While older games such as Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege continue to hold relevance in 2018 – thanks mainly to rabidly faithful fan bases and ongoing content support – two of the biggest franchises in the genre continue to pump out new titles like clockwork.
So now the winter months have arrived and EA and Activision have unleashed their respective behemoths, the eternal question rears its ugly head once more. Which one is the best? Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 or Battlefield V? If you’re looking to sink your hard-earned cash into one of these triple-A beasts, but can’t decide between them, we’ve got you covered.
Improvements and changes
Of the two, BO4 features the most changes to the classic CoD formula. Regenerative health is out, and in its place is a new Stim Shot system. So now you’ll need to tap ‘L1’/’LB’ after taking damage in order to restore your health. The ‘boots on the ground’ ethos introduced in last year’s CoD: WW2 continues, so there’s no boost jumps or wall-running.
The mini-map has also been adjusted to include a feature known as ‘Fog of War’. The idea here is you can see information on the map in regards to your immediate vicinity, so you're kept on your toes with more systemic firefights. Specialists also have more team-oriented special gear, such as the ability to enemy locations on the map or instantly heal every team member in the game.
For BFV, movement speed (at both a standard pace and at sprint) has been increased, and guns also come up a lot faster as well. BF1 was a far slower affair, designed to reflect the attrition of trench warfare, but BFV embraces a greater sense of momentum. You can sprint into doors and smash them open, and you now have noticeably more freedom of movement when prone. You can even sprint while crouching as well.
Fortification is a new feature for BFV, which enables any player in any class to pull out a hammer and begin constructing everything from sandbag walls and gun nests to health stations. When used correctly, especially when defending an objective, this feature is incredibly useful and gives defending players far more clout in a fight. Destruction is also more dynamic this year, with entire buildings collapsing in real-time with no pre-determined animations.
You can now earn ‘Requisition Points’ for completing objectives and certain actions, which enable the leader of each four-man/woman squad to call in powerful reinforcements. Revive animations have been overhauled to add more immersion and the sheer speed of respawns (including spawning on a squadmate in real-time) to wonders to keep you invested in each ongoing firefight.
Gunplay and combat
Improvements to weapon handling, TTK (time to kill) and gear adjustments are present in both BO4 and BFV, but they’re far more acute in the former. While the classic run-and-gun ‘feel’ of CoD is still present, everything has been tuned to suit more of an Overwatch-style team ethos. As a result, it takes noticeably longer to successfully kill another player due to a higher damage threshold. BO4 also has a ‘Guns Up’ feature, which enables you to return fire even if you’re priming a grenade or mantling some scenery.
BFV’s changes are more subtle – the classic formula honed in BF1 remains largely recognizable here – but they’re still significant. Recoil has been noticeably reduced and all four of the default weapons for its classes are surprisingly powerful (and customized with buffs known as specializations).
As a result, BO4’s gunplay takes a lot longer to get used to, as it's been fundamentally altered to make it suit the health system and the symbiosis shared between Specialists. BFV’s is more rewarding overall, thanks mainly to its speed and the tightness of its hit-boxes, but both still feel distinctly different.
Maps and modes
BO4’s biggest new addition is Blackout mode, developer Treyarch’s answer to the Battle Royale craze Fortnite and PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) have helped create and sustain. Set on one giant map filled with locations that call back to memorable moments from the Black Ops franchise, you’ll airdrop in and have to search for weapons and gear. With CoD’s slick gunplay mechanics and all that triple-a polish, Blackout has proved an exciting (if not wholly original) addition to Multiplayer and Zombies.
Zombies returns with two different storylines – the classic ‘Aether’ timeline and the new ‘Chaos’ one. The latter is a real treat, dropping you into multiple locations through history, including fighting the undead in a Roman arena and aboard a sinking Titanic. Teamwork is more important than ever, but at least Zombies is embracing its silliness again.
