Impressions: Black Ops 4’s Blackout is a beautiful place to die


Battle royale modes are a good illustration of how you don’t have to design chaos in if the framework is simple. You find 3 acres and 3,000 men and the rest just works out somehow. People make chaos. Chaos reigns.

Chaos was surprisingly hard to come by in Blackout, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s anticipated battle royale mode, which just wrapped up a public beta. Between Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s a crowded market, but Call of Duty is looking to carve a space by giving players weirder tools of destruction. ATVs, trucks, boats, choppers, remote control bomb RV cars, and wind-up monkey bombs.

I played several quad matches with chums and a handful of solos. Reaching the top 15 out of the 88 combatants wasn’t hard to do, as I rarely had to do anything at all to get there (this isn’t uncommon for battle royales).

Guns are hard to come by until you have them. You can sprint indefinitely so players often look like they’re being chased by bulls. Firefights don’t last very long before death makes its peace. Playing Call of Duty with the storm quiet found in battle royales can feel surreal. Often, with no one to shoot at, I couldn’t help but appreciate the green beauty of this new expanse.

Treyarch have touted that Blackout will be the largest map in the game’s history. And while it’s patched up with returning maps like Nuketown, it doesn’t feel like the team anticipated just how that space would ultimately fill up.

It’s something I appreciated, at least. Rolling green hills. Farms. Backwoods and fields. Blackout’s map feels like skirmishing in a model train set, the type turned into a small town attraction.

Players (or at least, my squad) preferred to leap through windows instead of using doors. Looting homes and sheds that are abandoned, but don’t seem torn up by the horrors of war.

It makes me think back to Modern Warfare 2, when the Russian war spills into the suburbs of Virginia. The eeriness of taking back the Burger King parking lot. Scarring that North America could never imagine while other countries know nothing else. The world of Blackout feels like a place either years before or years after those events. A place gorgeous until the fighting.

Treyarch’s focus on hardware pushing graphics give Blackout’s big map an attention to detail and quaintness that isn’t really there for the decidedly zanier Fortnite. With news that Blackout’s getting topped off to 100 players for the final release, it’s cute to wonder if this place will remain, this strangely calmer land.

If you missed the beta, it’s a shame. It’s a beautiful place to die.