Note: Questions and responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Do you have a kind of Ten Commandments-style, “Thou shalt not do X if you want to live" kind of rule?
Jevon ‘Goonjar’ Gooljar: If you don’t want to die, the biggest part is just your position on the map. Being in good spots, out-positioning the opposition and just making sure that you’re always in the advantageous spot. You never want to be like trying to shoot multiple people at once, especially in Black Ops 4, because everyone has more health now and you can’t take people down as quickly as you could in the past games. Stick with your teammates and work together as best you can. ... You always have to make sure you’re not overextending yourself or pushing it a little too far.
John ‘Xotic’ Bruno: If you want to stay alive, don’t just run out by yourself. That’s a death sentence and there’s no chance of you surviving. Also, don’t put yourself at a disadvantage in terms of height. That’s still a big thing in multiplayer. Try to be in the higher parts of the map.
Q: Are there any drills or training routines you like to do to improve at a specific element of the game, like improving hand-eye coordination?
Xotic: In Black Ops 4, every gun has a consistent recoil, so that gun will move in the exact same way every time you shoot it. Learn the recoil pattern, and then play around it. So if you know a gun drifts to the right, point your joystick to the left a little bit. I really concentrated on that when the game came out. You can just shoot at a wall and you’ll see how the gun reacts [with the spray pattern].
Tyler ‘Felo’ Johnson: For me, I’ll load up free-for-alls and I’ll shoot thousands of bots before or after scrims just to keep my muscle memory up. I would also say spending time in the theater is a big one. That’s as important as playing when you’re at the professional level, just like any other sport. We’ll watch theater after scrims with our coach [Revan] and you’re able to come to a consensus on what you want your plan to be. ... If everyone is thinking the same way, there are less words you have to say in a game to execute.
John ‘Revan’ Boble: While you will get better at anything the more you do it, it’s also important to practice with a purpose. Going back and watching films of your game play is a great way to pick up on small mistakes you might not notice while playing. If you’re playing with a team, watching film together is the best way to iron out bad tendencies. When everyone can see the bigger picture and give their input, we then understand more about the game.
Q: Specialists obviously play a big part in this game. What specialist tandems have you found work really well together in complementary ways?
Xotic: One thing my team does is use a Vision Pulse and then use another weaponry specialist like Battery with the War Machine, or Seraph with the Annihilator, and play off that pulse when we can see where all the opponents are. That makes our job so much easier. Also, if you use Crash you can get your teammates up to 200 XP, which will let you take two extra bullets. If you’re Ruin, going in for a gravity slam kill, those two bullets can make a big difference.
Goonjar: Just by himself, Prophet, for me, is the best specialist ever. It’s the best one to run around with. When people are sticking together, you can just shock one person [with the Tempest] and it will chain everyone around them and get a bunch of kills.
Matteo ‘Royalty’ Faithfull: When communicating and coordinating pushes, the best specialists to use are Crash, Prophet, Ruin, Recon and Battery. Crash will give your team the upper-hand in any team fights. Prophet will allow you to break hills with ease as a result of the chain effect on the Tempest. Ruin allows you to move around the map quicker with the grappling hook. Recon is great for holding setups and breaking hills as you and your team can see the opposing team members. Lastly, Battery is the best killing specialist so it allows you to get score streaks if used correctly.
Revan: Recon’s Vision Pulse and Battery’s War Machine, the enemies stand no chance.
Felo: More generally, gun specialists are pretty powerful and you don’t get them that often when playing modes like Hardpoint, so when you get one of those special abilities [like the War Machine], you really want to make sure there are people in front of you and you’re not the first person on the line, you don’t want to [get killed] and waste it, because you’re not going get it again.
Q: What’s one tip that you think might be a little more advanced in terms of playing strategy?
Goonjar: In domination, you’ll want to control the middle flag and a home flag. Then, when your opponents are pinned on their side, get the high ground and you can sit in your spot and leave them that last flag and the last 20 percent of the map. Then just get kills. I think a lot of people mess up when they want to run around, because you manipulate the opposing spawn points in the wrong way and they’ll start spawning behind you. This way, they’ll keep spawning in the same spot and you can just keep picking them off.
Xotic: If you’re playing with a headset you can use that to your advantage because you’ll be able to clearly hear where an opponent is at. If I hear someone around a wall, I might try to predict where he’s moving and, as I move around the wall, I’ll pre-fire something, start shooting before I see them, just hoping or anticipating they’ll run into those bullets. That’s a free kill for me.
