Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Impressions

Call of Duty had felt like it was spiraling out of control for a few games now. Each game went in an odd direction, and a faster pace had led to the game solidifying itself as simply a “twitch shooter” due to the jumping around and odd perks. World War II somewhat breathed some fresh air into the franchise, but Black Ops 4 truly takes all the right steps in a new direction.

Black Ops 4 feels familiar, yet different at the same time. I like to compare it to Black Ops 2 more than Black Ops 3, because that was honestly the better game, and that’s where this title feels like it branched off of. No more jumping, or wall running, and a slower pace that the game desperately needed.

The simply subtraction of wall running and all too futuristic weaponry is what brings Black Ops back to life. In fact the “not too distant future” is what made Black Ops 2 one of the best games in the franchise. It’s grounded, and I mean boots-on-the-ground gameplay, combined with slightly slower movement, and a little bit of a health buff. All these changes feel so minor standing alone, but bunch them together and Black Ops 4 feels totally different. Movement is a little more strategic, and simply shooting at someone is normally a bad idea. You still have the “twitch” moments, but a team working together and having some strategy is always going to dominate the other.

Then Black Ops 4 adds even more changes to the gameplay that, again, feel subtle, but totally change the way you play. One of those changes includes a new health system, where players can heal at any point, but they do not regenerate health immediately after exiting a battle. This means that even though you won a fight, you now need to make quick decisions about when to heal or reload your gun. Choosing the wrong thing may lead to death.

This also gives players so much more to work with in winning fights. If you got shot from behind you can quickly find cover, heal fast, and surprise the enemy with full health. They may have used too many bullets and didn’t reload as the press forward, giving you an edge.

The new class system also adds an interest twist to the series. Much like Overwatch or Battlefield, each player can choose a specific character in the game to be, and each character has very specific perks that go along with them. For example my favorite character is Recon, and his abilities include a radar dart that can light up a specific area of the map, and radar style goggles that lights up enemy movements in pulse rounds. During team based capture modes only one player can pick each character, making the decision a bit challenging and team work all the more important. Someone not using recond properly may not give their team that added advantage of knowing enemy movements.

There are some minor drawbacks to this system because some characters perks are not as valuable as others. There is a minor tweak between game modes where certain characters will unlock their abilities a little bit faster, but it honestly doesn’t feel like enough. Some characters abilities have short lasting effects (such as throwing a grenade or a quick boost), but they have to wait just as long as more important perks in other characters.

Then there is also the lack of grenades. Overall I’m enjoying the lack of grenades since past COD titles simply turned into a flash bang battle, but at the same time we’ve grown to love using them in the franchise. The abrupt removal takes some time to get used to, but it does force a more gun-on-gun battle, skill over luck. The thing that really bugs me with lack of grenades is that they were always an easy option to remove for more perks or player cards. Now it’s the opposite, you need to lose something useful to gain extra slots, or even if you want a grenade you will need to lose character specific perks.

Overall I’m not going to review the entire game just yet, this is just a beta after all, but the game is totally what I’ve been wanting for years with COD. Boots on the ground, a modern approach, and pacing I can keep up with. The slight strategy approach really freshens up the game, and honestly COD’s beautiful gunplay is shining bright in this one.

The beta is live, starting this morning, for Xbox, PS4, and PC.