Jack “CouRage” Dunlop was unstoppable for most of Code Red, Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm’s inaugural Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 tournament held on Thursday. The CoD caster turned Fortnite aficionado returned to his first love in style, fragging out for the better part of seven hours in the game’s new battle royale mode “Blackout” on the way to the grand finals.
The championship was within reach. But that was before a legend had his say.
“We just got Shrouded on, bro,” CouRage said in shocked tones to his duos partner Tyler “TeePee” Polchow. Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek’s 14-kill masterclass in Game 1 of the grand finals was filled with outplays and shots that left CouRage and TeePee screaming in disbelief.
It was a performance that not only won Code Red, but announced to all newcomers that Blackout might be just another realm for Shroud to conquer.
Code Red marked the first competitive event for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, released less than a week ago amid rabid anticipation. The venerable series’ newest iteration completely eschewed a campaign mode; developer Treyarch preferred to go all-in on the battle royale phenomenon that has swept through the shooter scene. Blackout has all the markings of the genre popularized by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and launched into orbit by Fortnite: circles, random loot, points of interest and a battle to the death. Code Red put its differences — both good and bad — on display in a tournament that acted as a positive first step for Blackout’s esports future.
Hosted in partnership with Esports Arena and Boom.tv, Code Red offered a $20,000 prize pool to 32 of the scene’s biggest names ($12,000 of which was allocated to the winning duo). Shroud and Dr Disrespect were the marquee pairing, but the field also featured CoD statesmen Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez and Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, as well as a bevy of popular streamers like Jaryd “summit1g” Lazar, Tim “Trick2g” Foley and Jesse “RealKraftyy” Kraft. Each of the 16 duos were required to complete a four-game preliminary round to determine who would advance to the bracket stage.
Kills, of course, were the determining factor.
The prelims best showcased Esports Arena and Boom.tv’s contribution to the event, the latter acting as a hub page where player streams and kill scores were readily accessible. The ease of switching from stream to stream was a stylistic alternative to Esports Arena’s broadcasted stream from Santa Ana, California.
Casters Bil “Jump” Carter, Nathan “Nathanias” Fabrikant and Jacob “MvPR” Arce did their best to buttress the proceedings with engaging commentary as they hopped between player perspectives, but most viewers flocked to the player streams, with Shroud and Dr Disrespect easily outpacing the others by tens of thousands.
Code Red was played entirely on live servers, and was therefore subject to the foibles of such a setup. Some players suffered connectivity issues that in one instance necessitated a full replay. Then, there was the question of lobby fairness. As Shroud correctly pointed out on his stream, the format had no equalizer for some teams getting easier lobbies versus others being drawn into high skill games, which unfairly impacted their kill scores. For their part, Shroud and Dr Disrespect easily qualified for the bracket stage with 35 kills, second only to CouRage and TeePee.
Brackets were standard double-elimination fare, with matches completed in two games sets. Competing duos played squad games with all four players in the same party, each trying to record the most kills they could. Strict sabotage rules prohibited friendly fire with vehicles or grenades, but often opposing teams kept their distance from each other (better to maximize kills) as part of an unspoken honor system. Players also refused to use a well-known Exo Suit movement glitch that could quickly close the gap. Map markers were used sparingly to keep the other team uninformed of potential kills, or creatively dropped as a mind-game to mislead. Having both teams in the same lobby ensured a level of fairness the prelims lacked, yet the results stayed the same, calling into question how large of a competitive balance issue it actually was.