Call of Duty’s Blackout Mode Is Fun, Meaty, and Looks like It Wants to Dominate

It goes without saying, Battle Royale has been dominating the charts since Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds started smashing records in 2017. Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout has set its sights on that there pie, and it sure does look like it’s going to eat it. The beta has now passed, so here’s what I thought.

It honestly wasn’t too much of a surprise when Treyarch and Activision announced that their upcoming Call of Duty Black Ops 4 would feature a Battle Royale mode. Developers have been eager to add their own twists to the game mode since PUBG and Fortnite gained so much popularity. Because of that, adding Battle Royale modes has become a running meme across the community. Blackout was one title that was talked about with much anticipation, but the beta experience has left many a divided opinion.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout

Right off the bat, I don’t think that Treyarch even tried to make Blackout’s world too different from the current dominating Battle Royale titles. This is probably to allow players to feel familiar rather than making them learn a whole new way of playing yet another game with this game mode. This seems the case when the map feels like small sections from PUBG’s Miramar and Erangel maps have been stitched together, with dry desert terrain, juicy grassy fields, and even colourful dockyards.

Another way of keeping the world familiar seems to come with various buildings from the previous Call of Duty titles being thrown into the world. I’m certain I saw some buildings from Black Ops 3, and even some sections from older titles cropping up. I’m not a huge fan of the Call of Duty series so some of the additions may have been unknown to me, but it was nice to notice small details like that.

There’s also the weird auto-locking when delivering punches with your wide arms with angry fists. And when you receive a blow the camera flicks about.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout

Madness while awaiting for deployment.

The gameplay is particularly well done, allowing players to continue feeling the fast-paced rush you get from the titles. The pace does get slower when travelling from point-to-point but that’s the be expected. The land and sea vehicles are bloody messy though, with sharp turns and bouncy physics sending you several feet high just from hitting a barrier. And while jumping out of the helicopters at the start feels similar to Fortnite, the wingsuits transition to the parachute and then to the ground feels much quicker and exciting.

Gunplay feels just as punchy and loud as you’d expect, and locating weapons is fairly easy thanks to the amount of loot scattered about. My favourite thing about the weapons is the attachments that can be picked up and automatically added to the weapon. This allows you to move away from navigating through the HUD and assigning attachments yourself, allowing you to be ready for action quicker. Obviously, you’re still able to manually sort your weapons out if you’ve got the time to take cover for a while.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout

Yes, there are zombies implemented into the mode…awesome, awesome stuff.

Blackout feels like what Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds should have been, but it doesn’t blow it out of the water.

There were some things I didn’t think worked all too well, mainly the melee weapons. Throwing combat axes only feels good if you actually hit someone, otherwise, you’re stuck waiting to switch back to your weapon automatically. There’s also the weird auto-locking when delivering punches with your wide arms with angry fists. And when you receive a blow the camera flicks about.

Another great feature is the way health is managed, allowing you to heal on the move instead of hiding around while doing so. On top of that there are perks that can be picked up like normal loot, but add passive perks to your soldier. More than one can be picked up and they allow perks such as better stamina, quicker healing and reviving, and more.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout

There’s even the best vehicle in the game available, the helicopter. While it needs to have some type of fuel system to stop players from nicking it all match, it’s the best vehicle to drive in terms of handling. It’s also a bit pointless on solo but a great weapon with a squad that can aim fairly well.

Blackout feels a lot more controlled and optimised than I originally thought it would feel. The inventory feels well organised and easy to navigate in the heat of the moment, and the HUD isn’t entirely distracting but could be more subtle. As for the audio, everything sounds meaty and heavy and full of whack. The supply drop plane sounds odd though, sometimes being mistaken for an oncoming vehicle. At least it did for me.

Surprisingly, there’s even a section of the map where an abandoned building and graveyard sits. And yes, there are bloody zombies there. It’s not a particularly nice place to visit due to wasting precious ammo, but some of the weapons are pretty darn sweet. There’s also the oddly fun experience of causing total chaos in the waiting area with various other players.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout

So, so close.

Blackout feels a lot more controlled and optimised than I originally thought it would feel.

Blackout feels like what Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds should have been, but it doesn’t blow it out of the water. PUBG seems to handle the weapons a bit more realistically, with what appears to be a more in-depth bullet falloff rate and reloading speeds. Call of Duty has a more fast-paced presence to it. Almost arcadey if you will. Not only that but it’s almost impossible to play Blackout without thinking about, and even comparing it to PUBG, especially because of the familiarity.

All in all, Blackout was a fantastic beta weekend and I’m sure it’ll do incredibly well when the game launches, however, I don’t see it taking on the current giants, PUBG and Fortnite. I do however think it’ll do amazingly well with the Call of Duty players, and with the improved multiplayer, maybe even claw back some past players who may have left the series.


Early Access to the PC Beta was granted to complete this piece.

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A writer, coffee addict, father, and a gaming journalist.