Call of Duty’s ‘Blackout’ is exactly what battle royale needed

I approached the graveyard quick and low, thanks to the Skulker mod that I’d acquired just a few minutes ago. The thick iron fence surrounding it provided great cover as I explored the cemetery’s perimeter. I soon spied a gap. Perfect, I thought. There’s no way anyone’s in here. Far from the drop zone and filled with stone-solid graves, the spooky terrain was an opportunity to traverse a desert otherwise sparse in cover. Without hesitation, I hopped the gap in the fence and sprinted a few dozen feet beyond the threshold it.

That’s when I heard a groan.

Ducking for cover, I spun in a circle to see what made the noise. Any sound could startle me in my mid-match tensions, but this was both sudden and unusual. A groan? Why would another player groan? Maybe if they’d fallen from a height, but I was in a graveyard. A nearby tree was the tallest thing in sight.

call of duty blackout map callofdutyblackout

A zombie sprinted out from behind a tomb and, for possibly the first time in any video game, I had the reaction you’d expect — I freaked out and ran. A zombie? In Blackout, Call of Duty’s battle royale mode? I didn’t expect it, wasn’t prepared for it, and had no idea how to handle it.

Luckily, I came to my senses, found another gap in the fence, and escaped unharmed. But the experience gave me a glimpse into the brilliance of Blackout’s map.

Variety is the spice of life, and battle royale

My surprise came partly from ignorance. I went into Blackout‘s beta with only basic knowledge. Still, the game itself didn’t do much to hint at the possibility. From above, the map looks like it could be ripped straight from PUBG. The terrain is realistic, though exaggerated, and is broken up into areas that appear industrial or agricultural.

Once you hit the ground, though, the difference becomes obvious. PUBG’s large map is made possible by the liberal use of copy-and-paste assets. Many buildings look the same. I’m sure there are some reused assets in Blackout too, but they’re not nearly as common. There’s a ton of different structures in different sizes, shapes, and heights.

That’s not only a visual concern. It deeply impacts gameplay. Blackout’s graveyard is a good option for people who want to take advantage of distracted players. It’s directly adjacent to what looks like a large, abandoned mansion that offers camping galore but is also, in some areas, filled with spooky sounds. In one room, I came across some malfunctioning electrical equipment. It didn’t shock me, but the intermittent buzzing could mask the sound of approaching footsteps, making it far easier to execute an ambush.

The map that’s not just a map

Fortnite is aware of how an interesting map is key to the battle royale experience. That’s why Epic constantly changes it with new events. Yet Blackout’s intent is a bit different. It’s a more tactical game, much closer to the tension of PUBG than the absurdity of Fortnite, and so the map purposely leans in that direction. It wisely sets up interesting and unique spaces that entirely change how a situation is approached.

call of duty blackout map callofdutyblackoutmap 1

In Blackout, there’s a pair of massive warehouses that could be a sniper’s dream (if they arrive first) or nightmare (if they arrive last). There’s a collection of barns and farmhouses, complete with an irrigation system that annoyingly hisses at you and masks other nearby sounds. There are several tactically advantageous hills, but most are surrounded by trees or other kinds of cover that could be used to turn the tables in a match. There’s even a Silicon Valley mansion with a helicopter you can steal.

Just to be clear — a map doesn’t make a battle royale, but it can break a battle royale. If the clever design of Blackout’s map is any indication, the people building Call of Duty’s newest game mode know what they’re doing and have no shortage of good ideas. PUBG should be very, very worried.

Product Review

'FIFA 19' still nails soccer, but don’t expect any surprises

FIFA 19 is still a great way to play virtual soccer, but the changes made in this year’s game don’t push the series forward, and The Journey's story mode stumbles in its final installment.
Gaming

Leaked rating could point to ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ on PS4

A rating for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on PlayStation 4 has been spotted on the Korean Game Rating and Administrated Committee website. The game is currently only available on Xbox One and PC.
Movies & TV

More plot details and casting news emerge for 'Joker' movie

Todd Phillips is developing a stand-alone Joker origin story, with Joaquin Phoenix set to portray the Clown Prince of Crime. From casting to plot details, here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

Shane Black's 'The Predator' makes bloodthirsty aliens fun again

Filmmaker Shane Black brings the trophy-hunting alien back to the big screen in The Predator. The latest installment of the sci-fi action franchise features all of the gory action fans have come to expect, and a surprising amount of laughs…
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ is cited as a reason for 200 divorces in the U.K.

Epic Games' Fortnite is extremely popular, and it can be quite addictive -- so much so that it has been cited as a reason for divorce proceedings in more than 200 separate cases in the U.K.
Gaming

YouTube has a new destination for gamers as it plans to shutter gaming app

YouTube is shuttering its gaming app early next year and turning its attention to developing a brand-new gaming destination on its main site. The app launched in 2015 as part of efforts to take on video-gaming platform Twitch.
Computing

We tested Nvidia’s RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti. Are they a worthy upgrade?

We finally have Nvidia's newest graphics cards, the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, and put them through our standard suite of benchmarks and game tests to see how they performed in a standard play of Battlefield 1 and Fornite. How do they compare to…
Gaming

What the FUT? An in-depth guide to getting started in 'FIFA 19' Ultimate Team

New to the latest entry in the FIFA franchise? Our 'FIFA 19' Ultimate Team guide will provide you with everything you need to know. including which packs to focus on first and how to extend contracts.
Computing

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 vs. GTX 1080

Should you upgrade from your GeForce GTX 1080 to the GeForce RTX 2080? Even if you won't take advantage of ray tracing, there are other benefits to the RTX series. We'll examine how each GPU performs to help you decide.
Computing

Here are all the games that support Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing

These are the upcoming games that support ray tracing rendered on Nvidia's RTX series graphics cards. They aren't many in number at this point, but thanks to the power of ray tracing, they are some of the best looking games ever made.
Gaming

PlayStation Classic arrives this December with ‘Final Fantasy VII’ in tow

Sony has announced the PlayStation Classic, its own plug-and-play system pre-loaded with 20 games from the original PlayStation's library. These include Tekken 3 and Final Fantasy VII.
Gaming

‘Destiny 2' and the 'Fortnite' Celebration Pack are free right now with PS Plus

Free games, radically discounted hit titles, and exclusive DLC are all on the table with PlayStation Plus. We're here to make sure you don't miss out on any of the best PS4 game deals available this month.
Gaming

How to pre-order your PlayStation Classic before it's too late

Sony's PlayStation Classic comes with 20 pre-loaded games and two wired controllers for $100. While we don't know the full list of games yet, you can already pre-order the console. Here's how to snag one early.
Gaming

‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ online mode gallops into open beta in November

Red Dead Redemption 2's online mode, Red Dead Online, won't be available when the game launches October 26, but you won't have to wait long. Red Dead Online, which takes cues from Grand Theft Auto Online, enters open beta in November.