How Call of Duty’s “Blackout” Battle-Royale mode may convince me to buy in

The lobby screen from Call of Duty: Black Ops IV “Blackout” Beta

I haven’t played a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 3. That was close to seven years ago, and I’ve not regretted it.

In the years that followed, and some time before also, I saw the franchise adopt a yearly release schedule when release seemingly showed very little change in gameplay, or improvement to first-person shooter genre. It was becoming very stale and tiresome to fork out close to $90.00 AUD or more for not much more than a re-skin.

At the time I had turned to Battlefield 3, which was a delight to play.

Time between releases? Check. Engaging gameplay? Check. Dedicated servers? Check, check, check. It was a beautiful thing, and I felt that Battlefield 3 would last a while – until Battlefield 4 was announced shortly after. Here we go again, I murmured to myself – another great game and content plagued by the incessant need to create a never ending cashflow out of a major franchise.

Since then, only a handful of first-person shooters have been installed to my computer or console, and dare I say it, most of them have been of the Battle Royale variety. The Culling, Fortnite, Realm Royale, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and now Call of Duty‘s Blackout mode.

Most of PUBG games are spent hiding behind cover, assessing the battlefield and looking for movement.

At first when I previewed The Culling for Sticky Trigger, I thought it to be a slightly hollow but good concept for a new game genre (because this was before I had learned that Arma 2 had a Battle Royale mod). Into the fray comes PUBG, where I first discovered it from some of my favourite streamers like The Gingerbread Lady playing it. This became one of my favourite games really quickly, and became wildly popular in gaming.

Then, as the trend continued, other games and notable franchises started their own adaptations of Battle Royale modes, and it started to feel like the Zombie mode schtick between 2008-2014. Everyone was doing it, and suddenly the magic died.

Arguably, the biggest success of them all is Fortnite (at least as far as generated revenue and concurrent users go), which is a free-to-play (supported by micro-transactions) Battle Royale mode tacked on to the Fortnite base game.

Then in May, 2018, it was announced that Call of Duty is getting a Battle Royale mode with the release of Black Ops IV.

Fuck me dead; not another fucking Battle Royale mode.

Me, when Blackout was announced.

With everything I’ve explained in this post, it’s easy to see why at this point I would be sick of Battle Royale. As I wrote earlier in the post, Call of Duty’s annual release schedule pisses me off, and almost every game since PUBG’s popularity hit its peak has opted to capitalize on the Battle Royale craze. Seeing both Call of Duty and Battle Royale in the same sentence was almost like a trigger word for a sleeper agent.

At this point I had begun to tune out or ignore anything Battle Royale related, let alone Call of Duty related. As time passed, the idea of a Call of Duty Battle Royale just stuck and I was neither here nor there about it.

Now fast forward to Friday night just gone (September 14).

You can fly a helicopter in Blackout mode.

One of my streamer friends SoxyGamer gave me one of his spare Closed Beta keys for the Call of Duty Blackout (Battle Royale) mode during my usual Friday night stream. I downloaded it the next day and couldn’t find a game. “Great beta guys”, I said whilst simultaneously rolling my eyes. But I tried again later.

And you know what? When I finally was able to play it, I was surprised. It was the good kind of surprise, because I expected to go in to find that it would be another FPS franchise trying to cash in with a half-arsed Battle Royale mode tacked on. But instead, I enjoyed it. I really, really enjoyed it.

Pew pew, motherfucker.

The Call of Duty “Blackout” beta on the surface looks like a standard shooter, but the gun-play is smooth, fast-paced (as you would expect from Call of Duty), and polished enough to tick all three boxes for graphics, gameplay, and enjoyment.

Each game played seemed paced well enough that it wasn’t an absurdly long match like PUBG is, only for it to end abruptly by any manner of death.

Activision’s adoption of Blizzard Entertainment’s Battle.net services works well, as it integrates a solid networking and matchmaking service already employed by games like Destiny 2, Heroes of the Storm, and more. Another trend that’s picked up a bit in recent years is game publishers moving away from established digital distribution services like Steam to simply create their own, and met with the eye rolling of gamers being required to install yet another games client to play. It almost makes a console seem bearable.

I don’t know, but Call of Duty’s implementation of a Battle Royale mode seems to just work for the franchise. It’s almost like it’s a natural fit from what I’ve played over the weekend, and as the title of the post suggests – I’m seriously considering buying into it, with all my reservations based on what you’ve read above taken into account.

It could be a winner. It could also only last six months before players get bored and move on to something else. It could also flop. I guess we’ll find out come October 12th when Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 releases on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Did you play the beta? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.