Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a much-needed return to form and removes a lot of unnecessary mechanics like wall running to create the best Call of Duty in years.

It’s that time of year, Call of Duty time. Some love to hate and some love to shoot, but no matter what side you are on its fair to say Call of Duty still has a foothold in the shooter market. Enter Black Ops IIII.(really guys!?) A return to form for many and the return of the most popular COD sub-franchise.

But even Black Ops isn’t invincible to franchise fatigue. Black Ops 3 wasn’t exactly the strongest of the Black Ops games. With a confusing campaign that ended with more questions than answers combined with a lackluster Titanfall style wall running mechanic, gamers were left with a game that didn’t live up to the Black Ops name.

Let’s get this out of the way. Black Ops 4 is not an evolution. If anything it is a return to form that was desperately needed after 2 sub-par game sin Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3. While WWII wasn’t a bad game for many, it didn’t help the franchise move forward and shake off the bad karma. Many gamers including myself bounced of WWII and forgot it even existed.

Black OPs 4 takes the formula that made COD the king of shooters once and refines it with balancing and countless hours of playtesting. Creating an experience that is tight and fluid that feels faster than previous iterations but still has that Call of Duty fluidity that was desperately missing from previous years.

Black Ops 4 doesn’t take a lot of risks, but the gameplay and progression gamers love is here in full force.

You could make the argument that Black Ops 4 doesn’t take enough risks. It’s simply a great Black Ops title with a battle royal mode inserted to make up for a lack of a campaign. And, honestly, that’s a fair argument. But the thing about Treyach and their games is simple. When they nail a Call of Duty, they stick the landing better than any other developer at Activision.

Multiplayer follows the progression path you are used to. You unlock weapons at certain levels and the more you use a weapon, the more you can improve it. That carrot on the stick hasn’t changed drastically and if you haven’t been a fan of that style of progression, Black Ops 4 isn’t going to change your mind.

Progression can be a tricky thing. You have to give players a reason to change weapons even though they are growing fond of their current loadout. This can be achieved in really only a few ways, but the most important by far is balancing. Black Ops 4’s biggest strength is in its weapon and balancing design. They are not a ton of weapons in Multi-Player, but each weapon feels drastically different in personality and use. No two weapons feel alike even within their own subclass. When you add in the attachments to the mix you create an addicting every changing trial and error of weapon play.

This is crucial and has been a huge problem in the past. Call of Duty: Ghosts I’m looking at you. The weapon balance will never be perfect, but Black Ops 4 is by the best feeling game since the original Black Ops. Combined with some classic maps and some fairly well built new maps, you have that gunplay experience that made Black Ops the go-to game in the series.

Balck Ops 4 operators

The one thing taken from later Cal of Duty titles is the operators. Instead of everyone being the same with a grenade and weapon at their disposal, Black Ops 4 follows some of the more recent hero shooters giving payers abilities that are unique to each class. Something like Battery will make players feel right at home with a sticky grenade and a grenade launcher as her Ultimate ability, but others like A-Jax will give new and old players a lot of new tricks to perfect. While some of the abilities without a doubt cause annoyances due to their sudden change in how you play the game, they also keep things fresh moving from operator to operator.

Simply put, Black Ops 4 feel fun and fluid. That feeling you get sliding around corners and popping 2-3 enemies before they even know what hit then is still satisfying as hell. Tweaking weapons to get them just right was addicting and surprisingly has a lot more depth than players might think. All of the core mechanics feel playtested to death with the goal being making a fun shooter than the series is known for. And it definitely succeeds in the regard.

Why spawning issues are still an issue in Black Ops 4 is quite puzzling.

That being said there are still some issues at hand that I am puzzled still exist. The one that sticks out most is spawning points. For whatever reason Call of Duty has struggled with this in almost every title. I have no idea why but that age-old frustration of being killed while spawning is in Black Ops 4. In some ways, it feels every more pronounced than before due to the way the engine handles spawns.

