks. Scorestreaks are unlockable as well and include RC-XD, dart, UAV, care package, counter UAV, hellstorm missile, lightning strike, sentry, drone squad, mantis, sniper’s nest, attack chopper, thresher, strike team, and gunship.
Bio: Kerk Rossouw
Born: April 12, 2017
Nationality: South African
Designation: Area Clearance
Ajax is a Johannesburg native who survived the vast farms and jungles of the African content turning to lifeless deserts, leaving only the strong to survive in urban battlegrounds ruled by gang life. He became a mercenary who gave up on morals and fights for dollars.
Special Ability: Ballistic Shield
The ballistic shield serves a powerful purpose, especially during crowd control moments. This heavily armored shield covers the entire body and allows for a gun to be placed through a secure opening in the shield. This is nearly unbeatable unless you get behind the player using it, but thankfully all special abilities are temporary.
This is a combination stun and flash grenade blinding and temporarily paralyzing enemies. Depending on how long you cook the 9-Bang for it could go off 3, 6, or 9 times.
Bio: Erin Baker
Born: February 18, 2020
Coming from a family of military veterans extending over the last 100 years, and a competitive childhood among 4 older brothers, Battery is an explosives expert who loses her arm in a deadly battle she barely makes it out of – but still roars with rage during.
Special Ability: War Machine
Temporary use of a grenade launcher which is weaker than it was in the last game, but also more accurate. This provides a better balance but more difficulty for the user.
Equipment: Cluster Grenade
Standard issue sticky grenades that burst out of the initial landing zone. These are great for clearing out a room of campers in objective modes especially.
Bio: Jerrah ‘Bazz’ Bazley
Born: May 21, 2003
Designation: Team Support
A veterinarian turned gambler, Crash fell in with a crowd of narcotics traffickers who used his debt against him forcing Crash medical servitude removing bullets from gangsters and cartel members. He eventually ran away from his captors and joined the Australian Defense Force quickly rising to the rank of Medical Sergeant in the Special Air Service Regiment.
Special Ability: TAK-5
This is a military-grade iPad of sorts which provides a heal to 4 teammates and gives them a small bonus of extra health points. This is a somewhat innovative item for the game and does add an interesting support function for some players.
Equipment: Assault Pack
Crash can drop duffel bags full of special ammunition that do extra damage and provide points for himself and whoever uses these bullets. They’re a great way for the support class to continue helping out the team.
Bio: Krystof Hejek
Born: April 17, 2019
Designation: Area Denial
Coming from a dark part, Firebreak cleanses evil with the thing he knows best – fire. He came from an abusive single father which he torched to death to protect his sister. It is said that he has no fear, no conscience, and no weakness.
Special Ability: Purifier
The only flamethrower in the game, used temporarily, with extremely good range and instant kills, is known as the Purifier. It’s probably one of the best abilities in the entire game and a lot of fun to use.
Equipment: Reactor Core
Also one of the best parts of the game, the Reactor Core is an area damage weapon that kills through walls via radiation and is extremely useful in clearing out camping opponents during objective modes.
Bio: Tavo Rojas
Born: July 17, 2015
Designation: Ambush Tactics
Ex-Member of the Elite Colombian Rapid Deployment Force and man of honor, Nomad left his squad when he realized they had been sent on a mission against one of their own men. He later found out that the people he used to fight for in battle have all been killed. He’s the last of his group, an expert in Jungle warfare, and the owner of a canine who would have shared the same fate – until it met Nomad.
Special Ability: K9-Unit
I love the K9-Unit. It isn’t too overpowered because you can kill an enemy dog with a clip or two, and the AI isn’t always superb. However, switching between patrol mode and follow mode can provide interesting results as your dog attempts to hunt down and insta-kill any enemies it comes across.
Equipment: Mesh Mine
Unless you’re in Blackout mode, Mesh Mines are basically only going to be used two at a time. They are very good for trapping doors, catching enemies by surprise in unlikely areas, but their true potential is usually not reached multiplayer which involves networking 3 or 4 of them together to create a big laser grid of death.
Bio: David Wilkes
Born: February 2, 2009
Designation: Remote Disruption
Cybernetic implants, a love for technology, and an expert mind combine to create a top member of the British Engineering Corps who has created one of a kind weaponry and equipment capable of stopping enemies in their tracks.
Special Ability: Tempest
The temporarily unlocked electronic rifle drops players to their belly and disables them while also jumping from body to body for an area effect. Once incapacitated by this weapon, players can be instantly killed by a second shot from it.