BFV is receiving its own Battle Royale mode, known as Firestorm, but it’s not due to arrive until March 2019, so there’s a bit of wait before then. However, it has introduced Grand Operations, a new mode set across four in-game days. Incorporating multiple maps and game types and tying them into one giant conflict, you and 63 other players will battle back and forth for territory and objectives with guns, tanks and spitfires. It’s BFV at its most immersive, and is unlike any other FPS experience out there.
In terms of maps, BO4 does offer more value for money with 14 available to play from launch. Some of these are remakes of classic maps such as Jungle and Firing Range, but there are some genuinely great new additions such as the arctic Icebreaker (which uses a submarine trapped in ice as its central structure). However, the 12 maps to be added later are gated behind the paid Black Ops pass.
BF4 only launches with eight maps, but these are comparatively larger than those in BO4 to accommodate the series’ signature use of vehicles. While they do lack any of the dynamic events featured in previous Battlefields, they’re still some of the best in level design, such the urban sprawl of Rotterdam and the snowy mountain assault of Fjell 652. Its additional maps will also be free to play over the next 12 months thanks to the free Tides of War DLC schedule.
When it comes to playing offline content, BO4 doesn’t have much of a leg left to stand on since it infamously dropped the traditional campaign in favour of the new Battle Royale mode, Blackout. There are some solo missions, known as Specialist Dossiers, which are short narrative experiences that give each Specialist character class a brief backstory while serving as tutorial on their basic traits and abilities, but they’re a far cry from the heyday of the Modern Warfare series.
BFV does have a campaign, however, opting to keep the anthology-style War Stories format of BF1. There are fewer stories than that 2016 entry, but each of its four chapters are considerably longer at around 90-120 minutes each. They’re mostly sombre in tone, as you’d expect, but with a nice mix of vehicular, assault and stealth gameplay (the Norwegian ‘Nordlys’ mission is the highlight) – they’re a far cry from the forgettable days of BF3 and BF4’s own campaigns.
This is one area BO4 simply can’t compete, and it’s a decision entirely of its own making. Some might see the solo campaign as an outmoded experience that fans don’t enjoy anymore, but that only depends on the quality of the storytelling and the action within. War Stories doesn’t break any boundaries, but it offers an ideal way to break up your time in the multiplayer mode, and proves single-player content still has a place in triple-A shooters.
In terms of DLC, EA has laid out its content roll out for BFV for the coming months. Known as the Tides of War, the setup will be entirely free, meaning no more expensive Premium Passes. Tides of War will bring new weapons, vehicles, cosmetic items, timed events and much more. It even includes the fourth chapter of War Stories and its Battle Royale mode, Firestorm (although the last two really should have arrived at launch).
BO4, on the other hand, is keeping to the premium route with the new Black Ops Pass. While previous CoDs opted for four DLC packs (including new multiplayer maps and a Zombies chapter each) spread out across the year, the new system simply locks it all away behind a one-time payment... and it’s a big one at $49.99. That’s about the same price as the season pass for last year’s CoD: WW2, but the lack of smaller pack access is un-customer friendly at best.
This pass does net you 12 multiplayer maps to be released over the next year, four new Zombie ‘experiences’ and four new characters for use in the Blackout mode. But considering BFV’s Tides of War pass is entirely free and will include new maps, events and much more (something EA also did with Star Wars: Battlefront 2), it’s not hard to do the maths when it comes to getting more bang for your buck.
BO4 vs BFV: which one should you buy?
Question is, which one comes out on top in 2018? That entirely comes down to what you want from a big budget shooter. If you’re someone who enjoys the team-work aspect of Overwatch with characters that bring specific roles to a match, BO4’s multiplayer will definitely appeal. Likewise, if you love Fortnite and PUBG but want a new alternative, Blackout mode is slick and full of that classic CoD gunplay.
If you enjoyed the historical settings of CoD: WW2 and BF1, then BFV will scratch your itch perfectly. With its vast array of customizable vehicles and squad-based gameplay, BFV continues the series’ focus on longer and more dynamic battles. If you want a quick and immediate shooter experience, BO4 is for you. If you want something on a much larger scale that rewards working as a squad, with bigger maps as a result (but fewer modes at launch), BFV is your shooter of choice.