Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know that battle royale style games are enjoying an unprecedented level of popularity. The likes of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and particularly Fortnite have gained a notoriety and a fanbase almost unheard of in the online gaming world.
Some of the big game franchises are now getting in on the act with Call of Duty leading the charge. No surprise given we’ve had Call of Duty everything else; hoodies, phone cases, pop figures, pint glasses … heck Netent even made a slot machine at one point so no shocker we’ve got Battle Royale.
Call of Duty’s entry into the battle royale field comes in the shape of the Blackout mode of their upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 release from Activision. The game comes out in mid-October but there has already been a public beta of the new battle royale mode. Let’s take a look, then, at what the beta revealed about Call of Duty: Blackout.
In order to properly accommodate battle royale gameplay, the map for Blackout is far larger than any other in the Call of Duty franchise. It features quite large areas of empty space, punctuated by built-up regions which represent locales from previous Black Ops games. Those instantly recognizable areas include the following;
- Nuketown (now an island)
- Estates (formerly also known as Raid)
One particular strength of the Blackout map is how well it utilizes the vertical. High rise buildings not only provide interesting arenas for multi-level firefights but also make it easier to find your way around and coordinate with squad-mates. The textures and general appearance of the Blackout map away from the main built-up areas, however, do leave a little to be desired.
At the outset of its beta, Blackout gave players the chance to take part in 80 player skirmishes, either as individuals, duos or squads of four. By the end of the beta period, however, the upper limit for player numbers had been increased to 100. However many players are involved, the game always begins with them being delivered to the map via helicopter and then wingsuit.
As you would expect from a Call of Duty title, Blackout delivers a smoothness and polish that you don’t see with existing battle royale games. The action is fast-paced and high-octane, with tactics also playing a key role, given that players are far more difficult to kill than is the case with traditional Call of Duty game modes.
Greater realism and improved gameplay are also evident in the fact that players can shoot whilst grappling, heal while sprinting and perform a number of other crucial actions simultaneously.
Getting around the vast Blackout map can take a little time, so the game’s vehicles can prove a real godsend. There are just four different vehicles which are drivable, each with slightly different setups and strengths:
- ATV – The ATV can hold two players, is reasonably armored and is ideal for duos.
- Armoured Boat – Limited to use on the map’s river but offers a surprisingly good range of motion.
- Pick-Up Truck – A little slower than the game’s other vehicles but more heavily armored.
- Helicopter – Probably Blackout’s coolest vehicle. Can be flown by one player and hold four others, who are able to open fire from the back.
What’s perhaps most refreshing about Blackout’s use of vehicles is that they do not provide too big an advantage to players. They are eminently useful, but drivers and passengers can still be killed reasonably easily using medium to long range weapons.
Weapons & Loot
As is a staple of the battle royale genre, players begin Blackout fairly unequipped and have to find weapons and items around the map. The loot is realistically distributed, and icons are small, so that items are not immediately noticeable or identifiable. Weapons include the expected range of assault rifles, as well as a selection of other notable ordnance:
- Special Gold-Tinted Guns – These guns, such as the Titan Operator, come ready equipped with a full set of attachments.
- Ray Gun – One of a number of nods to Call of Duty’s popular Nazi Zombies mode.
- Monkey Bomb – Another Nazi Zombie reference, the Monkey Bomb can manifest a group of zombies to attack your enemies.
- War Machine – Available via airdrop, the War Machine grenade launcher is a potentially game-winning armament.
Away from guns and weaponry, Blackout players can also pick up a range of other items and perks, including armor, medkits and other goodies. Like its vehicles, the game’s armor isn’t too overpowered and perks like Awareness (which amplifies footsteps) are actually really handy.
Issues & Concerns
All in all, the Blackout beta was very well received by players and there’s plenty of excitement for the release of Black Ops 4 in mid-October. The beta did also, however, highlight a few issues and concerns with the new Call of Duty battle royale mode.
Many of those, such as the regularity with which the game crashed, can be explained by the fact that it was simply a beta. Others, like the fact that the large map did produce relatively long spells of inactivity, have already begun to be addressed (by increasing the number of players from 80 to 100).
A couple of concerns do remain, however. Most notably these relate to the game’s longevity and how it will or will not be updated and supported moving forward. Call of Duty, after all, sees a new release every year and this could mean that Blackout will cease to be ably supported, patched and updated once the franchise’s next title comes out.