Equipment: Seeker Shock Mine
Two wheels, some improvised electronics, and high-spectrum taser technology combine to hunt down and paralyze enemies in place while Prophet tries to come around the corner and take advantage of their vulnerability.
Bio: Katsumi Kimura
Born: March 27, 2021
Designation: Intel Operations
The man known as Recon was given the morality test of a lifetime when a VIP was seemingly under attack but a child’s life stood in the way of success or failure. When he spared the child’s life, he was told that he passed the test. Somehow orders are not always the focus.
Special Ability: Vision Pulse
The map gets periodic pulses through it which allow the whole team to see enemies highlighted in red, even through walls. Some enemies may be invisible to this detection however, due to certain perks.
Equipment: Sensor Dart
This weapon can be shot into walls, ceilings, on top of roofs, or any other inconspicuous areas available in order to allow the team to spy on it through the mini-map getting constant real-time updates of enemy activity in that zone.
Bio: Donnie Walsh
Born: June 5, 2022
Designation: Frontal Assault
When faced with the order to divert or go on an improvised rescue mission to save Battery, Ruin decides not to leave any man nor woman behind. With a New York accent and a tough background, Sgt Frank Woods warns Ruin to do his best to control himself as he reminds him of his former self.
Special Ability: Gravity Slam
Ruin can instant kill a group of enemies easily by using a strange device that transfers kinetic energy across the ground.
Equipment: Grapple Gun
Attempt to quickly escape any area of danger or surprise enemies and set up a good moment for a gravity slam using this Batman-inspired grappling hook launcher.
Bio: He Zhen-Zhen
Born: December 1, 2027
Designation: Tactical Command
Part of an elite training program which ends in success or death, Seraph mastered many forms of combat in order to murder her way to the top of the Asian power structure. When she was presented with the prestige of becoming Enforcer she cuts her own arm off in order to don a cybernetic limb capable of using the world’s most deadly revolver.
Special Ability: Annihilator
One shot kills with a special, one of a kind revolver that only Seraph can use with her cybernetic arm puts a quick stop to any enemy you can properly aim at.
This is a special point that can be placed down almost anywhere and allows team-mates as well as Seraph to re-spawn on its position.
Bio: Kieran MacKay
Born: January 1, 2013
Designation: Path Blocking
Corporal with engineering excellence and a few rough edges, Torque has a problem with bullies. After two rookies developed hypothermia, he dosed his superior with heavy laxatives and landed in lock up, until a strange new opportunity presented itself…
Special Ability: Barricade
Microwave radiation kills nearby enemies who attempt to pass through your easily deployable shield which is useful to hide behind and strong-arm any door as a fortress.
Equipment: Razor Wire
It takes a while to destroy, and can be placed in strange, unexpected places easily. Razor Wire is one of the most commonly seen tools on the battlefield of Black Ops 4.
Specialist HQ is essentially an extended tutorial of sorts rather than a solo campaign. Even though this is a pretty cool feature to have in a game and it almost makes up for the lack of a solo campaign, Specialist HQ is not without its flaws. AI companions are unreliable in certain game modes, and overpowered in others. It seems like you can just sit and watch a Search and Destroy mission play out, with Domination being largely luck-based and handled by AI as well. This is a problem even on Regular and Veteran difficulty modes – not just the tutorial / Recruit mode.
However, Team Deathmatch missions are unfair and unpredictable. My team barely won a match by just a few points in a session where I earned and used two attack helicopters as well as four hellstorms and UAVs, all while maintaining an 8.0 Kill : Death Ratio. There’s nothing I could have done more or better to win that match, I was just subject to a pass or fail based on how badly the AI would perform alongside me.
One of the most interesting things about Blackout is that it mixes in some elements of the Black Ops series like Zombies being in the maps, as well as recognizable landmarks from past games being combined into the map itself. 100 players drop into the 16 square kilometer map and parachute down to locations of their choosing. A circle of survivable terrain is shown on the mini-map and becomes smaller as the match continues. All who find themselves outside of the circle take damage until they get back in or die, with more damage dealt each time the circle shrinks.
This is easily one of the most quality experiences available in the battle royale genre when compared to other photo-realism style games of its nature. There is a solid frame rate and that’s also saying a lot for a genre that struggled to come to life on the top PC Gaming hardware of the last 5 years. Some of our staff found the armor in Blackout mode to be a bit overpowered, but it didn’t bother me personally. Matches can divide up into solo, duo, or quads based on how many team mates you had into battle with.
