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Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2018


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 6, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 features gritty, grounded, combat, along with new levels of customization and tactical gameplay, and a variety of new weaponry, maps and modes for the ultimate Black Ops multiplayer experience.

Pre-order Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Fortnite is the most popular shooter in the world these days, but it's worth remembering the utter behemoth that is Call of Duty. It might not be the world's biggest shooter anymore, but it's still one of the biggest franchises in existence. There's been a lot of back and forth with the series as it works to reinvent itself while not alienating its audience, and some attempts have been more successful than others. This year's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is looking to put a sheen of polish on the franchise's trademark gameplay, and that could reinvigorate it in this era of battle royales.

We got some hands-on time with Black Ops 4 during the closed beta this past weekend. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about Black Ops 4 is that it's a slower gamer than its predecessor. I can't quite call it realistic, but it's definitely more down to earth. The intense momentum of Black Ops 3 is toned back, and everything feels slower, more deliberate, and — for better or worse — heavier. You can move, but not quite as quickly. Sliding is still in, but don't expect to be doing any wall-sprinting. It takes longer to kill enemies, and combat isn't quite blink-and-miss-it the way it had been in earlier games.

On the other hand, this gives Black Ops 4 a more focused paced rather than being entirely about twitch shots. Making the right decisions, approaching combat carefully, and generally understanding why you're doing something is as important as actually doing it. This is embodied perhaps best in the new health system. Rather than regenerating health normally, you can spend a moment to inject yourself with a syringe with replenishes your HP. It's an interesting trade-off. You can get back into action much faster, but health effectively becomes a resource you need to "reload" like a gun.  It seems like a minor change, but it makes you have to think harder about what you do in combat. The precious few seconds you use in restoring your health can be everything in the middle of a tense battle. It's a minor change, but the minor changes add up.

You can play as specialists, and each has their own distinct abilities. They're not quite as quirky as Overwatch, but they're a step in that direction. Each character specializes in a different area. Recon is a recon specialist who can pinpoint enemy locations on the minimap, which gives you a serious advantage in terms of knowledge. Ruin has a grappling hook that you can use to quickly reach inaccessible areas, and a "grav slam" to perform a powerful AoE jumping attack. There are specialists who focus on traps, who focus on support, and yes, who focus on blowing things up spectacularly.

It's a fun system. It's a change for Call of Duty, but it gives players a role that's easy to understand. I'm fond of playing support roles in games, and it added a lot to the experience for me to be able to take the role of someone who helped others rather than depending entirely on my own KDA ratio. It's worth noting that the abilities are very strong. They can often turn the tide of battle in a single go and return some of the fast lethality to Black Ops 4.

There are the usual variety of multiplayer modes in Black Ops 4. The newest is Control mode, which resembles a Call of Duty version of the Overwatch mode of the same name. You have to control certain environments for a set period of time to win. It's a fun mode that seems tailored to showcase the abilities of the specialists. This is in addition to classic modes, like competitive deathmatches and Search and Destroy. There's also going to be another Blackout mode, which resembles the popular battle royale genre, which will be shown off in a separate beta later this year.

This is still Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. No matter what it may borrow from other games, such as Overwatch-inspired character classes or the upcoming battle royale Blackout mode, it still has that Call of Duty feel. The slower and more focused combat brings the game back to the days before it was almost indistinguishable from Titanfall, but not enough to lose the franchise's fast-paced feeling. Based on our demo, Black Ops 4 has the potential to be one of the most enjoyable Call of Duty games to date. With the heavy focus on multiplayer, it's clear that Treyarch is hoping to bring the franchise back into the limelight. We'll see how it works out when Black Ops 4 releases this October for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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