Q: One thing that came up a lot on Reddit when the game was released was people on public servers getting spawn camped. If that happens to you, how do you try to break out of it?
Royalty: If you or your team are getting spawn trapped, what that essentially means is that there is a lack of communication and teamwork on the map, which in all honesty is an easy fix. Talk to your team and try to coordinate a push for one side of the map. Doing this will cause the opposing to stagger their setup.
Xotic: I’m a victim of spawn trapping too. I get spawn trapped a lot. But there are these little boxes on the map that people like to go to when they spawn trap and when they go there it makes you spawn in certain spots. So when I keep showing up in one spot, I’ll know there’s got to be a guy that’s right here [in this specific spot]. That’ll help me get out at least ... maybe not my teammates.
Revan: Group up together and try to push one lane as a team. It’s tough to make plays happen when you’re fighting down numbers and against players who are already set up in positions. By grouping together, you can overwhelm an enemy player holding a lane and then push onto the map once you’re free.
Q: What’s your preferred loadout look like? Like, when are you comfortable with what you’ve got and you’re not going to loot anymore?
Goonjar: Whenever I land, the first things I look for are a backpack, body armor and a gun. Obviously the gun is number one. ... My favorites would have to be the Rampart, the KN and the SDM. If I ever find an SDM on the ground, that’s it, I don’t need anything else, I just go and start looking for kills. The SDM is by far the best gun in blackout.
Felo: You definitely want at least a Level 2 or Level 3 armor, so it’s really important to get to the [supply] boxes, kill the zombies, get that armor. It pays off in the long run. As far as a gun combination, the KN, which is a 7.62 caliber, so the bullets are a lot stronger and it’s good for medium to long range. For close range, the Spitfire’s a really good gun to have in case you’re getting pushed by a team, or even like an ICR, which is a really easy gun to shoot. Beyond that, I’m looking for cluster grenades, frag grenades or concussions. That’s what wins games. When there are 10-15 people left, they’re all looted up, so having that stun or smoke can help set you apart. ...
I make it my mission to have everything I need by the time there are 20-30 people left though and a lot of times I won’t even loot the bodies of my kills. Other people are hearing you get those kills, so they’re coming for you, man. If you take your sweet time looting bodies, a whole squad will roll up behind you and you’re dead. Get everything you need early in the game and make looting bodies a rare thing.
Xotic: I use an ICR/Maddox combo a lot. And I don’t know if that’s because those are the two competitive guns we use, but the ICR is a good long range gun, while the Maddox is a good medium/short range gun, so if I get those I just feel like I’m in a good position. But if I can get a Koshka or Paladin, I’m switching to that. Because in Blackout a sniper can win the game, easily.
Revan: I prefer the ABR as a primary gun, rockets [Hellion Salvo] as a secondary, mesh mines and a Reinforced perk.
Royalty: I like the ICR/Outlaw combo. Perk: Dead silence and a cluster grenade for equipment.
Q: Do you have a preferred landing area?
Felo: If I’m playing casually, I like to explore the map a little bit. That’s the fun of battle royale, not being repetitive. But if I’m playing competitively or wager matches for money, I prefer to land Firing Range, Train Station or Rivertown. That’s usually where the majority of the people land and the way the zones work [with the collapse] it’s easy to rotate in and out of the zone.
Xotic: Firing range. Unless I’m doing some kind of side thing for a friend, I’ll go firing range every single time. For some reason, it’s such an easy place to loot and, in the middle of the map, you can go anywhere after that.
Revan: My favorite place to land is firing range. Typically there’s a lot of action there and I love the early fights. My least favorite place is Turbine. There’s too much open area and not enough loot.
Royalty: Firing Range. I feel it brings the most intensity right off the start of the game, so there is less running around without seeing anyone. My least favorite place would have to be Lighthouse. It’s so secluded in the back of the map. Basically it just brings slow game play and minimal loot.
Q: Are there types of weapons, equipment or perks that you find particularly effective when you combine them?
Felo: If you can just stack attachments on the SDM, that will kill with like two bullets at any range. It’s really good.
Xotic: Anything with a grapple hook. Any kind of gun. The grapple hook just helps you play faster and lets you get to places they don’t expect.