The map currently available for Blackout is big but not so big to make players feel lost, even when solo. Treyarch have clearly learned a lot from other battle royale games and picked the best of each. The shooting is fast, precise, and solid. New maps are coming to Blackout in the future and characters are unlockable as well as available through Black Ops Pass and the Black Market and even updates to each map changing the landscape and shuffling where certain resources can be found to keep the fight to the death fresh.
Blackout has its own system for Perks and Items. Here’s the perks:
- Paranoia – audio hint when being targeted by another player
- Skulker – quicker movement while crouching or prone
- Stimulant – higher maximum health points (+100)
- Outlander – less damage taken and run faster from “the circle”
- Looter – nearby items and item caches are highlighted
- Iron Lungs – hold your breath longer when sniping or swimming
- Consumer – use items faster, heal faster, revive teammates faster
- Dead Silence – movement makes no noise
- Engineer – equipment is detected automatically
- Reinforced – less explosive and concussion damage from grenades
- Brawler – melee damage is increased and 50 health points are gained for every successful hit
- Bandolier – carry two extra rockets
In addition to these perks there are tons of weapon attachments, health and armor items, vehicles, and more to be found rummaging around throughout the map’s various marked and unmarked areas.
IX is a new scenario in which a group transports to an ancient coliseum using a trance-inducing drug in a spiritual ritual only to find themselves in a horrific fight to the death against zombies, beasts, and champions. Easter egg steps have been streamlined a bit, for example to get Pack-A-Punch players kill arena champions and take their skull, put it on spikes, and get the perk which is necessary to complete the rest of the Easter egg.
Voyage of Despair is a re-envisioning of the events that took place on the Titanic. Treyarch even asks, “Was it an iceberg or the zombies?” introducing their new scenario taking place in 1912 during with RMS Titanic as its setting. The map design is very interesting here, and the whole map has a different sort of feel when zombies are sometimes walking slower through grand staircases giving a horror feel to the entire experience.
Other returning scenarios include Blood of the Dead, and “Five” remastered for Black Ops Pass owners with the new name “Classified”. Another twist added to the Zombies mode is the ability for special Elixirs (resembling Gumballs from past games) to be taken in-game resulting in power-ups including teleporting, incendiary damage to zombies who melee you, self-revival, and more. Custom potions can also be crafted with the collection of Nebulium Plasma obtained through playing the game.
Rush Mode is also a new addition to the Zombies mode of Black Ops 4 and gives an easier way to kill your way through each scenario in order to go for high points scores while enjoying a more arcade-style experience. Weapons are all free, doors unlock on their own, Easter eggs are unimportant, calculations of what to do with points and when to progress to each round are less dramatic, and the overall game mode is less of a puzzle.
Even though Black Ops 4 features the most Zombies maps at launch for a COD game, I do miss the Extinction game mode in COD: Ghosts which featured an alien invasion and more linear co-op experience. Zombies is great this time around, but the fact that it debuts every year and is largely based around Easter eggs does feel a little alienating to me (no pun intended) since I really liked the aliens mode and it sadly seems like we’ll never see that mode again.
GRAPHICS / PERFORMANCE
The graphics in Black Ops 4 are acceptable. Base PS4 units will achieve a full 1080P resolution but with some moments scaling down to 960 x 1080 whereas the PS4 Pro can provide a Full 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) using temporal reconstruction of frames that were originally rendered at 1920 x 2160. Surprisingly, BO4 seems to be pushing PS4 Pro to its upper limits. The PS4’s operating system and dashboard software have stuttering problems and glitches while BO4 is running that I’ve never seen before. The system runs way hotter, and yet BO4 itself seems to benefit from the extra resources it’s taking from the system.
That being said, everything is clear to see with a good presentation, but nothing here is significantly impressive. In some ways it’s better than Black Ops 3 but in other ways it’s not. The lighting feels worse, character models aren’t quite as good, and the overall art direction is lacking even when compared with last year’s WWII which is a worse game in terms of gameplay. That being said, there’s a solid frame rate the series is known for allowing for high precision gun fights, and the new areas seen are fun to look at in Multiplayer and Zombies modes.
MUSIC / VOICE ACTING / SOUND EFFECTS
The music in this game is somewhat forgettable. The menu music is literally the same as Black Ops 3’s. In fact, most of the game seems to feature music that is eerily familiar and could even be throwbacks remixed from old COD titles. This could be on purpose in some sort of nostalgia-inducing efforts.
