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Opinion: What Treyarch Got Right in Blackout for Call of Duty Black Ops 4

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From the Sandbox to the Vehicles, Treyarch got a lot of things right with Blackout.

When Blackout was first announced in May 2018, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. Call of Duty is not a series known for its large player counts or humongous maps – two things that are synonymous with Battle Royale games. However, with months of play time under my belt, my skepticism has been put to rest and Blackout has become my favorite in the genre.

Yes, Blackout is not perfect and there are other Battle Royale games that do things better than Blackout, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. Rather, I’m going to highlight the four things Treyarch does right in Blackout.

Sandbox

Playing a game of Quads, my three friends and I drop onto Nuketown Island. Naturally, we check the Welcome Sign and to our surprise, we’re the only ones on the island. We then check the first circle and lucky us – we’re in it.

Looting the island we stumble upon a ridiculous amount of Mesh Mines, Barricades, Sensor Darts, and Vehicles. This island is ours.

Since the circle is covering the western part of the map, we figure we’ll be here a while so lets get cozy. We set up our meshes on the two bridges connecting our island to mainland, shoot some sensors there as well (just in case), and hop on top of some buildings for some sweet vantage points. No one is getting in here.

Wait! What’s that sound? Zombies are spawning in. We keep two men on Sniper duty while my friend and I hop on ATV’s and run over every undead walker in sight. Killing them as fast as them spawn, we unlock the Mystery Box for some superfluous loot we already had. After a while, we got bored because no one showed up and left to do the same thing by Diner. It didn’t matter we gave up on Nuketown because we were still having fun.

It’s at this moment I realize what a remarkable playground Treyarch built with Blackout. We made Nuketown our own. A map we’ve spent years of our lives in is now this big open space that we were defending against dozens of other players. Blackout allows us to roleplay in ways I never thought possible in a Battle Royale game. This story isn’t an isolated case either. There are so many stories I have like this one that had me in disbelief at what Treyarch created.

The map is so much more than a collection of houses and loot. It feels like a playground where I can hop from the swing set to the jungle gym depending on my mood. It feels like a Hollywood back lot and I’m writing the story as the game goes on. It’s diverse, complex, and most of all, familiar.

While pulling on players nostalgia cords by including classic areas that most players instantly recognize may seem cheap, Treyarch transcends that notion by expanding on each legacy location. Thus making it fuller and more cohesive than it’s source material.

Vehicles

Call of Duty is not known for its vehicular combat. When you come across a vehicle in the series it’s either for a brief campaign mission, a scorestreak, or a wacky Treyarch MP map. With that said, Treyarch saw it necessary to make land, air, and sea vehicles a core pillar of Blackout and I couldn’t agree more.

There are very few Blackout matches that end without me jumping on a vehicle. Whether as a form of retreat or as an unconventional weapon, ATV’s are my favorite part of the game. Playing in a Duos with a buddy of mine, we both find our own ATV’s, attach Sensors Darts to them like some make shift Police Car, and look for trouble. Riding counter laps around houses we know have enemies inside, honking our horns to scare them puts me in the shoes of some biker gang from The Warriors.

Fun antics aside, the land vehicles in Blackout are very well balanced. I get instant road kills just as often as I get stuck by a grenade or take too much damage bouncing off a rock. While they pack a punch, they are far from indestructible. Same goes for the air and sea vehicles. Surveying the coastline in a boat or patrolling the skies in a helicopter makes me feel both powerful and vulnerable.

When I saw the original Blackout trailer, they showed Cargo Trucks battling Helicopters in these epic 4v4 skirmishes I thought would never happen in game – that it was just marketing hype. In the recent weeks with the new Hot Pursuit limited time mode, I have encountered way more exhilarating moments than what that original trailer showed. Best of all, it felt natural and easy to control.

Familiar Gunplay

Although I was skeptical how Blackout would perform technically at first, I had no doubt the gunplay would be tight. No matter how much someone wants to bag on Call of Duty, they’d be lying if they said the shooting didn’t feel tight. Server issues aside, the moment to moment gameplay in Call of Duty is some of the best in gaming.

After playing so much CoD over the years, I knew I wouldn’t need to refamiliarize myself with the systems. Left trigger to aim, right trigger to shoot, left stick to sprint, etc. While this would be a hard thing for Treyarch to get wrong, I was still surprised how good it felt.

