Just a heads up: in this review, we will be treating Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout as a standalone game and compare it against other games of its genre such as PUBG and Fortnite.

Having said that, is this brand new battle royale entry any good? Where does it stand compared to the two behemoths monopolizing the current market? Will it disrupt the duopoly of PUBG and Fortnite?

Weapons checked, AO is hot, wingsuits at the ready. It’s time to jump into the only Blackout review you need to read.


From a distance, I could hear the sound of a revving quad bike. Whoever was on it, they were about a few hundred meters away, north of the Train Station.

Things were looking grim. My health was low. Bullets spent from winning surviving the most recent firefight. I was at the edge of the smaller circle and my guesstimation was that this enemy is gonna dash straight through the nearby tunnel to get to the other side of the hill.

A typical response would be to lay low in the grass, hoping that they’d miss me or I can go on the offensive. No time to think. Go big or go home. 

I equipped the Mesh Mine to the entrance of the tunnel. As the rumble of the engine drew closer, I hid and waited.

He tripped it. He got blown to smithereens.

The Chicken Sh** Strat strikes again.

The Draft 

Any game that can convert a non-fan of a particular genre into a believer deserves special recognition. That was exactly what Blackout mode in Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has done for me.

Back in early 2017 when almost everyone was firmly on the battle royale hype train due to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), followed by Fortnite a few months later, I steered away from these games. This was because I wasn’t fully sold on the idea of running about on a huge map, eliminating oppositions in the sneakiest way possible.

Also, I wasn’t gonna spend actual money to play an alpha-stage game masked as an “Early Access” game on Steam. Simply put, PUBG was a mess. It was severely broken, unpolished, and a hack of a game in my book.

Out of curiosity, I eventually dabbled with Fortnite‘s Battle Royale, but a few things turned me off. The building mechanics just didn’t gel well with me and not being a huge fan of the art style did not help either.

You’d be forgiven to assume that the dancing and emotes were the deal breakers for me, but no. It was the shotgun-heavy meta in Fortnite which saw almost every game being concluded with two players bunny-hopping peppering shotgun pallets made me swear off Fortnite.

PUBG eventually went mobile and I finally plonked considerable hours into it there. Surprisingly, it was a much better experience than its PC counterpart, and I personally felt it was the best representative of PUBG and the battle royale genre as a whole. PUBG Mobile is a less buggy and more polished and barring some awkward controls due to its mobile game nature, a near-perfect battle royale experience.

Then Treyarch announced they are delving into the battle royale mode with Black Ops 4. The same skepticism I had towards PUBG on PC crept in again.

Is this the direction Activision really want to take Call of Duty to?

Bootcamp

Surprise, surprise! I enjoyed a ton of Blackout during its beta test period: read all about it here. The beta experience was smooth apart from the expected hiccups of the game crashing. Rightfully so, the release version of Blackout did not deviate much from how it was presented during beta except for minor tweaks and weapons balancing.

In Blackout, you jump off an airplane and utilizing your wingsuit, get to various points on the map where you aim to outsmart, outplay and outlive 87 other players.

Yes, eighty-seven. As opposed to a hundred players dropping in as seen on PUBG and Fortnite, developers Treyarch stuck with the magic number 88 in their own take of the battle royale genre.

This design choice shaves several minutes off your average Blackout round, and to my delight, it didn’t take long to start new rounds as well, most of which are usually filled to the brim.

My initial skepticism towards Blackout hinged a lot on how Treyarch aims to make Blackout unique. While I was confident that they’d hit a home run when it comes to gunplay and customization, I was left uncertain as of how they’d cobble everything together to deliver an engaging game which is different from the competitors.

Thankfully in Blackout, the distinguishing factors come in droves.

Suit, Strap & Nut the F**k Up. Or Not…

In Blackout, you will get to commandeer four types of vehicles – a truck, a quad bike, a helicopter and a raft to get around the map faster. These vehicles are totally destructible and players are able to get their hands on several direct and creative ways to counter those who zip around in these noisy machineries such as using an RPG or even mesh mines.

Another feature which sets Blackout apart is the equipment and perks system which grant players temporary advantages throughout. Once, I caught an opposing player on a quadbike with the mesh net and another time, cooked one schmuck who was trapped in the toilet using the Barricade.

