Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has been out for two weeks now, and despite the incessant copycat complaints from COD haters, the game’s Blackout mode has won over fans of the battle royale genre. My previous dalliances with battle royale games have been passionate but brief, leaving me to wonder whether Blackout could capture my attention for the long haul. Long-term retention is not easy for any multiplay…look, I know you want to go play Red Dead. I want to go play Red Dead. But the game didn’t come out until today, so I haven’t even had a chance to start it yet, much less get into enough ridiculous predicaments to base a column on it. So let’s just take a 10-minute break to laugh at how bad I am at Blackout, and then we can all get back to indulging in our cowboy fantasies, okay?
As the title implies, I took copious notes of my first 10 Blackout matches so that I could chart my performance as I progressed – or regressed, as the case may be. I also planned to use the Theater Mode for additional post-game analysis and screen captures. Theater Mode is easily Black Ops 4’s most impressive feature, allowing you to rewatch matches from any angle. Unfortunately, it’s also the game’s most broken feature, so it turned out not to be a ton of help. Anyway, onto the analysis!
Aside from playing a few of the Specialist tutorials, I flew into my first round of Blackout pretty much blind, and randomly decided to bail out of the starting helicopter over a deserted building that other players seemed to be avoiding. Turns out that building ended up being a haunted asylum, cementing my long-held presumption that I would not last long in any kind of real-life horror scenario. I landed on the roof and broke in through one of the windows, then grabbed some guns and hunkered in a room to wait for the map to shrink. 10 riveting minutes later, I finally had to move, so I went downstairs, only to run into – zombies?! That’s even worse than human opponents!
I eventually ran out through the graveyard and hid in a bush just inside the circle, then watched the horizon in abject terror. I heard more zombies and gunshots in the distance, but no one else showed up. Note to future self: Avoid the asylum.
I continued to run ahead of the shrinking circle for a bit until I reached a dam. I tried to swim to a tower jutting out from one of the docks, but as I climbed up the ladder I got shot in the back and died. Checking the match in Theater mode (when it still worked) revealed the problem:
Yep, I probably should’ve looked behind me at some point as I was hanging out on the dock. Lesson learned. But 16 out of 88 isn’t bad, right? Not to mention that the guy who killed me went on to place third, so basically that’s like being the fourth best. Also, while spectating from his perspective, I saw the guy who shot him way before he did, so I probably wouldn’t’ve died there. Basically, I think I was the best player in that match, but there’s no need to split hairs.
For my second match I waited a super long time before ejecting out of the helicopters and dropped in next to a barn that for some reason was loaded with weapons – I don’t know what the hell kind of livestock they were dealing with. Thankfully, the one thing the barn didn’t have was other people – or zombies – so I stayed there for a good long while before heading out. Once I was forced to move, I headed towards a small town and camped in a building for what seemed like forever. I didn’t realize until I scrubbed through the Theater footage that another guy was camping out in the next room the entire time!
He shot me a bit when I finally left and ran down the street, but I didn’t die. I eventually snagged an ATV and drove it further down the road, then ditched it by a river and sat underneath the bridge – my second game and I’ve already resorted to literal troll behavior. Anyway, from there I swam to a small island nearby then turned to watch the encroaching circle. I guy came running out, but was too far to shoot at, and I didn’t want to clue him in on my presence. He dropped below my line of sight as he ran toward the river, so I patiently waited for him to pop back up, confident in my positioning between a rock and a bush; the only way to approach me would be from straight ahead.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he did, scaring the crap out of me when he sprung up, shooting me in the ensuing chaos. He seemed surprised himself, though, so at least I gave him an equal fright. I placed 18, once again gaining absolutely no points whatsoever.
Theater mode wouldn’t load this match, but trust me when I say you’re not missing much. I waited until just about the last possible moment to jump out of the helicopter, and landed by a small building that had two guns. I then spent the rest of the match hoofing it towards the playing field with the blue circle nipping at my heels. Eventually I burst into a house and shot a guy that I clearly got the drop on 100-ish times with my machine gun. Instead of dying, however, he one-shotted me with a sniper rifle at pointblank range. I kept spectating the match, and turns out the guy who killed me was apparently Neo, because he continued to blast and grapple-hook his way around the environment to a second-place finish.