While Equipment and the Quick Menu might throw some Blackout newcomers off, as long as they have a gun in their hand and have played any Call of Duty before, they’ll know what to do.

There are moments where I would be in a tight area like Cargo or Firing Range with half a dozen other players and it would feel like a Multiplayer match straight out of Black Ops 1. When it comes down to player versus player gunfights, Blackout oozes classic Call of Duty. No nonsense, just skill.

Character Missions

The idea of Character Missions are great. Perform feats in-game to earn character skins. While some missions are kind of ridiculous, the ones that work, work really well.

A Character Mission shines when it incorporates something unique about the character in both the item and the requirements. For example, Richtofen’s Character Mission requires you to play as a Zombies character, find a Zombies Character’s mission item, sacrifice that to earn the Blood Vials and then have a top placement in the match.

Breaking this down, Richtofen is sort of the leader in the Zombies Primis crew so it’d make sense that you need to be another Zombies character to start his mission. Then the process of sacrificing their item references the plot of Black Ops 3 Zombies where Richtofen was collecting blood from older Zombies characters. Lastly, placing highly in the match relates to his esteemed nature in the Zombies lore.

Another example is Frank Woods’ mission. The item is his bandanna which can only be found in the area of the map that references an iconic mission from Black Ops 1 in which he played a key part. Then his mission objectives are direct quotes of his that require you to fly in a helicopter and win the game while being alive, both characteristics of Frank Woods.

The system allows players to feel rewarded without getting first place, and encourages play styles that they might not have otherwise tried. I’d prefer if all Character Missions played like the two above, being placed in static locations with requirements that hold deep significance to the character themselves, but the concept is there. While Treyarch got the idea right with Character Missions, I’d still love to see them improved.

Like I mentioned at the top, Blackout isn’t perfect. From annoying ping issues that cause players to miss shots when they’re aiming at their targets, to having less frequent updates than other Battle Royales, there are still problems. However, for all the little things Treyarch got wrong, they got so much right like the moment to moment gunplay and the imaginative sandbox. Hopefully, Treyarch continues to do Blackout right and one day creates a mode that is indeed perfect.

News

5 biggest problems with the PS5 launch in UK

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The PlayStation 5 launch in the UK was anything but smooth.

The highly-anticipated Sony PlayStation 5 finally became available at retailers in the US and Japan on November 12. Lockdown kept people from visiting stores but they were able to place their orders online, or simply have the console delivered to them if they pre-ordered.

Earlier this week, Amazon EU informed customers that the console would be available for purchase in limited stock at 12pm UK/1pm CEST on November 19. Now it has finally launched in the UK and throughout Europe but not without a hitch. There are reports of many different issues being faced regarding the availability of the console and delays in delivery.

This has led to gamers throwing blame with a massive online outcry over the many different problems with the console’s European release. Let’s go over each one.

Game delivery delays

Customers placed their pre-orders for the PlayStation 5 at the UK retailer, Game. Now, those dedicated players are facing disappointment as Game has announced delays in delivery of the consoles. They have attributed this to unexpectedly large demand along with the large size of the console. Game sent out the following email to customers:

It can be seen from the message that Game is placing the blame for this delay squarely on the courier firm Yodel. The latter has denied responsibility by stating “Yodel does not work directly with Game. Our client is GFS, a fulfillment business that works in partnership with Game.”

Yodel further clarified by saying “We have been consistently clear on the order volumes we are able to carry for them and it is deeply disappointing that Yodel’s name has been incorrectly used in an email to customers on the status of orders.”

Regardless of who’s to blame, there are rising tensions and Game is now trying to ease customers by letting them know that the “vast majority” of deliveries will be completed successfully and the remaining ones will arrive by tomorrow.

Their site has gone back up for PS5 re-orders since then.

Curry’s launch misfire

Currys PC World’s website had extremely large virtual queues that grew to 150,000 long. The original plan that the company excitedly announced was to start selling at 9 a.m today. However, this became complicated as some people were able to work around this system.

It turns out a large number of early customers were able to place orders much earlier than the announced release time. These customers stated that they were able to get their consoles as early as 5.30 a.m. This has left many of the customers who went by the set schedule without a PlayStation 5.

Curry has now canceled these orders and announced that they will not have any more consoles available for purchase today. Many of the affected are being refunded right away while others have to wait.

