Since Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 focuses entirely on multiplayer, gamers need to master its core competitive modes. There’s some scant single-player content available via a few solo missions in Specialists HQ to introduce neophytes to its diversity of tactical weapons, play-styles, and cooldown abilities, but most of the time spent learning the game in action is left it up to the player, tackling its modes with friends and strangers, trying to survive, and keeping their career K/D ratio as balanced as possible.
Luckily, Black Ops 4 is designed to be somewhat forgiving to newcomers, and has even leveraged some reliable mechanics from other successful multiplayer games in its offerings. Killstreak abilities have been a series mainstay for years, and they return as meaningfully overpowered bonuses in the new game’s core modes (although they are known as “Scorestreaks” this time around), along with several other Call of Duty favorites, including the increasingly absurd and wonderful Zombies mode. This means that players new to the series should still recognize some common elements to shooters but, unfortunately, the eight primary multiplayer modes lack any kind of active front-loaded tutorial.
This guide aims to correct that. Read on for a quick look at the multiple competitive modes and get an early upper hand in Black Ops 4, inclusive of a few insights to help new players make smart decisions in their first hours with the game.
Black Ops 4's Team Deathmatch
Players: 10 – 12
For many gamers, good old Team Deathmatch remains the main Black Ops 4 draw. It’s quick, nasty, and easy to grasp, featuring the full slew of specialist operatives to control as each team attempts to hit the score limit first, (typically 75 points) at one point per kill.
Teams of 6v6 represent the ideal scenario, though it’s not uncommon for players to quit Team Deathmatch matches early if the game’s not going in their favor. As a side note: it’s never really worth quitting early, as playing through losing matches still accrues experience, which levels up your character up to gain unlocks, perks, weapon mods, and Call of Duty’s constantly evolving smorgasbord of multiple experience and achievement paths.
Of all of Black Ops 4’s modes, Team Deathmatch is the easiest to understand, and is perfect when you don’t have the time and attention to bring to a more involved rule set. Communicating tactics to teammates is less crucial to success, prompting players to just run around racking up those Scorestreaks and dispensing with most big-brain meta-strategies.
Black Ops 4's Domination
Players: 8 – 10
Similar to Team Deathmatch, Domination hearkens back to some of the earliest multiplayer shooters. You’re given three control points on each map, each of which are captured by standing on a designated area for a set amount of time. More teammates on the point at once = faster captures. Defending players standing on the point at the same time as attackers can contest it, but the point's active radius is so small that there aren’t many surprise interruptions of this nature (those happen more often in Control matches). In other words, if an enemy’s on the point with you, one of you will probably be dead shortly thereafter.
Each team is given a Capture Point closer to their spawn, with the third one resting in between serving as the usual tie-breaker. A team’s first goal is often to grab their nearest Capture Point, then spend the bulk of the match fighting over point B, but a surprise capture of A or C can be a nice interruption when a team’s attention is fixated elsewhere.
An important thing to note about Domination, which is different from some other multiplayer shooters, is that recapturing a partially-completed point requires that defenders be standing on it. If an attacking enemy half-captures point B, but then gets killed before completion, you or a teammate will have to stand on the point to wind back the gauge on that partial capture. Keep that in mind, as ignoring a partially-captured point only primes it for an enemy to sneak up later and complete its last ticks when no one’s looking.
Black Ops 4's Free For All
Players: 6 – 8
Free For All is a king of the hill/lone wolf deathmatch mode. A pure adrenaline rush where no teammates exist, and skill and situational awareness are the best survival tools. Rolling in Black Ops 4’s other features and abilities makes Free For All a dynamic deathmatch experience, where it’s usually best to target and take out the current reigning leader on the scoreboard and curb their chance at Scorestreaks.
Free For All has a lower player count than most any other mode, which at least serves to make the span of its 14 maps feel larger as a result, since their layout doesn't change between modes. There's also less close-quarters fighting, and establishing a strong sniper presence is tricky to fortify without the trusty backup of effective teammates. If sniping is your preference, though, Ruin's Grapple Gun equipment can help players make a hasty exit, and Nomad's Mesh Mines can protect him from backstabbers (at least once).
Black Ops 4's Search and Destroy
Players: 8 – 10
A bit more hardcore and stakes-raising than some other Black Ops 4 game types, Search and Destroy makes its return as an objective-based mode, where each attacking team picks up a bomb and needs to bring and prime it at one of two target locations. Defending teams can defuse an active bomb, which automatically completes the round in their favor.
The winning team commands the board with the best of 8 games, but most early matches tend to be on the short side, with kills coming in quickly and no respawns allowed, making rounds usually last no longer than a minute or so. Constant communication is key, and note that if you walk over the bomb near your spawn you automatically take hold of it. Teammates holding the bomb will be marked with a note and icon so they can be easily tracked on your HUD.