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Fans of first-person shooter Call of Duty — who affectionately refer to it as COD — couldn’t ask for a more ambitious (or manic) multiplayer experience than what the series’ latest instalment Black Ops 4 delivers. Gulf News tabloid! got to try the game out a day before launch at an exclusive event in Alserkal Avenue.

“We managed to take the frenzied, typical COD way of playing and combat and mixed that with the biggest map ever in the history of the game,” says Marc Yammine, who is regional spokesperson for Activision-Blizzard, which publishes Call of Duty. “You’re playing against 100 players, With sea, air and land vehicles [involved]. You have a recipe for one of the most entertaining modes you can have in terms of Battle Royale.”

He’s referring to the game’s Blackout mode, which sees you compete against up to 99 other players in a bid to be the last (wo)man standing on a shrinking map. Meanwhile, the traditional Multiplayer section of the game encourages players to assume unique roles in the form of Specialists. Each of these characters has their own back story and customised training simulation. Finally, there’s Zombies. A staple inclusion in any Call of Duty game, Zombies mode sees you fend off increasingly difficult waves of monsters, either alone or with three other players or bots. In Black Ops 4, you can dispatch zombies in locations spanning from the Titanic to Rome’s Colosseum.

“Black Ops is maybe the darker, grittier side of Call of Duty,” says Yammine. “It has its own universe and its own way of developing stories and characters, and goes into uncharted territory for the series.”

 

What is Battle Royale?

You start out by launching out of a helicopter with a wingsuit. Around you, there are 99 others doing the same. It’s a race down to Earth, with parachutes deploying as you frantically try to land somewhere relatively safe and blessed with loot. If you’re not a crack shot at COD, your best bet is to opt for stealth. My personal best result, when I survived to the last seven players, is largely due to sprinting into a two-storey house, grabbing a shotgun and waiting in the bathroom with the door closed. Hearing the sporadic blasts of gunfire nearing, the roar of a truck engine and running footsteps when you can’t see any of these things is terrifying.

“In Blackout, two games are never the same,” explains Yammine. He’s right; I died on a hill facing an airport hangar, perished on the landing between a flight of stairs and met an untimely demise on a beach. Blackout’s map is massive but survival against 99 others require knowing when to stick or thrust.

Taking its name from a 2000 Japanese film, Battle Royale sees a large number of players parachuted onto an island with no weapons or armour. Everything must be scavenged, and the stakes are raised further by an ever-shrinking battle zone, which forces you closer to danger. As a gaming concept, the format has exploded in popularity since 2016’s Player Unknown Battlegrounds and Fortnite.

How does Blackout compare to its more established competition? Aside from the sharper graphics and gunplay than Fortnite, what’s really cool is the option to play split-screen with a partner using a single console. The Blackout map comprises slightly miniaturised versions of several COD fan favourites over the years, including Nuketown, Cargo and Firing Range.

 

Zombies!

This mode is perfect for those who don’t fancy their chances against other humans. While it’s sadly impossible to win Zombies, the objective is to survive as many rounds as you can, gaining maximum points and clearing challenges that will eventually make your next playthrough easier. Starting off with a basic pistol, you need to kill zombies to earn currency, which can be spent on buying ammo, upgrading your weapon, buying a new gun or unlocking new areas of the map. You can play Zombies split-screen with friends, with online companions, AI bots or on your own.

There are three distinctive Zombie adventures in Black Ops 4. Voyage of Despair takes place on the Titanic, where you’ve got to battle zombies across upper and lower decks, through claustrophobic passages, the engine room and fancy dining halls. There’s even a room fans of the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet film will remember, although Rose walking down the stairs in a pretty dress might not be the first thing that comes to mind while shotgunning a monster.

Another Zombies adventure is IX, which sees you fending off hordes of creatures in the Roman Colisseum. It’s way bloodier than anything you might remember from Russel Crowe’s Gladiator, although there are tigers here too. What’s become common across the Zombies mini-game is the addition of increasingly deep narratives. “What made me love playing Zombies, why I make all these videos, is the storyline,” says Bashar Al Kayal, a Dubai-based Syrian gaming YouTuber with 146,000 subscribers. The four characters featured in both adventures don’t quietly fight the monsters; there’s no shortage of witty banter and clever repartees exchanged between them.

You can also activate perks, which grant boosts to speed, stamina or health. “For the first time in Zombies mode, you can now select the perks you’d like to use from a menu before actually starting the game,” says Al Kayal, who made his name (Basharkk) in the Middle East’s gaming community by choosing to focus on Zombies.

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Out now!

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.