One now deleted tweet from Currys’ customer service account stated the following:

“Unfortunately due to an error on our site we were allowing customers to check out the PS5 before they went live at 9 a.m. Due to this, we have had to cancel orders and the funds will be released back to you. Please accept my apologies.”

Many customers will have to wait for their refund before they will be able to search for another place to purchase the PS5 from.

Amazon debacle

The delivery challenges are not just limited to Game and Currys PC World. Many other retail sites are facing technical issues that are keeping people from being able to order the PS5 through them. Sites like Amazon, Tesco, and John Lewis’s have reportedly not been functioning properly.

Customers have tried logging on to the sites to get their consoles only to find that the pages were failing to load. Some of the sites have been straight-up broken throughout the day when customers tried visiting them. This is unfortunate, as many of these people had placed their pre-orders as far back as September.

Currently the PS5 is out of stock at many of these retailers and it is not yet known when it will become available again.

Twitter complaints

The biggest outcry from all these issues is obviously coming from the people that have been most closely affected by all these problems. The paying customers who had made their pre-orders months ago have taken to Twitter to express their discontent with the way this day has gone.

Some have immediately focused their frustration at Yodel for the delays. They are also upset because quite a few of them received the message “We’re sorry but your parcel has been reported to us as missing. Please contact your sender for your next steps.”

Customers aren’t happy with the idea that Yodel may have been holding on to their console for a couple of hours only for it to have been possibly stolen by someone else.

It is entirely possible that the consoles may not have been stolen and instead, this is just an error in the reports of available stock. However, at the moment we can’t say anything for sure.

Some of those who had pre-ordered from Game asked why they had paid an extra fee to have a Royal Mail delivery that has now been given to another courier firm. Other tweets complained about the delays from Amazon and others.

Some even took issue with the way Walmart handled the launch. There were reports that they had the console in their cart but were still unable to finish the purchase. Eventually, the retail store ended up canceling today’s PS5 orders due to supposed quantity limits.

Ampere gaming analyst Piers Harding-Rolls has stated:

“Clearly it is disappointing for consumers that have pre-ordered not to receive their console on launch day. The situation is exacerbated as there is no opportunity to buy on launch day at physical retail as in the past.”

“Whether you are impacted or not appears to come down to the retailer you pre-ordered with which indicates that this is a company-specific issue rather than a broader industry problem. The UK is not alone in this respect – some US retailers also had their challenges last week during the launches.”

Queued for download” bug

Those who were lucky enough to receive their PlayStation 5 in today’s chaos may end up confronting an entirely different problem. There is a bug that is preventing players from downloading digital games due to it getting permanently stuck at “queued for download.”

Many players have reported that when they download a PS5 version of a game, it will show up in the game library but not in any download queue. As a result, any attempts to download the games are proving unsuccessful once this bug has been encountered.

Sony has yet to address this strange problem and the only known way around it is to factory reset the entire console. You will lose any games you already own and then have to go through the process of downloading them again. This will be particularly frustrating when the games are heavy.

Although this is a problem that players in Europe will face today, it is not exclusive to the UK launch of the console. In fact, players have been reporting this since the PS5 first launched in North America and other regions on November 12.

In light of all this, the PlayStation 5 launch in UK and wider Europe has been very troublesome. Many players are left without consoles and wondering where to look next.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Opinion: Cold War’s new Scorestreak system needs adjusting

Black Ops Cold War’s new Scorestreak system has some teething problems, so here’s how Treyarch could address the issues.

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Black Ops Cold War introduced a new Scorestreak system but it isn’t without teething problems.

In the new Scorestreak system, Scorestreaks no longer reset on death. This means however many points you accumulate towards earning the next Scorestreak carries into the next life. To make earning high-end Scorestreaks more rewarding, points earned accumulate through killstreaks. The higher the streak, the more points you earn for each kill.

As this is a brand new system for Cold War, issues with the system have been making multiplayer lobbies a frustrating experience.

Here are the most prominent problems with the Scorestreak system, and how they could be addressed by Treyarch.

Earn Rate

Treyarch adjusted the earn rate of Scorestreaks between the beta and the full launch. Treyarch felt it was too easy to earn certain Scorestreaks and too difficult to earn others.

After these updates, most players earn their Scorestreaks at roughly the same time throughout a match.

