There are a handful of franchises we can expect annual games from every year, but the best-selling one year over year is Call of Duty. There were two betas for this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 over the last couple of weekends, and I was impressed by a lot of what I saw. There were a handful of complaints, but between the first a second beta weekends, Treyarch listened to some of the player feedback and implemented some important balancing updates.
The first weekend wasn’t as smooth as the second. The first weekend I had issues with hit detection, network lag, and for some reason disconnects on the map Gridlock every time I played it. About 2 or 3 minutes into every match on that map the beta would consistently kick me back into the menu. I wasn’t too mad though, I understand the importance of a public beta phase, as it tests server strength and helps developers see how everything interacts in a less controlled environment outside of the studio.
My biggest complaints the first weekend came from balancing issues. Almost every death was to a singular submachine gun, the MX9. The meta for the first weekend of the Black Ops 4 beta was pretty straightforward, wear body armor, and use a submachine gun. Some people were using assault rifles, and from my perspective, seemed to get shredded more often than the people using SMG’s.
I played a ton of Black Ops 3. While I wasn’t a fan of the boost jumping, the quick pace of the gunplay and movement suited my style of play more than a lot of the other Call of Duty titles. Black Ops 4 plays just as fast as Black Ops 3, even without the boost jumping. While I knew what I was going into in the Black Ops 4 beta after getting my hands on it at E3 and the community reveal event in May, there were a lot more options available to me in the betas. New scorestreaks, weapons, and equipment were all available to choose from, and I spent a ton of time in the menu figuring out what worked well within different class combinations.
Operators are not new to the Black Ops franchise, but they play a more vital role in this outing. Certain maps seem more tailored for different operators. Seaside saw more Torque play due to the high sniper perch in the church. Ajax’s ballistic shield saw him clearing small rooms in several of the maps, and Firebreak’s reactor core was able to deal damage to hiding enemies without actually putting him into danger. It’s been said before, but utilizing everyone’s special abilities is pretty important to gameplay. Less so for the deathmatch modes over the objective ones, but when Torque’s barricade is preventing engagement from the front, and a stealthy Nomad can work his way around a building and send his dog into the fray, it all works in concert and is very satisfying.
I mentioned body armor before, and it plays a crucial part of gameplay, even if it removes some of the fun of customizing a loadout the way you might want to. Black Ops 4 features a longer time to kill (TTK) than previous Call of Duty titles. I’ve seen reports that it feels a bit better on PC, because of being able to aim more consistently and acquire targets a bit faster, but on console it felt slightly too long. The first weekend’s beta had body armor preventing all damage to a certain point before players dealt damage to an opponent. The second weekend, Treyarch did a bit of balancing and players wearing body armor started being dealt a percentage of damage instead of just blocking all of it. Player health has been increased from 100 to 150-200 depending on pickups. Anyone wearing body armor had a significant advantage, forcing players to start using armor piercing rounds. This makes creating loadouts far less interesting and creative when someone is forced to use one or two (depending on current equips) of their pick 10 slots on what ultimately begins a requirement to stay competitive.
I think the important thing to realize though is that Treyarch is actively listening to its community. The quick turnaround on the body armor nerf and MPX recoil nerf while strengthening some of the underperforming and underutilized operators and equipment is going to be key to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s survival. Without a single player campaign for Treyarch to focus on, if complaints go unheard, the player base might jump ship.
There were a couple of new maps in the beta that weren’t at E3 or the community reveal that were on display. The main one that sticks out in my head is Gridlock, because I literally couldn’t play it the first weekend, but the second weekend it quickly became one of my favorite maps. Snaking passageways made for some great ambush moments with Ruin’s gravity spikes, and overlooks helped delay enemy passage through the center lane.
The real takeaway I had from the Black Ops 4 beta cemented what I already felt after E3 and the community event. Black Ops is back. Fast and fluid gunplay is Treyarch’s bread and butter, and I felt right at home after three years with Black Ops 3. I’m now looking forward even more to the Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode with the Blackout beta launching next month, and highly intrigued by the three zombies package that will ship on October 12th. Keep your eyes peeled for our full impressions of the Blackout beta next month on Electric Bento.
Call of Duty Black Ops 4 launches October 12th for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC through Battle.net. Preorders are available here.