For my fourth match I picked yet another small cluster of buildings in an out-of-the-way area on the map. However, it turned out to be supremely popular, for reasons I would probably understand if I had played more than three rounds already. In any event, I managed to land on yet another roof, right in front of some other idiot. I’m talking RIGHT in front of him.
If this was Pilotwings, my precision would be awarded with a gold medal! Instead I earned a half-dozen punches to the back of my head, then fell through a hole in the roof. Then he beat me to death once and for all. In addition to placing 84 and earning a whopping 0 Cod points (or whatever XP is called), I was also awarded with this prompt when I hit the main screen again:
Even the game is wondering why the hell I’m doing this to myself! But I was determined to continue – battle royale games are popular for a reason, and I’m going to figure that reason out, dammit!
I decided to get into the action faster this round by immediately dropping into the shipyard. The result?
Aaaand I’m never doing that again. The only other thing I had written in my notes about this match was “F— you, Churchill.” I’m assuming it was related to the death quote, but unfortunately it wasn’t visible yet in my screen grab. I’m sure it was something insulting, like “Anyone foolish enough to drop into the shipyard deserves a spirited kick to the hindquarters.” Friggin’ Churchill.
With half my matches behind me, I decided to go back to what was working before – basically dropping out in an isolated area like a coward. I landed by a gas station, grabbed some guns, and jumped into a massive army truck. I drove down the road to another row of buildings, but as soon as I got out, someone started taking potshots at me. I ran into the first building and up to the roof, but no one was there. I sprawled out on the roof for a few minutes until boredom set in, then slowly crawled back to the staircase. Halfway down I glanced out the massive window, and was instantly mowed down from behind.
Yep, that’ll do it. By this point the death quote generator seemed to realize I was a lost cause, and basically told me to try blending into the background next time – the ol’ Milford Man technique.
I was one of the last dozen out of the helicopters this round, and dropped in on another small group of buildings. After scoring some guns and armor, I decided to start the long trek towards the inner circle. On my way to leave, I noticed that the door to the nearby building was open. I heard some footsteps, and did what any veteran battle royale player would do in that situation – I hightailed it upstairs and crouched in a bathroom. After staring at the door for a minute I grew paranoid about the window behind me, which overlooked the other building. So I turned around for a quick peek. You can probably guess what happened next.
Just like the last time! And almost the same score to boot! Seriously, Jeff, stop worrying about the damn windows!
Aha! All my previous experience has finally started paying off. I kicked things off like all of my other (relatively) successful matches: Drop into the middle of nowhere, grab whatever boomstick I can find, and then avoid human beings at all cost. I found a small bedroom in a house inside the circle and took the Milford Man advice to heart, posing as a small lamp in the corner. I even left a gun out on the floor in front of the door, so if someone did come in they’d be distracted – as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There’s no shame in shooting someone full of holes while they’re stuck in a menu.”
I continued squatting on the desk for what seemed like forever, as two more circle constrictions broke in my favor. The death counter was down to 16 when the blue circle finally made me move – just one more spot away from actually earning points for once! I made a break for the next area, when out of nowhere I guy ran out in front me, without looking behind him – “a classic rookie mistake,” I thought, also not looking behind me as I pursued him. I waited until I got closer and then started shooting. He turned, but fell to the string of automatic fire. Huzzah! An actual kill – and I made it to the top 15 to boot! I made my way to the circle, which restricted the playing field to a group of rocks with absolutely no cover. A moment later, I got sniped out of nowhere by some jerk named Kyle who went on to place third. But even a Kyle couldn’t tarnish my elation – I got points, dangit!
By Jove, I invented a whole new way to be cheap this match! Once again I dropped out next to the gas station in the boonies and looted the main building. After gearing up, I approached the side door to check out the other building, but as soon as I opened it, it closed again – but not before I momentarily glimpsed that the door to the next building was also open. I stepped back as I realized what was happening and trained my sights on the door. A second later it popped open again and an unsuspecting soldier burst in. I started firing – wouldn’t you know it, she died too! The guns are working! They’re actually working!
I’d include a picture of the action, but again, the stupid Theater mode is broken.
