UFG Crashes the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta!

Every E3, gamers expect certain developers to reveal their upcoming titles and get us pumped for the second half of the year. They also expect to see the newest version of a popular yearly release. Depending on where they fall (in terms of fandom) on a series and/or developer, they’ll either be excited or uninterested. That’s not the case with Call of Duty. At least not this year; just about everyone is interesting in what Treyarch is doing!

Let’s be real. It’s easy to hate on CoD. Despite how well it sells, people will always target this behemoth of a title. The main reason: it’s yearly release schedule – whether it’s the clone accusation or the fact that most fans move on to the newer title when released, this type of schedule hurts each individual game’s value. That said, this particular title is rocking the boat in interesting ways. As we saw in June, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be the newest piece to the Black Ops continuity in name and vibe only. Treyarch is taking a different approach by offering multiple competitive multiplayer modes (including their version of Battle Royale) and zombies while forgoing a campaign mode. Not only that but a lot of the Black Ops have been tweaked, auto-heals are gone, and a new emphasis on team work really changes things. A gamble to say the least, all we had to do was play a match or two of the private Beta to see how different Black Ops 4 really is.

The one thing fans need to know is that this is still a Call of Duty game. It’s still fast paced, killstreak, perk heavy title featuring well designed maps (so far) and familiar mechanics. At the same time, it has been changed enough to warrant a change in tactics. Take having to manually heal for instance. I’ve been playing shooters for as long as I can remember. So being forced to heal/find health kits isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with. That said, Black Ops 4 changes this concept by having a dedicating button for healing. Pressing said button causes your character to inject themselves with…something medicinal, allowing your health to slowly tick up. Even though it’s a quick process, healing this way proved to be annoying at first; I’d go through the typical shoot, reload, shoot again cycle before dying because I forgot to actively heal myself. What’s more interesting is the fact that you can be wounded, reducing your ability to heal for a short time.

Healing this way certainly changes the way CoD is played. Getting multiple kills, one after the other is more difficult than before. At the same time, it adds to the run and gunning since you don’t have to search for med kits. It also promotes team work, the aspect of gameplay that Treyarch seems to be focused on this time around. This notion is reinforced by the new Specialists – hero like classes with two special abilities that are tailored to specific roles. Going back to healing, it’s possible to rely on Crash (the game’s medic) for his powerful health boosting Tak-5 ability. The only problem is that it is an ultimate move of sorts with a long cooldown.

I spent the vast majority of my time in the beta experimenting with each specialist and what they brought to the table. None of them seem broken or overpowered. This isn’t a hero shooter, so don’t expect super clutch moments that are akin to what’s seen in games like Overwatch. No, most of these abilities fit within the confines of this series; the ultimate moves, for instance, are similar to the what’s seen in Black Ops 3, just changed to be more team or situation oriented. That’s not to say they aren’t impactful – a simple ability like a shock grenade, ammo pack, or a spawn point goes a long way. Just don’t expect to decimate an entire team (who aren’t clumped together) whenever activating one of these abilities. As an extra wrinkle, it’s possible to replace an ability with a grenade, tool, or something that make beneficial based on the type of match.

Call of Duty is usually all about running and gunning. This is and isn’t the case here. The specialist abilities and healing system will force you to slow down a bit (at least until you get the hang of things). Sticking close to a teammate who can supply you with extra ammo, put down barricades, or launch arrow-based UAV’s is a must. Being a one-man army is still viable but much more difficult to accomplish. Which made for better matches regardless of the mode. Playing Control felt amazing when I had a Recon teammate scanning the area for enemies as my Sector sent an autonomous rolling shocker that would hold zap enemies, holding them in place for a short amount of time. It doesn’t take long to understand how combos are created when team members are using specific skills in tandem. Moments like that helped me see what Treyarch’s vision was for competitive gameplay online and it actually got me pretty excited about what the future holds for this game long term.

There were times when I run up against a team that’s actually played as a team. Like, the entire time. It can be frustrating to deal with special abilities and constant killstreaks going up against crazy good players. This is especially true at the start of the beta/your multiplayer journey thanks to not being able to change your character’s weapons. All of the specialists start out with the same weapons and custom loadouts are only available after hitting level five. Still, I think most gamers will be surprised at how “traditional” Black Ops 4 feels even with these changes. My only real concern comes from the reduction of modes (no campaign) and how that affects the final product. While it would be silly to think that the game won’t sell really well come October, there are people out there who raise an eyebrow at the game’s price considering it has less content; no, I don’t believe the coming Battle Royale mode will equal a campaign, given how it’ll basically be another multiplayer option among many. Then there’s the coming map packs. Games that were solely multiplayer based, at least in recent years, made sure to keep everyone together by not charging for new maps. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will still have a season pass though, possibly further splintering the fan base. Something that EA is shying away from with Battlefield V, which will sport a campaign, the normal multiplayer options, a new battle royale mode, and free maps/DLC.

My point is that the Beta didn’t convince me that Treyarch has all of their ducks in a row. The game, from what I’ve played, it is fun. I like a lot of the changes, classes all seem great, and there are plenty of customization options to help make CoD your own. I’m also pretty sure all of these things will make the aforementioned battle royale mode feel unique. At the same time, I know that if I buy this game, I will have to invest at least a hundred dollars to get the “complete experience.” Worse still is that a major component is missing from the start. There’s still time to push me over to Treyarch’s side of the fence though. More Betas are on the way (one of which starts tomorrow) and I still haven’t experienced the battle royale mode or seen what changes are being made to Zombies. Hopefully, the rest of the game will be as fun as the few game modes I was able to play last week!

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