I took a two year break on Call of Duty multiplayer. I enjoyed Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and didn’t see the need to play Infinity Ward’s take on that formula. As much as I enjoyed Sledgehammer Games work with Advanced Warfare, I just didn’t find the idea of revisiting World War 2 appealing. Now I’m back into the thick of it with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII.
I normally would split these Call of Duty reviews into multiplayer and campaign reviews but I don’t have to for this year’s installment. Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a campaign and while it’s a bit of a bummer, my confidence in Treyarch to deliver a fantastic campaign was shaken after their last outing.
Black Ops IIII was multiplayer centric but it still has three pillars including classic multiplayer shenanigans the series is known for. I spent most of my time with in this mode which feels good to play. It’s reminiscent of Black Ops III’s multiplayer sans wall running. The “story justification” for the regression was that this game takes place before Black Ops III. If I cared enough about the story, I could go into the Specialist missions and play through some matches with A.I bots to unlock cutscenes.
I have little to no interest in that. I also have very little interest in the Zombies mode and the brand new Blackout mode. I’ve tried Zombie modes for years now and I just don’t enjoy them. I tried Treyarch’s Blackout mode but I just don’t think I like battle royale games regardless of how it plays. I just don’t like how these modes have relatively long match times compared to the traditional multiplayer.
I keep coming back to the multiplayer trying to improve and learning to love Nuketown after all this time. (I find it okay now) The regular shuffle and mixing of featured playlists kept multiplayer relatively fresh. I personally love the Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch Mercenary playlists when I’m playing solo.
I found the spawning and maps in this game solid. The number of times that I’ve spawn into an instant death is so few and far between now. The maps seem varied and flowed very well. Scorestreaks did not dominate their overwhelming firepower unless a match was already completely lopsided. In fact, the number of close matches that I’ve experienced in the Mercenary playlists should be a mark of pride for Treyarch’s matchmaking.
The introduction of manual healing added much needed nuance to the flow of Call of Duty combat. Couple that with the slight bump in health, firefights feel like it’s more than just who shot first. Tactical retreats have never been this viable before. After I’m wounded, I can now flea heal up quickly and not need to spend time waiting for my life to eventually regenerate. Knowing that a person can be doing the same, I can rush them down and catch them mid-heal. That is if they didn’t choose to use the faster heal equipment. Making healing a tactical decision was brilliant.
Here’s an unpleasant realization that struck me immediately after my first match: Black Ops IIII was an ugly game. I found this game’s visuals stylistically and technically ugly. I felt every single asset (except for the guns) sported some very muddy textures and some of the most lame character designs to date. I think the guns are the only things that I didn’t have issue with. On top of the built-in shortcomings, users are putting together some of the most garish and gross design combinations on these character models. This is such a far cry from the relative realism of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I don’t blame Treyarch for enabling personalization (it probably leads to people spending money) but it just kills any semblance of narrative cohesion.
The audio mixing seems to require headphones to appreciate because on my surround sound system, it is very poor. Unless it’s a gunshot hitting something, I cannot distinguish what’s going on. Even more disappointing? Black Ops IIII’s menu music which is probably the weakest selection to date for Treyarch. I miss Adrenaline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLYpYoXkWw) and Ignition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NxjraldwE).
Unlock weapons, build classes, string a series of scores together to unleash annoyances, rinse, and repeat. On paper, this loop was like any other Call of Duty title but this one is thematically relevant to my interests. Treyarch created a very refined version of their Black Ops formula. They’ve given people what they want in a variety of ways and while I may not partake with the Zombies or Blackout modes, the multiplayer itself was more than enough to justify the price of admission for my brother and I. It’s good to be back.
I liked it