It is that time of year again when Call of Duty releases its yearly installment, with this year being Treyarch’s successful Black Ops series. I have had a few days with the game and I can safely say that Black Ops 4 is the most fun I have had in a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 2.

The big talking point in the lead up to its release was how for the first time a Call of Duty game had not included a fully-fledged single player campaign, with it instead being replaced with the battle royale game mode Blackout. I love my single player games as much as the next person, however recent Call of Duty campaigns had become a chore to complete, which is a popular sentiment shared by the majority of gamers. When I found out that the campaign was to be replaced with a battle royale mode I was all for it, with the battle royale genre being a mode I have become recently addicted to.

‘So how is Blackout?’ I hear you ask. It is superb! I will even go as far to say that it is the turning point for the Call of Duty franchise and will lead to the fall of its competitor PUBG (not Forntite though, as kids love weird dancing and building fancy hotels for some reason).

One of my favorite aspects of the battle royale genre is how it promotes teamwork and communication, which has been barron in past Call of Duty titles, where every player is a lone wolf and game chat is filled with terrible ‘your mum’ jokes instead of tactical communication. As of right now, you can team up in duo’s or quad’s, where I have experienced some of my favorite moments in gaming when teaming up in Blackout. One match saw me and my team set up in a three-story barn, with a player covering every possible entry and window, and gadgets such as barbed wire and tactical mines deployed to further defend our position. It was pretty epic seeing multiple teams attempt to breach our base that we had set-up, with rockets, flash bangs and even a helicopter used to try and defeat us, however we held out and won in epic style. These team orientated moments have been extinct from Call of Duty games for as long as I can remember, however Blackout has hopefully paved the way for more team based modes in the future.

A criticism of battle royale games is the slow paced moments where action is few and far between, however in Blackout I felt like I was frequently in the action, especially if I spawned in ‘hot drop’ areas such as Firing Range and Nuketown Island. The generous vehicle spawn of helicopters, quad bikes, jeeps and boats add to fast the pace of the game, as well as the wingsuit which can be deployed at certain heights.

Blackout combines multiple classic maps from the Black Ops series such as Estate, Asylum and Nuketown to name a few, which all play just as quick and fluid as they did in multiplayer. The map in general is the perfect size in my opinion, where there is a good amount of distance between significant locations, meaning that there is always somewhere interesting to explore. One area that is quite desolate however is the bottom right corner in-between Turbine and Factory, which is predominantly just dessert with few scattered buildings. This area I can see being developed in future updates like we saw with Fortnite’s map progression, as at the moment it is the weakest part of the map.

Multiplayer has two new modes called Control and Heist, which are my two favourite modes that promotes teamwork and tactical play. Control pits a team of defenders against attackers, where the attacking team have a limited amount of time to capture both A and B, or need to drain the opposition team’s respawn points. I have noticed the best way of success on the attacking team is for your whole team to focus on one objective instead of having a few players at both objectives, which makes for some intense firefights when your whole team is battling for a point on the map. Heist is a homage to CSGO, where you start off with limited resources which is only improved through winning rounds and killing enemies. This mode is a nice spin on the classic Search and Destroy game mode where you don’t respawn after being killed, with the best tactic is to be more cautious instead of going gung-ho like in other modes. The usual Call of Duty game modes return such as Team Deathmatch and Domination, however I rarely played these due to the new modes being far superior.

Customization of your character in multiplayer is identical to that of Black Ops 3, where you can use 10 points to change your class and select between a variety of operators. I was expecting more new operators in Black Ops 4, however obviously three years of development was not enough time to add some new operators. Luckily the operators in Black Ops 3 were great anyways, however new additions would have been widely welcomed.

Three new zombie experiences are available at launch, with the Zombie map Five making a return for players who bought the Deluxe Edition of the game. It is a shame that players need to pay more for the Five map, where I hope in the future this business practice from companies are stopped in the future. The three maps that are available are in the normal version are good fun, with Voyage of Despair being the stand out where you explore the Titanic infested with the undead. Like in previous zombie experiences, you and your team must discover relics and various easter eggs around the map, however the mode feels very similar to past installments with just a new skin. I know zombie fans who are in love with Black Ops 4 zombies, however for me I much prefer playing both blackout and multiplayer, as killing waves and waves of the undead leaves little to the imagination.

Micro-transactions are not yet in the game, however Black Ops 3 incorporated loot-boxes post launch with Black Ops 4 likely to do the same with cod points being part of the Deluxe Pre-Order Edition. Previous Call of Duty microtransactions had a detrimental effect on weapon balance with players who invested real money into the game gaining a gameplay advantage, where I hope Black Ops 4 does not make this same mistake.

I have still yet to experience any crashes on the Xbox One X and am achieving what seems to be a steady 60 fps. With Call of Duty’s move from Steam to BattleNet, PC players are now enjoying the best supported Call of Duty game for years, with overall a fairly stable release.

I am torn as to whether to recommend this game for the price it is at, as the multiplayer has not innovated enough since Black Ops 3, its competitor Fortnite is a free to play game and there is no single player campaign. While I maybe cannot recommend the game to other players due to these shortcomings, I myself have enjoyed hours of entertainment on Blackout and the multiplayer aspect, which has been well worth the money I paid. If zombies is your thing, then you will certainly enjoy the 3 maps on offer, however me personally find killing waves of the undead rather tedious. Overall, the three modes on offer are really fun, where I will continue to play these experiences long after launch. If however, you enjoy single player experiences or are not a big battle royale fan, then you should probably give this Call of Duty a miss.

++ Blackout
+ 3 zombie experiences
- No innovation of multiplayer
- No campaign