Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 – Blackout First Impressions

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Call of Duty’s latest beta is out, and with it comes COD’s very own Battle Royale game mode called Blackout. Like many other Battle Royale games on the market, the objective is to be the last one alive, whether it be in solos, duos, or quads. Although the objective is nothing new, everything else about the new Battle Royale is completely done in Call of Duty’s over-the-top, chaotic fashion. From the beginning to end, we’ll talk about what to expect from Blackout, tips everyone should know, and then discuss the pros and cons of it all.

Where We Droppin’?

Players begin by dropping out of helicopters, and using base jumping suits to fly wherever they want on the map. Players can actually make it to anywhere on the map by using the physics of skydiving to their advantage. Local Black Ops 4 expert and Mixer streamer, NewbyCake, explained to me that the proper way to drop in this game is to immediately nose dive until you reach COD’s terminal velocity, and then plain out horizontally to reach your destination in the fastest way possible. This drop strategy is similar to how players drop in Fortnite, but thankfully there are more indicators to inform players when they have reached max speed, and when their parachute will automatically deploy.

On the right hand side of the screen, players will see altitude bar (similar to that of PUBG) that will show how far they are off the ground. When diving, you’ll notice arrows being added to your character icon on that bar, and once you have 3 arrows, you’ve reached terminal velocity and will not drop any faster. So the strategy is to drop immediately, reach terminal velocity, plain out and go to your destination, then drop right on top of where you want. I literally mean drop right on top of it, because unlike PUBG, there isn’t an exaggerated landing animation. You simply go from being a human flying squirrel to mercenary badass in a blink of an eye once you hit the ground.

Below is a picture of the Blackout map, and it’s utterly massive for a Call of Duty game. Although it’s huge, traveling the map is made easy by having access to various vehicles, including a helicopter with a chain gun attached to it, so your teammates can decimate any and all poor survivors that happen to find themselves in your way. The key point I’d like to make though is that every location seems to be fully stocked with loot, so don’t be afraid of going out of the way and exploring the map a bit. I love hot dropping Firing Range as much as anyone, but the map includes a few unnamed locations that are worth exploring for, such as the graveyard just southeast of Asylum. Now that you know the map and how to get their first, it’s time to drop out of your perfectly safe chopper, land where ever you fancy, and get to work.

On the Ground. Now What?

Once on the ground, you’re back to the basics of finding loot and surviving. The difference in Blackout though, is that along with meds, guns, grenades, ammo, and armor laying around all over the place, you can also find perks and operator tools. Perks can be consumed and will offer buffs for a limited time, while the operator tools can be used a number of times before they are destroyed. For instance, you can use the grapple hook 5 times without a cool down, but once it’s used, it will simply disappear from your inventory. Finding the right load out can be tricky in the early game as you are offered a plethora of options, but finding armor will always be in your best interest, and honestly you can win any gun fight with any weapon, given the right situation and tools. However, excluding level 3 armor and all the meds in the world, my dream load out was the following:

  • Saug 9mm SMG
  • Paladin .50 cal Sniper
  • Sensor Dart/Grapple Gun

In my experience, this combination of weapons and tools provides the perfect combination of close/long range domination, mobility, and awareness. A normal AR like the Rampant, or even an LMG like the Titan are great alternatives, but I would drop either for a Saug or Paladin if given the opportunity. Perks are key as well, but I think the right combination of perks depends on your play style.  I recommend experimenting to find what you like, and use your perks whenever necessary. There were too many times where I saved my perks for the end only die right before getting the chance to use them.

I Think I’m Ready.

No you aren’t, because we still haven’t talked about the presence of Zombies in Blackout, how to get the Ray Gun, and what damage is like when you’re outside the zone. Truth be told, I barely played around with the zombie side of things, but here’s what I do know. Zombies are present, but can only be found at certain locations on the map, and the only spawn where the blue beam of light in the sky is located. This blue light periodically moves around as well, so keep an eye out. Zombies can drop the Ray Gun (which is badass by the way), but it only comes with 20 rounds, so to keep getting ammo for it, you need to keep killing zombies. This limited ammo is the reason why you may not want a Ray Gun in the late game, but if you can make it that far with full ammo, you’re in good shape.  In every other Battle Royale game that matters, you normally take increased damage from the circle as the zone gets tighter. But Blackout isn’t like every other Battle Royale. In this game, the circle damage never increases, so it’s easy to deal with, doesn’t eat up all your meds, and gives you a chance to take an honest fight outside the zone.

Now You’re Ready.

So you know how Blackout works, and that’s half the battle. The other half of the battle is navigating that forsaken “Quick” Access menu they’ve added, which is meant to give you a quick menu to switch out meds, perks, grenades and tools.  Unfortunately it mostly ends up with you being unable to revive your teammate or unable to reload and die. This menu is BY FAR my biggest complaint as it isn’t worth the potential button that it uses. The way the process works, is you press up on the D-pad, which pulls up the menu, then you navigate the menu with your left and right d-pad buttons, then hold square to swap/consume your item. Sounds good in theory, but it does not work as intended. Too often you forget to close that menu, which means you can’t do anything that is tied to the square button (like revive and reload… no big deal). It also takes a frustratingly long time to navigate from one side to other, as you have to button mash your way from the item you are on to the item you want. Overall, the menu needs a change, and I think I have the solution.

WHAT IF you pull up that quick access menu as intended, but goal was to get in and out as quickly as possible. You still are limited the use of buttons, but what if you could navigate and swap items faseter? WHAT IF we took the 3 groups of items (meds, perks, and grenades/tools) and tied them to 3 different buttons that dictate both selection and swapping. For instance what if meds were the square button, perks were triangle, and grenades were circle. To swap meds, tap square to select meds, then hold square to swap it. Wanna use a perk? Just tap triangle until you get to it, then hold triangle to use it. Then wanna swap to a frag? Probably just need to hold circle and you’re done. Less button mashing the d-pad, and each has their own purpose from the menu.

There’s also the idea that they could just do what PUBG does and allow the up d-pad button to be dedicated to swapping meds, and you can switch everything else from the normal menu. Not a bad idea, but if they go that route of copying PUBG, then I would like to suggest that they also copy PUBG’s ability to change firing type, and let me shoot my Rampant in single fire mode across the map like it does in my dreams.

Let’s End This

Blackout is a game mode I was hesitant to like, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a BR that I think hits all of the right notes for what we expect in a Call of Duty game. I look forward to playing this beta on PC when it comes out later this week, and streaming it on Mixer where chat can teach me again how to base jump off a building but “accidentally” tell me the wrong binds so I instead belly flop to my death. CHEERS

Partnered streamer on Mixer (mixer.com/HoosierBoy), Premiere Streamer of the Indianapolis Microsoft Store, stream team member for Flash Point Gaming and TheShed on Mixer, and contributor to Mulehorn Gaming.

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