Why I F****** liked the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 BETA

The latest upcoming release in the Call of Duty franchise, dropped it’s usual Beta testing phase for the public to try and to provide feedback to better improve the final game for launch. Here is what I really liked about the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by Activision

Lets kick this off with what Black Ops 4 is from a gameplay standpoint and where it stands amongst other Call of Duty games. Black Ops 4 is Black Ops 3 without the advanced movement and the inclusion of a manual healing element to allow players to heal when they want; meaning players can stay longer in gunfights if they want to. They also rebalanced and redesigned the Specialist mechanics from Black Ops 3 and now players can utilise two Specialist abilities on each character if they want. This second Specialist ability slot also takes up an Equipment slot which includes lethal grenades. I could count how many times I saw a player use those grenades on one hand across two weekends of the Black Ops 4 beta (I was the player foolishly using the not-so lethal grenades).

Equipment Menu on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

They’re not that great in their current design state which is honestly a nice change of pace compared to the importance and impact of grenades in Call of Duty: WWII and does create a shift in focus towards gunfights, which is what Treyarch have said they wanted. It’s much more inline with their ‘Tactical’ mentality for Black Ops 4.

After weekend two of the Beta, I felt like the balance of the Specialists and how they can take over the game was weighted towards Crash, Recon, Seraph and Torque with the fifth player using any of the other lethal specialists to fill out a well-rounded team. I don’t personally think there is any issue with this as most if not all of the lethal specialists can offer opportunities to take over points in an objective mode that a Crash, Recon or Seraph cannot do on themselves without teammates storming a point with those tools utilised.

With an organised team (or just your friends in party) Black Ops 4 from a team play perspective can be very rewarding. Shooting a Sensor Dart onto a Hardpoint, allowing my team to see the other team or healing my teammates with Crash while they’re taking a point feels important. It’s ultimately an “I’m helping” reward but it can be incredibly helpful from a utility standpoint. Or you can just take Ruin or Battery and either Superman yourself across the map into a Ground Slam or ‘noob-tubing’ a point to Victory. And then there is Ajax; a Specialist with a Riot Shield equipped with an automatic machine pistol. I don’t like Ajax.

Ajax from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Arguably though, the most important aspect of any Call of Duty game, is it’s Guns. As of right now, I really like these weapons a ton more than those found in Black Ops 3. Treyarch did introduce a number of additions to how weapons function including adding bullet drop and tracers with smoke rising from the barrels of guns; for their upcoming Blackout mode. I believe it does make the guns feel more powerful and more realised in the world. There is also the implementation of Predictable Recoil which is insanely huge for adding a learning curve to weapons but I have yet to fully notice that system being in place. It won’t be until I play in Private Matches on release that I understand if it’s that much of a change. They felt quite similar to how Call of Duty guns handled and felt in the past and I’ll have to test them out further.

I’m a big fan of SMGs in most CoD titles I play and Black Ops 4 is no exception. I got my hands on with all of the sub-machine guns in the Beta and my favourites to use were the Cordite and the Spitfire. While the MX9 was performing well for most players across both weekends, I preferred the Cordite and Spitfire as I found it hard to actually perform well with the MX9 versus my experience with the other two SMGs. I actually used the first default class for the majority of the Black Ops 4 Beta and I found the Cordite hard to put down with the selection of perks available on that loadout. Although I really enjoyed using this class, I do have a feeling that the movement adjustment perks in the Perk 2 area will be rebalanced. Lightweight, Gung-Ho and Dexterity will always be hard perks to balance in Call of Duty as the power to run past player cameras and react and move quicker than the other player usually allow you to win gunfights not because of each others gun-skill but because you strafed super fast or mantled over a wall super-quick and was able to shoot while mantling. It all becomes quite messy if you’re the other player. Obviously, I was having a great time! The other players? They probably weren’t a fan of Robert the Moon-jumping Recon, boost sliding without boosters around corners and gaining incredible momentum off of ledges and boxes. And that was probably my favourite part of the Black Ops 4 Beta. The movement is so fast and fluid, especially when compared to previous ‘Boots on the Ground’ Call of Duty titles. There was something way too satisfying about sliding and ‘jump-shotting’ in and out of gunfights in conjunction with the new manual healing mechanic; which I was previously worried about at the game’s reveal.

‘Breach’ Default Class with the Cordite SMG and Perk 2 Gluttony Setup in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Overall, I thought the gun balancing in the Beta was pretty great and there is huge potential for using a ton more guns than just the really powerful ones; probably due to the health changes that were implemented in Black Ops 4 and general balancing work from Treyarch so far. That is pretty exciting for me as a player who religiously only uses one or two sub-machine guns for a game’s life cycle.

Oh and the Weapon Operator Mods are a pretty cool inclusion and alteration of Variants found in other Call of Duty games. The Wildfire Operator Mod turns the Spitfire into a monstrous laser weapon with a massive fire rate increase.

Let’s talk about Maps and Gamemodes.

Maps from the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta. From left to right; Contraband, Frequency, Gridlock, Hacienda, Payload and Seaside.

