Call of Duty: Black Ops 4Some people look forward to Christmas each year, while for others the big day is when the latest Call of Duty drops. This year’s model brings copious amounts of pressies for multiplayer fans, while the lone wolves who live for the traditional single-player campaign basically get a lump of coal.

Yes, for the first time we have a Call of Duty without a story mode, but if you can get past that then there’s a lot packed into Black Ops 4.

It’s all about three online modes – ‘Multiplayer’, ‘Blackout’ and, of course, ‘Zombies’ (there’d likely be rioting if what started as a joke years ago was omitted).

‘Multiplayer’ is the traditional meat and spuds Call of Duty, and that which many will find the most tactically solid. The ‘Specialists’ make their return – each of them toting their own special abilities. There are 10 of them this time around – six making their return from BlOps III and four newbies – and 14 maps to hit with them. The usual modes are back, plus an added ‘Heist’ mode where it’s all about the money, and the upgrades it can buy. A few tweaks have been applied to the traditional formula, most notably manual health regeneration and an emphasis on weapon customisation.

The very tweakable ‘Zombies’ brings three undead-bursting campaigns out of the box, and offers great variety. A new cast in Scarlett, Stanton, Diego and Bruno are introduced, with IX seeing you plopped in an ancient Roman arena filled with ancient Roman zombies, while Voyage of the Dead has you aboard the RMS Titanic on iceberg day – surely that’s enough to deal with, without also facing hordes of rampaging undead? Rounding out the package is Blood of the Dead, which takes us back to Alcatraz and the ongoing Aether storyline. That’s a whole lot of zombie bang for buck right there.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

With the absence of single-player, something had to be added, and that something comes in the form of ‘Blackout’, which is the Call of Duty take on flavour-of-the-month battle royale. The setup is familiar – be the last one standing of 100 players who are plopped on a huge – really huge – island that gradually becomes less embiggened as the body count mounts. The focus here is on action, with scarcely a down moment as you deal with supply drops, mystery boxes and, of course, trying to not be made dead. Blackout takes all the best stuff from existing battle royale formula and wisely doesn’t mess with it too much. But it’s as slick as they come, and could be set to give the likes of PUBG and Fortnite some hefty competition.

Rounding things out is a very small nod to those who want something in the way of offline solo play, the ‘Specialist HQ’. Here you can check out most everything save for the shoe sizes of your specialists, and play with them in mini-campaigns to earn stars and learn their strengths and weaknesses. It’s basically a kind of ‘practice before you breach’ thing, so you can hit the multiplayer and have some sort of fighting chance.

In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Activision have managed to break with long-held tradition while bolstering the strengths of the franchise, which really have always revolved around multiplayer. If you can live without a go-it-alone story mission then you’re going to find a lot here to love.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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