You know the battle royale concept is a force to be reckoned with when a long-standing series like Call of Duty decides to join the fray. Black Ops 4 introduces Blackout, the series' rendition of last-person-standing deathmatch, and we've spent plenty of time with the new mode. So, if you're not caught up on the battle royale craze or want to know how Black Ops 4 distinguishes itself from the top dogs of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, we have you covered.
Before getting into the details, you should note that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a full-priced $60 game that comes with a new version of the lauded Zombies mode and traditional multiplayer modes in addition to Blackout (but no standard single-player campaign). The game is set to release on October 12 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Fortnite: Battle Royale on the other hand is free-to-play and playable on nearly every modern platform, including iOS and Android. Fortnite also contains the horde-based survival mode Save The World, but only on PS4, Xbox One, and PC if you purchase the Founder's Pack for $40--however, Epic says that the mode will become free sometime this year. PUBG is currently available on PC and Xbox One for $30 and free-to-play on iOS and Android.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - Blackout
Black Ops 4's Blackout mode shares many of the basics of its battle royale counterparts. Up to 100 players get airdropped onto a wide-open, sprawling map in either teams of two or four, or in solo matches. Everyone has one life and the goal is to be the last player or team standing. In duos and (s)quads, players can be revived by teammates within a short window of time before bleeding out. And of course, an ever-shrinking deadly circle closes in as the match progress and numbers dwindle to force players into conflict.
Looting works similarly to PUBG in that weapons, ammo, attachments, grenades, and healing items are scattered on the ground and within structures, and supply crates containing valuable gear occasionally drop onto the map. Guns can be tricked out with scopes, grips, and barrel attachments in a fairly streamlined inventory menu. While you won't have to worry about encumbrance and item weight, backpacks grant you additional space in your inventory to carry extra items--a sort of middle road between the two other games.
One of the alluring factors of Blackout is that it's a Call of Duty game, which means it has the smooth, refined movement and shooting that the 15-year old franchise is known for on a much larger scale. However, Call of Duty has now incorporated a new ballistics model just for Blackout; players will now have to account for bullet drop at long ranges. The game remains solely a first-person shooter, although vehicles are operated in third-person--PUBG has optional first-person matches and Fortnite is strictly third-person.
As for vehicles, the map is littered with ATVs, cargo trucks, and speedboats. But map traversal is notably different from other battle royales when you account for the helicopter; Fortnite and PUBG do not feature controllable aircraft. Bailing out of the helicopter or jumping off tall buildings is also made possible by using your wingsuit, making verticality a bigger factor than it would be otherwise.
Another twist in Blackout is that it isn't strictly PvP since the Asylum area and a few pockets of the map contain AI-controlled zombie hordes. Fighting through zombies can lead to some high-level gear like the coveted Ray Gun, but it's risky and costly for those low on supplies.
Blackout also incorporates the franchise's Perk system and Specialist abilities in a unique way; they are treated like loot. Perks work as consumable items that grant passive bonuses for a limited duration. For example, Stimulant boosts your health by 100 for a three-minute window, and Paranoia activates an audio cue for when you're being targeted by an enemy through ADS. Each can be especially effective in certain scenarios. Specialist equipment like the barricade, grappling hook, or sensor darts are rare items found during a match and are not tied to any one specialist.
While the overall battle royale formula doesn't change much in Black Ops 4, smaller components from previous games work their way into Blackout for something that's more accessible with a Call of Duty flavor.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
The feature that makes Fortnite stand out immediately is construction. Success in Fortnite is predicated on your ability to swiftly build walls, floors and ramps with the materials you collect around the map. Players have to keep in mind that there are three separate material types (wood, brick, steel) with varying durability and construction timing. It may seem like just a carry-over mechanic from the original Save The World mode, but learning the clever ways of connect these building blocks together to protect yourself and create effective combat opportunities is absolutely vital.
