Much like the Madden franchise, an annual Call of Duty release has become a staple in the gaming industry. Long before Fortnite had kids collectively floss dancing, water cooler chat of Activision’s latest military shooter was prolific. This year, Treyarch and Activision are looking to shake things up and recapture some of Call of Duty‘s limelight.
We recently got our hands on the multiplayer beta for this year’s upcoming title, Black Ops 4. When Treyarch announced that this year’s entry would be eschewing a single player campaign for their take on a trendy battle royale mode, I had to work through the stages of grief. After the initial shock, I reasoned they would still bring us something comparable. Ultimately, I’ve come to accept that no form of campaign will satiate my annual thirst for a big budget blockbuster this year. That has turned my eyes, however, toward the fact that Call of Duty must deliver an impeccable multiplayer experience to remain a viable way to spend my time and money.
With all that said, I’ve gotten several hours in with the first couple weekends of the Black Ops 4 beta. Though it did not include their battle royale mode—dubbed “Blackout” and set for beta in September—I was pleasantly surprised with the time I spent with the game so far. There are a few changes that seem odd at first, but from the bottom up, Black Ops 4 feels like it has the potential to bring former fans back into the fold.
Unlike its previous outings, Black Ops 4 has pulled back on jetpacks and wall-running, keeping the movement a fast-paced boots-on-the-ground soiree with some high speed knee-sliding for extra mobility and cover. Treyarch has opted to keep their canonical Black Ops heroes since 4 is technically a prequel to BO3. This expands the list to ten different heroes and narrows the focus of each to make their abilities more specialized than before as you could previously choose between 2 ultimate abilities per soldier.
While a few things will be familiar—such as the fact that Black Ops 4 still uses the 10-point customization scheme many of their titles have utilized—there are several new mechanics to enjoy. First, Treyarch has opted to give everyone quick-shot health boosts. After slugging it out in a firefight, you can duck behind cover and take it to regain your health. This can be augmented with a body armor or other gear in your loadout. This time around, grenades aren’t granted to everyone by default. Instead, they’re locked behind a leveling wall and will still take a gear slot. If you want grenades before that, you’ll have to pick a hero that has that ability. Treyarch has also added “Heist”: a Counter Strike-like game mode that will have you building your loadout over a series of one-life rounds.
The movement and shooting in Black Ops 4 still feel as good as ever and, frankly, better than some past entries—I’m looking at you, Advanced Warfare. The time-to-kill feels a bit longer than in previous Call of Duty games, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it is still fun and action-packed. They’ve changed how kills are counted now, though, so it doesn’t feel like your KDR is going to be a true stat. Instead, you’re awarded kills for assists. I’m not sure how that will sit with die-hards in the long run.
All of the other pieces are in place for Black Ops 4 to have a strong showing this year, particularly from fans who come to the franchise for its classic competitive modes. Shooting, movement, and map design feel great and there are a lot of new bells and whistles to explore. Between the zombie maps and the battle royale mode, there is still a lot to be seen and I’m excited and hopeful for Black Ops 4 in a way I’ve not been for a Call of Duty game in some time. You should definitely keep your ear to the ground for this year’s entry!
Preview code provided by PMK BNC