One of the most controversial changes to the Call of Duty formula may be the removal of the singleplayer content. There won’t be a story anymore, the game will be about the online action – 24*7. While this decision might seem rash, considering the first two entries in the Black Ops series had really good stories, then sadly it seems the poor story writing of the past few games has had an effect on the development on Black Ops 4 as well. This makes this particular iteration and in turn the beta, a very significant indicator of things to come.
We had access to both the closed and the open beta of the game spread across 2 weekends (3-5 and 10-13 August 2018). We tried out the game on 2 platforms (PC and PS4) and got our hands on 4 different maps, and all the specialist that the game has to offer. It should be noted that this iteration of CoD was developed by Treyarch and Beenox.
BLACK OPS 4 BETA
The game implements the concept of ‘health bars’ to improve gameplay. Now you can actually know how much damage you did to an enemy as you see their health bar go down with each bullet they take. It also helps you keep a track of your own health, and make important tactical choices like when to bail out of a heated fight, and when to jump into one.
One of the most important reasons for the decline of Call of Duty following Advanced Warfare was because of the peculiar “jetpack” style gameplay that allowed players to cheat walls and obstructions by simply jumping into the site of action. That means players have to watch their map closely and watch out not only for the entry points to a location but also at the sky above, in case an enemy decides to get the jump on them. This, in practice, is much more difficult than it sounds. Black Ops 4 successfully does away with all of that jetpack nonsense; players can’t run up walls or lift themselves into the air and land at a different location. This reduces the overall difficulty and makes the game much more accessible. This was pretty important as a change, especially since Activision claims they want to deliver the “ultimate gaming experience” in Black Ops 4, and for that to be possible, it is necessary to expand the player base to players who have never played Call of Duty before, as well as people who are returning to the series after a long break.
The game had operator styled gameplay since time immemorial, but few Call of Duty games manages to use them as well as Black Ops 4 does. Every operator’s ability actually influences the game and makes you pick operators based on your playstyle. They are no longer mere “cosmetic” changes, but ones that actually make a difference, especially during clutch situations. Every operator fulfils a particular purpose and covers a wide range of playstyles. With a large number of operators, Activision ensures every player gets something to suit his or her playstyle. Use Torque to fend off certain portions of the map from enemies, use Battery to empty a grenade launcher with a few dozen grenades in a matter of minutes while firing at the enemy, use Recon to reveal enemy positions to your team, or use Ruin to push through enemy lines. The increased significance of the operators made me think while playing – is this an FPS or a MOBA?
The old-school classes and killstreaks are back, and this is the part where the game seems to have remained unchanged. You can create custom classes once you hit Level 5, and you unlock weapons, attachments, and killstreaks by leveling up. When the going gets tough, deploy a UAV to reveal enemy locations, or an attack chopper to take out enemies from the air. Killstreaks are a part of the game which I hated since their implementation, and I continue to do so. It’s frustrating because it’s difficult to play around – and it gives an unfair advantage to the players to use them.
Activision seemed to have delivered in another sector which they discussed during E3. All guns have recoil, and it varies depending on the gun and its attachments. However, recoil control doesn’t seem to be a thing amongst players. Most spam bullets the way they would do in a previous iteration of Call of Duty anyway. It’s difficult to guess whether the engine doesn’t allow a way to reduce recoil optimally, or whether players don’t care about doing it. Gun balance might be an issue, and I hope Activision actually makes the process of ranking up smooth so that players with slightly higher levels don’t get a huge advantage in terms of the guns and attachments available.
The game seems to be optimized pretty well, running well even on low-end PCs. Sometimes stray FPS drops here and there, especially while rendering special effects, otherwise the game runs pretty well.
The game has some old returning maps, including Nuketown (which was included in all Black Ops games), as well as several new maps included for the sake of variety. The game modes include old ones like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Search and Destroy as well as a few new modes like Heist and of course, Blackout.
For once, after a long while, it actually felt good to get into the boots of the specialists and score some kills. A few well-implemented changes to the game design (though really poorly timed) were really welcome. This is one Call of Duty to look out for, as it does many things differently. The game feels fast-paced, different from the team based shooters that have stagnated the genre for many years. Also, one big AAA title will officially have a Battle Royale mode now! Personally, at this point, the only thing preventing me from hitting the “Purchase Now” button on the Battle.net client is Activision’s crappy business model – if you’re fine with dishing out extra money for map and weapon packs later on, then this is one title you can be excited for.