There will be a point where the announcer calls ‘multiple enemy Spy Planes above’ as players all unlock the Spy Plane. Then there will be a portion of the game where Artillery and Cruise Missiles are spammed, and finally, in the end-game, several Attack Helicopters are called in.

Scorestreak earn rates need to be adjusted further. To keep games varied and Scorestreaks rewarding, they need to be more difficult to earn. Not being able to leave spawn due to a continuous barrage of Scorestreaks or earning an Attack Helicopter but having to wait in a queue of three to use it aren’t satisfying experiences.

There could also be a larger gap between points needed to earn Scorestreaks. For example, there are only 100 points between earning Artillery and the Cruise Missile. If you earn one, you’re likely to earn the other in the same kill. This leads to more Scorestreak spam.

Objective Score

The current Scorestreak system rewards getting kills much more than it rewards objective play. The points earned for kills drastically outweigh those for capturing flags or holding a hardpoint. Offensive or defensive kills do not increase your score enough to be worthwhile.

Low points earned for objective play is due to the score multipliers applied to killstreaks. As you rack up a high killstreak, the amount of points earned continues to increase. There is currently no such system for objective play.

To make objectives more rewarding, Treyarch could add score multipliers to objectives. The longer you hold a hardpoint for in a single life, the more score you should earn. The same goes for capturing and defending flags. Getting offensive and defensive kills should also add to score multipliers.

This way, earning Scorestreaks is a fair experience across all playstyles.

We know that Treyarch is aware of inconsistencies in the new Scorestreak system because of adjustments made between beta and launch. It’s possible that another overhaul is coming with Season 1 in December.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

How Private Matches could change Warzone

Private matches are rumoured to be coming to Warzone; here’s how they’ll change the game.

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Private matches are a long-requested feature in Call of Duty: Warzone and have been rumored since the launch of the game.

With several users having spotted the option in their menu, it’s all but confirmed that private Warzone lobbies will be arriving in the future.

Modern Warfare’s custom matches allow players to change almost every aspect of the game, creating their own game modes and rulesets. So far there is no information on the extent of customization options for Warzone private matches.

Here are the additions to Warzone private matches will bring.

A more casual experience

Private matches have existed in Call of Duty since CoD 4: Modern Warfare, and have led to some of the most memorable game modes in Call of Duty such as quick-scoping on Rust in MW2 and playing ‘Mike Myers’ lobbies. They are a casual and creative way to play with friends.

As players get better at Warzone and get moved up to higher tiers of skill-based matchmaking, the game becomes more difficult. With the massive success of The Haunting of Verdansk event which included Zombie Royale, it’s clear the Call of Duty fanbase is open to a more casual Warzone experience.

Smaller, private matches will allow players to play Warzone with whoever they like, in any way that they like.

A testing ground

YouTubers such as TheXclusiveAce, Drift0r, and DefendTheHouse spend a lot of time testing weapons and mechanics in Call of Duty. Much of this is done through private matches. With Warzone, there is nowhere that they can test Warzone specifically. Currently, they must try and load into a match of Plunder or Warzone at the same time so that they are in opposite teams.

With the community having free reign of a testing ground, it’s likely that issues can be addressed before they have the time to widely affect gameplay. On the other hand, Warzone players could also take advantage of exploits found through testing.

A competitive scene

It’s likely that Warzone’s competitive scene will evolve with the addition of private matches.

Currently, competitive Warzone mostly consists of ‘kill races.’ Popularised in Fortnite, players attempt to get more eliminations than their competitors over one or two public games of Warzone. These are extremely popular on Twitch and YouTube, with some competitors reaching 100k viewers. The tournaments take place in public matches so there is no safeguard against ‘stream snipers’ and cheaters.

The Call of Duty League matched professional players against each other in Verdansk. As part of the home series weekends, private matches consisted of around 60 CDL pros, coaches, and others playing competitive matches of Warzone. The rulesets changed as the weeks went on, such as adding placement points and points per elimination.

Streamers and professional players will have the option to host their own private tournaments which are likely to pave the way for a competitive Warzone scene. As seen by the CDL’s Warzone Weekends, gameplay in these competitive matches will be severely slowed down. With every player being a skilled professional and money on the line, players are much more careful and deliberate.

While there’s no final confirmation on when we’ll see Private Lobbies in Warzone, it’s could lead to new changes and experiences for all fans, including casual and competitive experiences.

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