Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 vs Battlefield V: Which should you buy?

COD Black Ops Hero
COD Black Ops Hero (Image credit: Activision)

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

After a stretch of titles that made gameplay almost comical, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 vowed to reel it in a bit and return to the formula that made the franchise what it is. That doesn't mean the game is stale, though, with a wealth of fresh features and gameplay modes to spice things up.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Modern Mayhem

Modern, almost futuristic warfare
Class-based multiplayer
Very competent Battle Royale mode
Thrilling cooperative Zombies experience
No single player campaign
Longstanding series issues persist

Battlefield V

While Call of Duty decided to return to modern times, Battlefield V proudly celebrates its roots as a WW2 buff's dream game. DICE takes new risks with the series' gameplay formula, though the game can feel a bit incomplete right now.

Battlefield V

Back to WW2

Return to classic WW2 action
New strategic gameplay possibilities
Large-scale warfare with vehicular mayhem.
Unmatched immersion that only Battlefield can deliver.
Anticipated Battle Royale mode months away.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V are both first-person shooters, but they couldn't be any more different. Whereas Black Ops 4 offers a more intimate experience with an increased focus on individual skill due to its smaller maps and teams, Battlefield V is pure chaotic warfare that can be just as unpredictable as the real-world battles.

Shoot Your Shot

Call of Duty suffered a moderate stretch of games the past few years. You might not have realized it because the games still sell like hotcakes, but many core fans of the series were agitated due to Activision's lofty ambitions not being met with the level of execution needed to make it work. Particularly, adding new gameplay mechanics like jetpacks and wall running. They were supposed to make the experience more exhilarating, but in practice it made the game frustrating to play as it became a glorified bird shooter.

That's why the big "Boots on the Ground" movement was born, and the company emphatically declared those cries heard with the launch of Call of Duty: WW2, a game where no such abilities could ever make sense. High-flying gunplay had a chance to make a return with the launch of a new Black Ops game, a series that has always opted for futuristic warfare.

But Treyarch has remained committed to "Boots on the Ground," and it also had a few other swathing changes to introduce that make it feel like the most fresh Call of Duty game in years. Those changes include a manual heal mechanic, new specialist classes for more strategic gameplay, and a more engaging progression system.

The game also served as an ode to Black Ops fans, with the game's multiplayer maps all being reincarnations of the most popular maps from the series. This can be seen as a negative for some people, though, as hardcore Black Ops players may have been wanting a change of scenery.

Beyond the core multiplayer changes, Black Ops 4 also introduced a Battle Royale mode called Blackout, which has since exploded in popularity thanks to its well-designed map, pacing, and stability. Tack on a more frenetic Zombies experience for good measure and you have a recipe for success.

Unfortunately for those who love flying solo, this multiplayer-heavy focus came at the expense of a traditional single-player campaign, marking the first time in a Call of Duty game that doesn't have a cinematic story to enjoy. It's a blight for some, though considering a vast majority of Call of Duty players spend most of their time on multiplayer it was a bet that seemingly paid off.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Call of Duty: Black Ops 4Battlefield V
Release DateOctober 12, 2018November 20, 2018
MultiplayerUp to 100 PlayersUp to 64 Players

In the same year, Battlefield V is also looking to return to roots of its own. Battlefield might not have always provided the most accurate depiction of the World Wars, but it has provided the most fun. Whereas the aptly-named Battlefield One took us back to the first world war, Battlefield V revisits the second.

Battlefield V builds on the foundation laid out in the previous title, where DICE looked to up the ante of large scale warfare taking place on epic setpieces. The addition of Grand Operations saw the series getting a mode that felt like you were participating in an actual war with multiple campaigns and battles instead of hopping from lobby to lobby in a series of random matches. Grand Operations starts off with both teams on equal footing from a resource standpoint, however teams can earn bonuses for the next round by winning the previous one. This level of continuity breaks up the action while making you feel as if you're progressing through an actual series of war battles with a natural ebb and flow.

In that regard, Battlefield V accomplishes its goal: making you, as a player, feel a fraction of the adrenaline, fear, anxiety, and despair that veterans of the actual war might have felt as they are deployed form one campaign to the next. Of course, those feelings don't come without the cosmetic and mechanical effects which make Battlefield what it is. That includes massive teams of up to 128 players on some platforms, destructible environments, and vehicles of moderately-massive destruction. Combat is hectic and the action never stops.

Due to its huge player count, players don't have the same level of individual impact on any given match as they do in Call of Duty, but the result is a game that encourages and greatly rewards teamwork. You'll often be operating within a squad, with squad leaders being given the ability to direct their mates on objectives and actions. You won't get much done alone, but as a squad you can control important pieces of a huge map. Get multiple squads working together like this and you can get a true feeling of how military hierarchy actually works, with a bunch of squads, battalions, platoons and what have you doing their part to achieve the common goal.

Battlefield V will launch without some of its planned content, such as the Battle Royale mode that DICE originally announced. In fact, it will take months for that mode to be ready, giving Call of Duty a big advantage as the only AAA-level game with its own take on this wildly popular genre. The game will get better with time, but Call of Duty will feel like a more complete experience for the duration of 2018, and then some. To its credit, Battlefield V does include War Stories, a series of short single-player experiences that tell the untold stories of some of the war's unsung heroes.

At the end of the day, it comes down to player preference. Are you chock full of individual skill and want to rack up huge kill/death ratios to carry your team to victory? Call of Duty's your game. But if you're more of a team player who can play a role to help your team win, Battlefield V offers you ample chances for meaningful work. (And it doesn't hurt if you have a way with the guns, either.)

Quentyn Kennemer