Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 First Impressions

Posted on October 15, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 12 Comments

I only had about 24 hours to tool around in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 before I had to head back to the road. But I like what I’ve seen so far.

Granted, it didn’t get off to a good start. For some reason, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4requires a 49.31 GB (!) day one update, at least on Xbox One. So I had to endure that process despite the fact that I had preordered, and pre-installed, the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is an odd game on a number of levels.

First, it is the first COD game to not include a single player campaign. This is disconcerting to some, but as I’ve noted in the past, it was the right decision: Few people actually play through the campaign. And, more important, it does little to contribute to a game’s long-term value to customers. Even those who do complete it—and I haven’t done so since Ghosts, I believe—rarely repeat the experience.

Second, Activision replaced the campaign with a new “battle royale” game mode called Blackout. Modeled after similar titles like Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG), Blackout is being hailed by some game reviewers as the best-yet rendition of this game style, and it will play a key role in BO4’s longevity. I only played Blackout briefly during the beta, but I’ll jump in again when I stop traveling.

Third, BO4 sits in a weird place in the COD lineup. After trying and failing to jumpstart a new trilogy of games post-Modern Warfare and Black Ops (both of which spawned three titles initially), Activision experienced several tough years (at least within the context of COD). Last year’s World War II title (WWII) was a blast from the past, so to speak. But BO4 is even weirder because its predecessor, Black Ops III, was the sole successful COD game to feature jetpacks and wall running.

So for BO3, Activision—really, game maker Treyarch—had to thread a carefully-crafted middle ground between the classic “boots on the ground” gameplay from most other COD titles (including WWII) and the frenetic, fast-paced style of BO3.

And this effort is incredibly successful. BO4 is fast-moving—very fast moving—and while it doesn’t offer jetpacks or wall-running, it substitutes with a nice ability to scale obstacles nearly automatically, which is something I’ve always felt that the super soldiers of COD should be able to handle.

Graphically, BO4 pushes COD into a richly-colored, HDR-style that is unlike any other COD title. I love it, though I was a bit confused by the bright, colorful palette at first. And it’s possible that the graphics were chosen specifically to be faster than before, and to accommodate the Battle Royale-style gameplay of Blackout.

The other thing I really like about BO4 is the nicely-rendered updated versions of classic Black Ops maps like Firing Range, Slums, and Jungle, each of which triggered a cry of joy: They’re just beautifully done. And Nuketown, of the best-ever COD maps, is coming in November.

Firing Range is back!

The other maps are mostly very good, though some are far too big for the Hardline Deathmatch game-type I prefer. You’d think by now, and with 43+ GB of day one updates to play with, that Activision could figure out a simple way to scale maps to match the needs of different game types and/or player totals. But no.

Overall, I’m impressed. I can’t wait to get back so I can explore further.


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