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.
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.
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.
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.
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.