A recent popular strategy sees players attaching the Sentry Dart to the Remote Control car and using it as an enemy locator. A variation of that strategy involves players attaching the Sensor Dart to a vehicle, usually the truck to detect nearby threats.

Perks such as Awareness improve your alertness to nearby enemies, Skulker allows you to move faster when crouched or prone while Paranoia alerts you when targeted by an enemy. You can mix and match these perks to suit your style of play and gain the edge over other players.

Looting isn’t the only method of acquiring gear as random drops occur as the round progresses. You can find some really rare and powerful gear in these drops such as Level 3 armour, sniper scopes, and my favourite, the 9-bang Grenades.

Like other battle royale games, the element of luck plays a part in determining how your round turn out to be but the drop algorithm has been relatively kind with mitigating factors which balances each drop. You may find yourself without a powerful gun, yet surrounded by tons of equipment and vehicles which will aid in your survival and vice versa.

As you can tell from the first paragraph, I counter my lack of mechanical skills with sneaky plays which I call “The Chicken Sh** Strategy“.

You can do it too! All it takes are the high sense of self-preservation, meticulous planning, the will to opt for risk-averse strategy during rounds, and the ability to use all the perks and gear available to you at its fullest.

This Is My Rifle…

As mentioned in our preview piece, the gunplay in Blackout makes it stand out from its competitors. Neither Fortnite nor PUBG comes close to the tight and solid ballistics of Blackout. Bullets drop over distance forcing players to lead their shots while folks who prefer close quarter battles would enjoy a multitude of traps and perks which allow an almost infinite approach to whichever section of the map you find yourself in.

A myriad of pistols, shotguns, SMGs, rifles and grenades make up an impressive list of arsenal available in Blackout, each with their own pros and cons. The low recoil of SMGs make them the perfect choice for close quarters gunfights while the high damage from shotguns are gamechangers when you want to take things up close and personal. In medium range, the rifles are your go-to weapons and the sniper rifles such as the Koshka and Paladin get things done if you’re taking aim at someone at a distance.

You are limited to carrying a maximum of two primary weapons with up to six attachments each. If you are lucky, you’d stumble across fully-kitted weapons in the wild which can be immediately used, or stripped off its items. Even on the PlayStation 4, equipping and removing weapon mods can be done on the fly which is super helpful especially for those who prefer to be constantly moving.

There is a limit to how much stuff you can carry but that’s part of the fun of battle royale games – strategising and coming up with that perfect setup.

Almost everything can be looted, including damaged armour pieces. But don’t dwell too long looting off downed enemies as you are totally defenceless while you are at it.

Going Down In A Blaze Of Glory

The locations on the Blackout map are as diverse as you’d expect from a game by Treyarch. From the open spaces surrounding the Turbine area to the confined and claustrophobic corners in the Construction Site, there are no sure-fire strategy or weapons combo that would ensure you win every encounter.

Ingenuity is allowed to flourish in the game which rewards mechanical skill, strategy and sneaky plays equally.

Blackout-map-full-image circle

There are several spots throughout the map which spawn zombies and reward players who clear them out with powerful weapons such as the Monkey Bomb, Zweihander, and the Ray Gun. But be warned though, these spots are also popular landing locations for players as they hunt for epic loot.

Not sure where to land the next time you start a new round? We’ve rated several popular landing spots on the map here which should improve your survivability rate.

Mission Report … December 16 1991

Dare I say, that if marketed right and wasn’t part of the full-priced Black Ops 4 package which it was bundled with, Blackout could be an instant PUBG and Fortnite killer. Sadly though, it was marketed as a fully-priced game.

While hardcore CoD players would still buy it, and play other modes – Multiplayer and Zombies equally, those who were only looking forward to the battle royale mode would be dissuaded from picking it up. I don’t blame them.

However, I feel that it’s only fair to share that I’ve clocked over 40 hours into the game at the time of writing. That number alone pretty much sums up how enjoyable Blackout has been, and at the rate I am going, breaking the 50-hour mark is definitely doable.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s Blackout is by far the most complete battle royale game in the market right now.

Pros: 

  • Tight gunplay
  • Huge and diverse map with unique locations
  • High customization options

Cons:

  • Isn’t sold as a standalone game

Score: 90/100


Call of Duty Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 via a review copy courtesy of Activision Asia Pacific.

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