By Sweep 11 Comments
I used to love Call Of Duty. When I was a kid it was the first real PC shooter that ever hooked me - I never played Halo, and before my parents bought a decent PC my FPS games had all been on the N64. So Goldeneye, basically. I never grew up close enough to anyone I knew to get involved in any LAN parties so Call Of Duty, when it was released in 2003, was the first time I had ever played a real shooter with more than 3 other players, and it was the first time I had ever been actively involved in an online community. I was hooked - the setting felt incredibly real, the characters were fully voiced and would talk to one another throughout each mission - and the multiplayer especially was groundbreaking for a kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere and didn't have any friends living within walking/biking distance. I invested hundreds of hours with that game, and when I spoke to my friends at school I couldn't understand why they weren't playing it as well.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 has understandably evolved since then. The weapons have been upgraded, the gadgets have been introduced, and the general speed has become punishingly fast - not as fast or ridiculous as Black Ops 3, which has invisible ninjas wall-running with samurai swords - but fast enough that it makes me feel old. This speed, combined with an emphasis on smaller teams and maps, means the game feels a lot more frantic. There's less of the trench-warfare-esque back-n-forth from the original game, which would pit two sides against one another in a way which would allow the push and pull of a frontline to dictate the battle - this game is more focused on individual plays rather than an overwhelming team push, and that's enabled by the way the game channels people into the action: in Black Ops 4 people spawn everywhere, constantly, from every angle, and you'll frequently have people rushing at you from every side. The emphasis is often on tighter streets or corridors instead of rolling vistas, rewarding short-range weapons with faster fire-rates - balanced to make players even more agile and difficult to hit. The result is the multiplayer in Black Ops 4 is a ongoing panic-attack, where you're constantly barraged with lighting fast enemies from every side and are frequently killed by an enemy from a place which was definitely empty just a moment ago. On top of this, once a team takes the lead they are rewarded with increasingly powerful killstreaks, snowballing them further into the lead and preventing the losing side from spawning for more than a few seconds before being endlessly blown up by rockets and helicopters and airstrikes - the small map size meaning there's very few places to hide.
I'm about to hit my first prestige in the multiplayer - I've played predominantly objective-based game modes like Hardpoint, Control, and Search and Destroy, using a variety of different gun types - and (despite the impressions I may have given in the previous paragraph) I'm actually enjoying it quite a lot. After months of endlessly playing PUBG (a game where each life is fragile, and caution is always advised) a game like Black Ops 4 (which rewards repeatedly and enthusiastically throwing yourself into the fray) has been very refreshing. My aim has improved, and not having to deal with the endless bugs and desync of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has also been very satisfying. The main issue I have with Black Ops 4 is that it feels fucking mindless.
Black Ops 4 multiplayer feels like a very reaction-based game - where you're relying on twitch reflexes rather than planning and forethought. Maybe FPS games have always been like that, but in Black Ops 4 it's especially pronounced; This game seems to reward independent play (while some specialist abilities may benefit the team, they seldom compliment one another without high levels of communication, which there is seldom time for) rather than the team-based pressure of something like Overwatch. Imagine if every player in Overwatch always picked Hanzo; that's Black Ops 4. It's about being the fastest and the most accurate - players can immediately heal to full health inbetween all but the most drawn-out of firefights, so it essentially comes down to your ability to kill stuff as efficiently as possible - the physical toll on the player is that it's all happening so fast you're barely engaging with it. It feels good to win, and it's satisfying to murder your opponent before they can murder you, but the game rarely feels that binary; The quirky overpowered abilities and killstreaks, combined with the randomness of the enemy spawns and limited lines of sight, often means you're placed in an unwinnable situation and reaction times/skill/knowledge all become redundant.
Essentially the multiplayer in Black Ops 4 feels very one-note. It's polished, and it's fun, but I can play for 3 hours and not be able to call back a single significant thing that happened - it just feels like a blur of running and frantically clicking at anything that moves. It's been refreshing to check in with the FPS multiplayer genre, but I think I'm at the point where I need something more from my shooting games.
Blackout however, is a whole different ballgame. I'll have some thoughts on that coming soon, once I've spent a bit more time with it.
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