When playing and you find yourself getting spawn killed over and over the engine seems to have a fail-safe. Eventually after being killed over and over a player will suddenly be spawned across the map in an effort to relieve this. By this time its far too late. The time it takes for the engine to realize this is far too long. Why this is still an issue this many games in I will never know.

Luckily this is really the only major complaint I have with the multiplayer aspects of Black Ops 4. That polish the series has been known for is in full force here. With support for XBox one X and PS4 Pro, you have one of the best looking games in the series, but the regular PS4 and Xbox One aren’t getting a sub-par experience in any real way.

Blackout isn’t drastically different in design from the competition, but the fluidity and polish are what sets it apart.

Blackout is the new hot mode in Black Ops 4. The battle Royal genre clearly has taken off with games like Fortnite and Player Unknowns Battlegrounds. Some could say this is here instead of a campaign, and while the battle royal genre isn’t for me I’m discovering, this is easily the one I would recommend the most. The design isn’t much different than what you would expect. You have a plane full of people who all jump out with no weapons or armor and the last person standing wins.

Blackout screen shot

Blackout does not hold back in its similarities to PUBG. In fact, personally, I could say it looks almost too much like PUBG for my liking. The thing Treyarch has going for them is that on consoles, Blackout is not a buggy game that still hasn’t quite found its legs. Without going too much into a PUBG rant, it doesn’t take much effort to see it is still not in the best state. Frame rates are still an issue, the controls still don’t feel quite right for a controller and even on Xbox One X the game is quite ugly.

Blackout fixes 2 of those 3 issues. The frame rate is most of the time very good. Frame rate drops definitely happen but not nearly to the degree that it’s going to get you killed. That fluidity you expect from Call of Duty is here which makes running around the Blackout map a lot more fun. Combine that with controls that don’t feel like a developer is simply trying to map a keyboard toa controller and you have an experience that is simply better than the direct competition.

Blackout does have one sub-par aspect, the visuals. Blackout is really ugly. There is no way around it. Call of Duty maps are not made in this scale. And while its awesome Treyarch was able to make this engine adapt in such a massive different way, the visuals have suffered because of it. Everything is simply plain and boring looking. In what I suspect is an effort to push framerate over visuals, which is the right choice, in my opinion, the visual pop that a lot of the traditional maps have is replaced wide-open open flat looking map. This really doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way but switching from regular multiplayer or zombies to Blackout can display a drastically different game.

Zombies doesn’t have a ton of changes, and while it can still be daunting to many new players, there are more Zombies than ever for fans of the mode.

Speaking of zombies, Treyarch has gone ever deeper with zombies. Again, likely due to the lack of a campaign. Zombies is not drastically changed. Which is both a good and a bad thing. The issue I have always had with this mode is the lack of any real tutorial. There are so many menus and features that are completely overwhelming to new players. Explaining just how to do things in Zombies this time around is crazy difficult. There are so many aspects that feel impossible to communicate to new players.

This can result in a weird disconnect with new and old players. That not fun way of playing zombies where one guy just runs away from the group to perform some hidden ritual to unlock secrets within secrets is 100 percent here. Why this hasn’t been addressed I am not quite sure, but Zombies is best played with friends that are on a similar skill level and haven’t hopped online to uncover every secret without figuring it out on their own.

But to players who love the mystery and some bizarre and strange aspects of the mode will feel right at home. Again like multiplayer, Zombies plays it pretty safe this time around. The strength is that there are more zombies than ever and the players that spend most of their time in zombies will have more game than ever before on day 1.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is the best Call of Duty this generation. With the focus on tight gameplay and balancing in the multiplayer, you have a return to form that made the original so great. Does the overall package eclipse the original? Probably not, but it comes closer than I thought possible. The lack of a campaign is a sore spot for us fans that loved the original’s sci-fi twists and turns, but the longevity has obviously always been in the multiplayer and that is where Black Ops 4 might just be on par with the original. If it’s its Zombies, Blackout or whatever mode you fell in love with before, there is a very good chance you will get addicted to Call of Duty once again.