After looting my victim I hopped up on one of the shelves in the corner, dividing my attention between the two doors. Another circle constriction broke in my favor, but put the gas station right on the outskirts. I heard a copter fly by outside. Another guy ran in through the door – I opened fire and hit him a few times, but he managed to charge straight through the other exit. I gave chase and we shot each other outside the other building, but he went down first. Double kill! That pretty much makes me a pro, right?
Seriously, Treyarch, fix this crap!
I looted some bandages from my fallen foe and healed up back inside the gas station. Before I could even crawl back up onto my shelf, a third person came running in but clearly wasn’t as intimately familiar with the darkened interior as I was. I shot him down in one of the aisles and rejoiced when I saw that his corpse was loaded with goodies. Three kills and a backpack full of bandages! At this point the circle shifted again, leaving me in the danger zone. I exited the gas station and spotted the ultimate getaway vehicle – the first guy had indeed been flying a helicopter, and landed it on the roof. I climbed up on the nearby dumpster and took to the sky.
Not one to fight dishonorably, I flew into the circle and exited the helicopter in order to fight my remaining opponents face to face. PSYCH! Seriously, what on earth would give you the impression that I would fight honorably? Have you not read any of the other entries?! In reality, I used my new whirlybird to fly rings around the outskirts of the circle, as high up as it would let me go. As the sole passenger, I couldn’t actually use any of the on-board weaponry, but I could stay as far from the action as possible. Turns out the technique was pretty effective…
…until it wasn’t. Some guy shot me out of the sky with a single rocket, showering the battlefield in the twisted remains of my beautiful chopper – and hopefully the dozen bandages I was hoarding. Well played, rocket man!
Good lord, I still can’t believe I did this well. Knowing my luck, I figured my tenth and final match for this column would probably end with a dead-last finish that involved impaling myself on a flagpole or wingsuiting straight into a shark’s mouth or something. Instead it started with a totally unearned dollop of serendipity – the secluded location I dropped into ended up being a camp that was home to – wait for it – another helicopter! It was like the Blackout gods wanted me to cheat! After managing to loot one weapon I got in the chopper and took to the skies again. I hovered on the outskirt of the map for a good 10 minutes as both the circle and the population whittled themselves down. Cheap? Yep! Regret it? Nope!
Each new stage seemed to home in further on the Asylum, the focal point of my very first match as well. Fate sure is fickle, handing out choppers and haunted zombie asylums in equal measure. I eventually landed outside of the graveyard and then hightailed to a shack just inside the circle. Thankfully, the next zone shifted up onto a hill away from the brain munchers. I crawled up as slowly as I could, my pulse increasing every time the population dropped. I was in the final 8, then 7, and somehow no one was coming from my direction. I crawled my way to the top of the hill, moving from one bush to the next. There were two buildings, both of which sounded occupied. Finally, the blue circle pushed me out of my hiding spot – I saw flashes of movement behind a tree and around the smaller shack, so I booked it to the other building as gunfire erupted. I burst in through the door and saw the barrel of a crouching player sticking out of a nearby room – what a shameless camper!
I ambushed the squatter in what ended up being a bathroom (figures), taking a few hits in the process but downing my foe. I closed the door (like a pro camper does!) and sat down and healed, then looked at the player count – there were only two of us left. Before I could even devise a plan of attack – or grab a better weapon (turns out floating around in a helicopter the entire match isn’t great from an inventory perspective) – the blue circle phased through the wall and forced me to move. What ensued next was a complete blur, but luckily I don’t have to describe it – I’ve got the video.
And that my friends, is all she wrote. If only my opponent had been one step to his right, then his left, then his right, then his left again, I would’ve won! But I’m happy that I at least had him in sight and had an honest chance at taking him down. I can honestly say the better man won. Unless he cheated – yeah, he probably totally cheated! In which case he should definitely be disqualified – I basically won that match, right?
Ultimately, my 10 matches did a surprisingly good job of showcasing the full spectrum of what battle royale modes offer, from frustrating early flops, to heart-pounding late-round finishes, to endless stretches of squatting in a bathroom. Blackout made me see why some people love battle royale games, and why others hate them. And while I’m still somewhere in the vast middle, I’m excited to play more.
After a hundred or so hours of Red Dead, that is.