REVIEW: Black Ops 4’s Beta is a Breath of Fresh Air, but it Still Needs Some Work
Over the past two weekends, players on both Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC who also pre-ordered Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty title got a small taste of what Black Ops 4 had to offer.
The beta, which currently includes six maps and 40 levels, is chocked full of both fantastic and ill-advised decisions. It’s a mixed bag at best, really, and from a lifetime Call of Duty fan, Treyarch have a lot to work on. However, for every negative throughout this build of the game, there is also a positive.
I had more fun playing this beta than I had in the entire run of last year’s World War 2 or even 2016’s Infinite Warfare. Treyarch, as developers, fundamentally understand what they're doing far more than Infinity War or Sledgehammer. They've got the Call of Duty formula down to a science, and this entry in the Black Ops mini-franchise is no exception. It still contains all of the Treyarch-isms that everyone is used to, but this is definitely the most unique and different entry I've seen in the series so far.
Treyarch have taken elements from other popular shooters like Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege to give the game some refreshingly different mechanics. The specialist system from Black Ops 3 has been expanded similar to Overwatch, now only one person on each team can be a specific character in objective gamemodes--meaning you can only have one Nomad running around per team. If you're playing normal Team Deathmatch, however, two people from each side can take the same character. This adds more of an attachment to your character that you're choosing, and makes you switch up your picks a lot more.
Back in Black Ops 3's hayday, I found myself gravitating towards the Firebreak specialist and never switching it up. I used Firebreak for years now, but within Black Ops 4, its hard to stick with a specific specialist, because your teammates will assuredly take your preferred character at some point. I found myself gravitating towards Nomad this time around, but I also had to switch between Ruin and Torque every time one of my teammates snatched him before me. It adds a whole other dynamic to the specialist pick system, and it was a welcome change for me.
The specialists themselves are a fun time to play around with, especially the Torque, (which includes a placeable Razor Wire and Barricade), and the Nomad, (which includes placeable "mesh mines" and a K9 unit.) No matter what character you're stuck with, you'll have a fair shot, although some of them are obviously meant more for objective gamemodes and become a bit useless when playing Deathmatch.
As for weapons this time around, it's pretty much more of the same. You'll probably be able to identify most guns as most of them are just reskinned or renamed weapons from previous Black Ops entries. I found the gunplay to be quite balanced here, with SMGs and Assault Rifles still dominating like every other COD.
The perks are an issue. The perks in recent Call of Duties have added absolutely nothing new, and this one is no different. Everyone's favorites like Scavenger and Ghost are still around, with Team Link, a quite useless feature, being the only new addition here. Treyarch desperately needs to put their heads together and figure out some new perks, because I have been using the same three for close to five years now. The perk system in the first Black Ops or even Modern Warfare 2 is still ideal, which included Pro versions of all of the best perks. You felt more attached to the perks themselves back then, and it felt more like a critical decision. The choice between Stopping Power, Juggernaut and perks like Bandolier was a mainstay feature of classic COD. That feels lost now, as you could probably run absolutely no perks at all and get away just fine.
The increased time-to-kill, health increase, and removal of the health regeneration are the additions that have gotten the most buzz. Personally, I don't mind any of the three at all and they were the most welcome changes here. I found the choice between when to reload, when to heal and when to push up and fight a very fun part of the play-style, and Treyarch have completely reshaped the gunfight dynamics with it.
Overall, I think Treyarch has a lot to work on with Black Ops 4. The gameplay can feel very clunky at times, a lot of gunfights feel unfair, scorestreaks desperately need to be buffed, but the game is fun. It has a lot of potential and I think as long as Activision keeps their greed away from this title, it will be one of the best that we have seen in the franchise in years.