A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is an online first-person shooter for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. It features and highlights intense, non-stop military-themed and fantasy violence. Players use a huge selection of weapons, including guns, explosives, knives, and, in Zombies, mythical implements such as a great glowing hammer, to slaughter human and undead foes. Damage often results in limbs being severed, heads being decapitated, blood gushing in crimson geysers, and entrails flapping from out of gaping wounds. The game initially prompts players to choose whether to view graphic details, a setting that can be changed at any time in the options menu. Characters in both the Zombies and competitive multiplayer modes are clearly enthusiastic about their work, enjoying the rush and chaos of battle and spending little time reflecting on the danger and horror around them. Playing with friends can encourage cooperation, strategic thinking, and teamwork, but playing with strangers will often result in players being exposed to insulting and derogatory remarks from teammates. In addition to the game's graphic and glamorized combat, players will also be exposed to plenty of very strong language, a character who smokes constantly, and dialogue that references drinking. Keep in mind, too, that players are encouraged to purchase additional content within the game, including maps and cosmetic upgrades.
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What's it about?
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 4 does away with the series' single-player story mode in order to concentrate on online play. Classic competitive multiplayer returns with a focus on specialists; characters with unique abilities such as a grappling gun, an attack dog, cluster grenades, and more. After working through tutorials that provide backstory on each specialist and practicing with their special skills, players engage in familiar game types such as team deathmatch, kill confirmed (where you must retrieve the dog tags of slain enemies), and other modes that involve controlling spots on the map, as well as a new mode dubbed Heist where players earn cash between rounds to spend on weapon and gear upgrades. The cooperative multiplayer Zombies mode returns as well, with teams of up to four players between an ancient gladiatorial arena or the sinking Titanic to fight through wave after wave of undead. Clearing each stage unlocks access to new areas and lets you buy better weapons and perks. The third and final part of the game is Blackout, a battle royale-style mode -- a first for Call of Duty -- in the vein of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Up to 100 players parachute onto a large map made up of familiar locations from previous Call of Duty games, from a maze-like shooting range to a large electrical dam. Working solo, in pairs, or in groups of four, players begin by scavenging weapons and gear from nearby buildings, then work toward eliminating every other player on the map as they're pushed into tighter and tighter areas that force confrontation between characters.
Is it any good?
While there's nothing here for players interested in a story-focused experience, mature gamers looking for robust multiplayer are in for a treat. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 offers a polished traditional competitive multiplayer mode that keeps what's always worked for the series: a broad assortment of maps and modes, the ability to take advantage of powerful rewards to earn scorestreaks, and a growth system that lets players upgrade and customize their weapons and gear. All of this is done while providing fun new abilities designed to suit individual playstyles by letting players set traps and lie in wait, quickly cross the environment, or provide support in the form of health and ammunition boosts. Skill still trumps luck, forcing players to practice to be competitive. Zombies, meanwhile, is much more robust than ever before. Not only are players provided multiple maps immediately rather than being forced to wait and purchase more later, you can also ease yourself into this extremely challenging mode via a beginner lobby available until you reach level 20. Once you're confident in your abilities, you can test them in a new game type called Rush that ramps up the speed and difficulty and adds a competitive element via a new scoring system. Zombies has never been this strong out of the gate at launch.
But the most striking addition to this multiplayer-focused edition of the blockbuster shooter is Blackout. It might follow a formula already well established in plenty of other battle royale games, and the visuals take a noticeable hit compared to other modes thanks to the enormous map and number of human avatars at play, but it runs very smooth and loading times are almost non-existent. Plus, it has a distinctly Call of Duty flavor thanks not only to its locations -- easily recognized by any veteran of the series -- but also its willingness to include some distinguishing features from the game's other modes, including remote controlled recon cars, grappling hooks, and, in one area, even some shuffling zombies to slaughter. Whether you want to go it alone or group up, there's dozens of hours worth of exploration, strategy, and challenge waiting for players to discover here. Blackout won't replace what was lost for those mourning the death of the franchise's single-player mode, but it does add a compelling new ingredient to the Call of Duty multiplayer recipe, and it makes Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 one of the freshest and most memorable entries this aging series has had in years.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 affected by the option to turn off graphic content? Did you consider turning it off? If your parents asked you to keep it turned off, would you obey? Why or why not?
Do you think marketing Lego toy sets or other friendlier spin-off products is appropriate for a game with such mature content? Why or why not?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Activision
- Release date: October 12, 2018
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.