Fortnite regularly evolves through seasons. It's not just about introducing new cosmetic items to earn or giving new challenges to keep gameplay fresh. New seasons often alter the map significantly, ranging from the obliteration of entire towns to completely redone areas. As of now, there's a floating island right at the center of the map, and a desert biome now stands where swamps were once located. Epic's dedication to constantly changing Fortnite little-by-little staves off the monotony of playing the same map over and over. And the fact that all these changes are tied to a central theme provides a festive vibe that the other games don't capture.
Equipment changes over time as well. While there are still colored tiers of shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, and SMGs, newer weapons like the guided missile or grappler can change combat encounters. Long-time items like the disco grenade or launch pad play into the silly, lighthearted nature of it all while still serving compelling use-case. Vehicles were originally omitted from Fortnite, but developer Epic later introduced a golf cart to get around the map a little faster. Limited-time game modes also pop into Fortnite, such as 50v50, Teams of 20, Explosives Only, or Snipers Only. Epic isn't afraid to get ridiculous either; Season 4 was based on superheroes and even included the Infinity Gauntlet which transformed players into Marvel villain Thanos, who had a slew of overpowered, yet fun abilities.
Since it's a free-to-play game, microtransactions exist. A battle pass grants you access to exclusive rewards and V-Bucks act as in-game currency to acquire many cosmetic items; no purchasable content affects gameplay.
Fortnite plays fast and loose in a way that's easy to pick up, and its cartoon-y aesthetic feels inviting. But that doesn't take away from the skill level needed to earn that Victory Royale because high-level play will often have you juggling multiple systems in high-pressure situations.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)
It's safe to say that PUBG was the progenitor of the recent battle royale trend and influenced similar games that followed (including Fortnite). PUBG plays much closer to a military sim, which makes sense given that the game's roots can be traced back to the battle royale mods for the ARMA games. Player movement is much more deliberate and slower paced, and the damage and ballistics models lean a bit closer towards realism compared to Call of Duty and Fortnite. Weapons require more precision to use effectively, but attachments--like scopes and grips--can make them viable in cases they wouldn't be otherwise. Airdropped supply crates offer powerful gear, but of course pose the risk of enemies preying on you as you loot.
There's no construction or special abilities in PUBG, making combat more about situational awareness and the right tactical decisions. Smoke grenades and flashbangs are your main supplements to your aiming skills. Cars, motorbikes, and boats can get you around maps a lot faster than simply staying on foot, but they can help pull you out of tough spots, too. As a result, firefights feel much more tense and the anticipation of encounters can be harrowing. If you get caught in a vulnerable position, there's very little you can do but lament your mistakes.
PUBG now sports multiple maps that emphasize different styles of play. Erangel acts as the traditional large-scale map with foliage and forestry filling gaps between towns, while Miramar leaves you a sitting duck in its barren desert. Sanhok offers a faster-paced match in a compact map within a tropical environment. And later this year, a fourth map will bring a snow-covered theme that's likely to present its own unique tactical opportunities. PUBG has also dabbled in alternate game types like training mode, deathmatch with respawns, and bigger team sizes. You can also choose to play in either third- or first-person matches.
Although PUBG has a price tag, microtransactions remain part of the game's economy. It now has a battle pass similar to Fortnite so you can earn different cosmetics outside of randomized loot crates you get through BP (currency earned by playing).
Which One Should You Play?
The answer to this question depends on what you're in the mood for. If two ends of a spectrum are Fortnite and PUBG, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout lies somewhere in the middle. It taps into the military-style approach while giving players tactical flexibility with perks and equipment, all based on the solid foundation the Call of Duty franchise boasts. There a few more systems at play when it comes to Fortnite but its lighthearted nature and persistent evolution make it stand out from the bunch; just know that there's no escaping the construction mechanics. If hardcore military sims are more your taste, then PUBG will be your game.
Other battle royale-style games are out there, such as the free-to-play H1Z1 on PC and PS4. H1Z1 was an early access title on Steam well before PUBG came onto the scene, and it brings a straightforward take on the mode. The Battlefield franchise's version of battle royale is coming later this year with Firestorm in Battlefield V. We know that Firestorm pits four teams of 16 against each other in what developer DICE is calling "the largest Battlefield map ever." The game launches for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on November 20.
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