Overall, the majority of multiplayer maps found in the Black Ops 4 Beta were good. They are your standard three lane designed maps and from an aesthetic standpoint, they feel like ‘Black Ops’ maps compared to the those found in Black Ops 3 and even some from Black Ops 2. There is a more grounded approach to the levels (pun not intended) but while still incorporating the colour and mood fans want from their multiplayer experience.

If I were to rank them from one to six on a scale (one being the best, six being my least favourite) it would look something like this:

  1. Hacienda! This is the spiritual successor and love-child to Raid (Black Ops 2) and Showdown (Modern Warfare) and it is the most gorgeous of the maps shown yet for Black Ops 4. Huge colours, clean sight-lines and interactive map elements! The middle of the map is a cluster-f*** and it makes any objective mode with a B Flag or Hardpoint exciting to jump on. It also features the classic and patented Treyarch high-art sculptures found in many Treyarch spawn areas in high-end mansion-type maps. Hands down my favourite map so far from Black Ops 4.
  2. Gridlock! Welcome to ‘head-glitch’ city with one of the most hectic B Flags or middle Hardpoints in the Beta so far. Another map with great sight-lines and awesome Hardpoint locations. I can’t wait to watch professional Call of Duty players fight over the Middle, Garden and Coffee Shop Hardpoints as they can be super contentious and hard to break and therefore rewarding when you do. The map is also super colourful and bright and it feels fun to play due to it’s location in a Japanese city which always brings futuristic-looking buildings and awesome architecture.
  3. Payload! The most classic feeling ‘Black Ops’ map in the Beta. It feels gritty but brought up through the franchise to the fourth installation in the series and it fits well. Another map with a hectic middle connected to an interactive map element which raises a metal bridge to give easier access to the higher-up section of the middle area. This map also has one of my least favourite spots in any of the maps of the Beta; the suspended bridges over a pit. It makes you feel pretty helpless if you’re in the middle of that bridge and open from all available sight-lines that are primarily ‘head-glitches’. I also love the map introduction animations which include the explosion of a tanker and the traversal of a Chinook. It’s the little things.
  4. Frequency. Although I enjoyed this map, I have to admit it’s the most default and generic ‘futuristic facility’ map yet in terms of aesthetics. A bunch of white panels and pipes and became ultimately deemed ‘B-the-map’ as on Domination. The B flag is the only flag teams fight over as it’s super easy to access and it takes a while to flank (without mentioning any spawn issues that were available in both of the weekends, although is being addressed).
  5. Seaside. It’s beautifully colourful but I’d rather just play Hacienda and the two Windows looking over Middle that you’re meant to be able to mantle into are incredibly fickle to mantle-into if you’ve slid or jumped recently before attempting to mantle. Treyarch please fix.
  6. Contraband. Ah, Contraband. I’m not a fan overall. The middle of the map feels impenetrable and slightly wonky in terms of what happens in gunfights. You’re either shot via the windows available in the area or via the two major entrances or the two ladders from the water. It’s a super weird point and hard to control if the spawns flip wildly (which I experienced in the Beta weekends). It’s a lot of ‘dance-around-the-military-crates’. It’s a looker’ though, but could we get some tiki torches or lamps in the jungle area? It’s way too dark!

You’ll notice I mentioned gamemodes such as Domination and Hardpoint specifically in my talks about maps in the Black Ops 4 Beta. That’s because after playing Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed in the Black Ops 4 Beta, they cemented themselves as gamemodes I would not touch in the final game. I’ve never felt more aimless or directionless in Call of Duty before and the flow was completely non-existent for me. I’m honestly relieved because on PC, all I would play is TDM as it would be the only gamemode properly available due to the reducing playerbase post-launch. I’m going to be getting real’ comfortable with Hardpoint this year.

And then the standout mode from the Beta for me; Heist! This mode essentially brings the money system from CSGO and warps it for a shorter but really fun and potentially exciting few rounds of Search and Destroy without the Bomb but the ability to extract a bag of money. This incorporates a number of the features that will be found in the upcoming Blackout Battle Royale mode. You can down and revive players and find pickup-able armour and stim shots to heal yourself during the rounds.

My main two gripes with the mode so far are:

  1. Rocket Launchers in this mode are ridiculous, shred through health and offer a bunch of money for free-firing rockets in a general direction. Slap on a couple of attachments and we’re playing Quake or Fortnite. It can be fun but once one player uses it in gunfights, the entire lobby devolves into Rocket Warfare.
  2. The downing and reviving mechanics can be incredibly frustrating to play with. Loading a clip into a player for them to then be placed into a number of invincibility frames before going down, wasting your bullets and making you think you’re actually hurting them and then it takes an obscene amount of bullets to kill a downed player where as one melee would wipe them out. Reviving and the area in which you are prompted to revive is a little clunky too. There is something incredibly satisfying when taking on a armoured team with an armour-shredding Spitfire. The armour ‘clunk’ sound is incredibly loud and piercing and you feel like you’ve just given someone a really bad time.

Overall though, Heist was incredibly fun and intense and I can’t wait to play it in the final game. Good job on this Treyarch.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Reveal Event

Ultimately, what I played over those two weekends has me pretty excited for this year of Call of Duty, especially with a squad of players. I think it’s the best designed team-based multiplayer yet and I think that could be beneficial to the CoD franchise going forward; and not just for Call of Duty esports.

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