A few days ago, Activision released the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 "Blackout" battle royale multiplayer beta. While that sounds like a mouthful, the test was a success and the developer even allowed more gamers to participate in each match. Just like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), individual players or teams start off with absolutely no weapons. Scavenging abandoned buildings and sheds is necessary to accumulate guns and health packs.
Blackout takes place on the largest Call of Duty map ever created. Fans of the series will immediately recognize areas like the Fracking Tower and Nuketown. The arena appears to be a love letter to fans because it incorporates elements from numerous old Call of Duty maps. All of the different regions come together seamlessly for a cohesive experience.
While gameplay is similar to PUBG, the shooting mechanics are the star of the show in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The game targets native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) on Xbox One X. This gives it a crisp appearance despite the fact that the visuals aren't as refined as Red Dead Redemption 2 or even Halo 5: Guardians.
The 60 FPS matters more than the quality of lighting or textures. The faster frame rate reduces input lag and makes the action feel that much more precise. There simply isn't a comparison between the 30 FPS presentation PUBG offers Xbox One X players to what Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has achieved with its battle royale mode. Instead of dreading every encounter because you aren't sure if the performance will hold in PUBG, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 offers a mature and stable experience. It forgoes the silliness of Fortnite and improves upon the PUBG formula in almost every way.
Matches are just as exhilarating as PUBG, if not more, due to the quick firefights. Playing by yourself is just as nerve-racking because you aren't sure who's around the next corner. The play area also gets smaller as time goes on, so if you don't see anyone when you jump out of the helicopter, you soon will. Land and sea vehicles are also readily available to help you traverse the map. The first-person perspective makes you feel caged in and players always have to be on the lookout.
Unfortunately, environmental objects such as grass look very "flat". While it's understandable that a battle royale mode is more demanding due to the presence of roughly a hundred players, it's still jarring to witness the textures and basic lighting. Hopefully the final build will bring some much-needed improvements to the visuals, but the focus should still be on getting the console versions to run at 60 FPS all the time.
Recently, PUBG was visually downgraded on Xbox One X in order to improve performance. Despite this, the game still doesn't consistently achieve 30 FPS on the new console. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the exact opposite though. Not only does it looks significantly better, even in beta form it manages to hit 60 FPS a lot of the time. The fact that there are controllable helicopters and other bombastic types of gameplay makes this even more impressive. It's a step above PUBG on many levels.
The issue appears to be the use of Unreal Engine 4 and an inexperienced team. Even games like Prey from developers like Arkane Studios have difficulty with optimization on Xbox One. When PUBG first appeared in Xbox Game Preview, Bluehole Inc. promised that we would see 1080p 60 FPS and 4K 30 FPS modes. Unfortunately, almost a year later, that hasn't been realized. The fact that the game still doesn't have a strong technical backbone is one of the reasons why Fortnite has dominated the scene in recent months.
In my opinion, Fortnite isn't as much of a threat to PUBG as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale gameplay is by far the best I've ever played. However, Blackout still needs balancing, namely the jump from Armor Level 2 to Armor Level 3, as well as the usefulness of some perks. This just goes to show you how an experienced team can elevate the genre. Unless Battlefield V's "Firestorm" battle royale mode proves to be a game-changer, Blackout will reign supreme. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's sound technical foundation is the reason behind why it's so good.
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