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Can Blackout save the Call of Duty series? Hands-On

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Early in August, we played the Black Ops 4 multiplayer beta and came away with the conclusion that Treyarch has created a solid foundation. Since the game won’t have a traditional single-player campaign it all falls on the Battle Royale mode called Blackout.

Related: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Private Beta Impressions - A Solid Foundation

The Blackout beta went live last night on the PS4 first and we’ve managed to get some game time in. After playing the Blackout beta, I can safely say one thing: It experience is a genuine and pleasant surprise. Check out the video with our first impressions from the Blackout beta.

From the first moments in Blackout trying to just figure out the inventory system and picking things up, learning the massive map as I moved along, one thing became very apparent. The mode is polished beyond belief already in its beta state.

The beta only has a squad-of-four option but the game fills you up with random players quite quickly, taking about 10 minutes right now. After a short visit to the deployment centre, you get ready to jump into the action with roughly 80 other players. Blackout has all the Battle Royale trimmings you would expect, from an area of play that gets progressively smaller as time goes by signified by a blue ring of death closing in, to inventory management and more.

Picking up items and managing your inventory is fast and responsive on the PS4 and the UI is both simplistic yet still robust enough for you to customize your character as you progress in a match. I found some really great weapons such as a powerful shotgun and even a sniper rifle. The latter I think should just get removed from the game right now as it is simply too annoying to run around for 10 minutes just get one-shotted by someone in the distance that you couldn’t even see, but enough about my failure to learn-to-play.

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Throughout the map, you will find gadgets and perks to add to your limited inventory but they aren’t permanent, as they only last for two minutes instead of the duration of the match. This means timing your perk usage is of the utmost importance if you want a chance to be the last team standing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t won a match yet but came close with a third-place finish after some intense battles both with enemies and the blue circle of death. On the topic of latency, I didn’t experience much or feel at a disadvantage during matches as the game’s netcoding, even with 80 players or more in the match, felt solid. Sure, sometimes I could see some rubber-banding especially when a vehicle was moving quite fast, but that is to be expected on international servers playing from South Africa.

Speaking of vehicles, there are several to find and take advantage of on the map, from a quad bike to a chopper and a nifty truck to load all your squad mates in. You will need these vehicles to get around and avoid that blue circle closing in on you, but the most important aspect of the vehicles for me is the protection they provided from enemy bullets. Since the map is absolutely massive, it was imperative to find a vehicle and stock up on equipment from various areas such as Nuketown Island, a hotel that is still under construction, a plantation, a broken satellite area and much more.

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A massive map, a fast and responsive inventory system is great and all, but the best part about Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode has to be how polished it is and how the COD gunplay meshes perfectly with this highly popular game mode. Black Ops 4’s realistic ballistics and gunplay shine through and I am extremely happy to report that the solid foundation found in the Black Ops 4 standard multiplayer via the Private Beta is present and polished up even more in the Blackout Beta.

Throughout several matches, I had sweaty palms as it was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. Sure, running around for five minutes without seeing anyone at the start of the game might sound a bit boring, but with 80 players trying to kill you, I assure you every moment is as intense as the last. Combine this with the fact that friendly fire is enabled in the Blackout mode, makes for exhilarating fights between squads. If there was one tip to give players heading into the Blackout beta soon, it would be to watch when your squad jumps from the chopper at the start of the match so you can follow them, especially if you don’t have a means of communication or if you are teaming up with random players.

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There are only two small negatives that I picked up during the Blackout beta. First up, you will see some texture popups every so often. Further, the minimap isn’t perfect as I struggled to really nail down exactly where I was multiple times throughout a match and on rare occasions, squadmate arrows just seemed to disappear for a couple of minutes.  

If developer Treyarch continues down this path, polishing up the mode and adding even more to it in the coming months leading up to Black Ops 4’s 12 October 2018 release date, we might just have a new Battle Royale king on our hands.

Will you be giving the Blackout beta a shot? Let us know in the comment section below.

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