Sound effects are high quality when it comes to gun sounds. The boom really helps raise the hairs on your neck and enhances my senses allowing me to aim better and react faster to events in the game. Voice acting is interesting to say the least, with each character feeling unique in their own way. There’s moments in Zombies in which all characters talk at the same time and needs to be patched because it’s very annoying. Master Sergeant Woods makes a return and voice actor James C. Burns delivers a solid performance in the role.
UPDATES & SUPPORT
There’s a lot of free content updates planned, Treyarch has been patching bugs fast, and there’s a steady trickle DLC plan for Black Ops Pass owners with a good amount of content for a decent value spread nicely throughout the next year (content already confirmed up to January 2019 can be found in our Black Ops Pass article).
BLACK MARKET / SPECIAL ORDERS
A month after the game released we found out about the new Black Market. It isn’t as bad as the one seen in recent COD releases, since it’s comprised of cosmetic items only. Holiday events, more content roll-outs, and a spaced out DLC plan are meant to keep the game interesting over time, however, the grind for Black Market unlocks when it first released was insane. That grind was reduced, but still stands to be a tall order for gamers who have a life or more than one game to play in their spare time.
The scary truth about Black Ops 4’s monetization scheme is that we don’t know the full extent of it. Activision Blizzard could slowly ruin everything that’s good about the game over time, or they could add to the game in great ways. It all depends on whether or not the publisher decides they are content with selling maps in the Black Ops Pass, cosmetics in the Black Market and Blackjack Shop, or if they’re willing to start selling weapons and pay-to-win elements after Christmas thereby destroying the greatness Treyarch has built. It might not happen, but it’s a real concern we have.
COD POINTS / CASH SHOP
Call of Duty points are another addition that was held back from initial release and implemented later for players. It currently is used to skip sections of the Black Market, unlocking more than one tier at a time and extra cosmetic goods by achieving Special Orders. In the near future there is going to be more direct ways to buy cosmetic micro-content added to the game as well. This isn’t a huge problem in itself, but does make Black Ops 4 feel a little empty in terms of what there is for people to unlock that isn’t useless, expensive, or a mind-boggling grind! Good thing for the staggered content drop of free and paid DLC, otherwise this would probably get dry quickly.
Blackjack’s Shop is also coming soon and will be a rotating cosmetic storefront with limited time to buy each item being offered. Perhaps the most offending part of this whole microtransaction scheme is that the specialist outfits don’t fundamentally change the look of an outfit but instead simply provide a paint skin over it. This is very lazy and Treyarch probably could’ve generated way more interest and income with completely different looks such as swimsuits, sports uniforms, etc. rather than simply war paint and colored variations of the same exact outfits.
Call of Duty games always have some of the best entertainment hour value per dollar in the entire industry. Whether you prefer Zombies mode, Blackout battle royale, or competitive Multiplayer – this game has potentially thousands of hours waiting for you. The trophies are mainly based on Zombies mode but do have something from each segment of the game to reward you with. And the roll-out of free additional content means you’ll have a new reason to log in each month. Local split-screen gaming with friends is also possible in Zombies and Multiplayer mode, although it has screen-tearing even on 1080P mode. Players can also sign into their online accounts and play together in matches throughout Blackout, Zombies, or Multiplayer.
While not perfect, Black Ops 4 does so many things right it’s hard to dislike it. The way the guns feel is solid. Online matches are running better than ever with a higher bullet precision than the upcoming BFV. However, where Black Ops 4 loses points is its focus on so much of the content being insignificant, minor cosmetic skins achievable only by a skyscraper of grind.
The unclear nature of future monetization paired with a distinct lack of guns almost overshadows the fact that the Multiplayer and Zombies modes are the best the series has ever seen. Blackout mode is also easy to crown as the most polished battle royale game on the market in terms of fun factor, technical accomplishment, and balance. Through all of its ups and downs, Treyarch has managed to turn the COD series around and back towards a higher standard of quality. Call of Duty Black Ops 4 gets a 7 out of 10 making it one of RGN’s Bronze Games of 2018.
RGN Rating: 7 / 10 (Bronze)
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Available On: PS4, Xbox, PC
Played On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RGN for free by the publisher of this game for the purpose of its review. Additional physical and digital copies were also purchased by RealGamerNewZ for multiplayer review purposes.