Revan: Consumer and Healing. A lot of people don’t pick up this perk but when active you heal significantly faster. It’s saved my life a couple of times.
Royalty: Sensor dart, cluster grenade and an SMG.
Q: Are there any pieces of equipment you find to be either over- or underrated? Any items you’d pass over altogether?
Goonjar: I think the Trophy System is underrated for some people, but it’s a really good tool in Blackout because in late game, everyone usually has some grenades or tacticals, and with the Trophy System you’ll never be affected by those. When I get stunned it’s one of the most frustrating things ever.
Felo: If I have to pick between equipment, I usually go for Cluster Grenades, because they blow up quick and force people to move if they’re hiding behind something because they have three rounds of explosions. Concussions are probably No. 2, since they removed 9-bangs to evaluate them. Stuns are pretty, pretty good. And Sensor Darts, which are very useful. Try shooting them on your ATV too.
Usually I have more important stuff to carry than Mesh Mines or Molotovs. If you hit someone with a Molotov, it usually kills them every time, but they’re hard to hit with and you have to be really accurate with them.
Xotic: I’d rank the Grapple Gun No. 1, then the Concussion, clusters after that. Those are pretty good. In terms of weapons though, if I see a shotgun, I’m not picking up a shotgun. I’m not picking up a pistol. Unless it’s like early game.
Revan: After a first gun and a backpack, a Trauma Kit is important. It’ll let you over-heal [up to 200] after the first fights and survive longer.
Royalty: Armor, without a doubt, is the most important. It basically allows you to fight engagements where you can get two or more kills within a small window. Without it you’re basically a free down for the enemy team if you make one little mistake.
Q: What perks do you find to be the most valuable?
Goonjar: Dead Silence and Awareness. When I play Blackout, the biggest thing is the audio cues. ... When I hear someone, I like to try to find them visually, get up on a building or outside and take a quick little 360 to try to find them, try to follow the footsteps. I don’t push them necessarily though, because I do think one of the biggest mistakes in Blackout is being overaggressive and then running into a squad of four people.
Felo: Beyond Dead Silence and Awareness, Paranoia will make a noise that lets people know, “hey man, you’re about to get lit up, you better move.” Outlander is underrated too. If you get trapped outside the circle you can take less damage from the [collapse] and beat it.
Q: What’s your take on vehicles? Are they worth the noise they create?
Goonjar: At the beginning of the game, I love to get into a quad. As soon as I loot or get the kills around me, it’s on the quad and right on to the next area. I don’t really like the helicopter, but maybe that’s just me. I can’t really get kills with it, but maybe I’ll use it to get away in a hurry.
Felo: If we’re having fun, me and my friends will get in helicopters then go crash into people and jump out before it blows up. If you want to have fun, go get vehicles and try to run people over. If you’re trying to win a game, you’ll want to stay away from ATVs for the most part. The noise attracts people, so if you use an ATV, get on, get where you’re going, get off and chill. Same with trucks, though they offer a bit more protection.
Xotic: I like using the truck and the quad. If you hear gunshots and you grab a quad, you can be there instantly. Also, if people are shooting at you, don’t stop. Go around them, heal up and then go back. You’re not just going to hop off the quad and destroy people. It’s not that simple.
Q: What about zombies? Shooting them up can attract attention. Is the loot and mystery box worth it?
Goonjar: I think it’s fun going for the mystery box and killing zombies but it also reveals your location to everyone around you. If you’re going for the win, you don’t mess with zombies.
Felo: 100-percent worth it. It’s really important. Early in the game, you want to be as looted as possible. They’ll drop grenades, medikits ... and after you kill all the zombies you’ll get the mystery box, which has Level 3 armor and you can get upgraded guns that are fully stacked with all the attachments. You just got to make sure you’re the first person to the box. If you’re a little late you might run into another team and then it’s really tricky.
Xotic: I try to avoid them generally, but when the zombie boss [the Blightfather] is in the cemetery and you beat him, there’s a lot of good stuff in there. All the other places, like Asylum, I don’t go there at all. Zombies annoy me.
Royalty: In my opinion, killing zombies really depends on if you are in desperate need of something. I would not suggest going there at the start of the game as it’s really random loot.
Revan: I’d say it’s never worth it. Why waste time doing it when you can let the noobs do it for you? Just kill them after they get the box and reap the benefits of their work!