Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is now in closed beta for PlayStation 4, and it’s an addictive, fast-paced, fresh change to the formula.
2016’s Infinite Warfare’s high-speed jetpacking catered to a newer generation of Call of Duty players but isolated many old school fans of boots-on-the-ground gameplay. 2017’s WWII brought the franchise back to its roots but slowed the pace down a bit. Black Ops 4 sits somewhere in the middle of the previous two titles, giving tons of quick gunfights without all the wall-running and boosting.
From the start, Black Ops 4 feels a lot like a more grounded version of Black Ops 3, and that’s not a bad thing. One of the biggest changes to the franchise is the lack of health regeneration in core gameplay. Now you need to manually heal yourself via stem shots. You can heal anytime you take damage, so you’re not limited to a number of heals, but you do have to remember to stab yourself with that stem shot when your life bar goes down.
Ten specialists are available for players to test out in the beta. Some characters are old hands from Black Ops 3, while others are fresh faces with new talent. The Nomad specialist is one of the standouts: they’re paired with an armoured K-9 unit that is remarkably savage. The dog rushes the enemy like an Olympian track runner. The Nomad only gets the one dog to call in for their special, but the hungry pup will usually rack up a fair number of kills. Someone trained this doggo well.
While WWII’s beta last year only started us with three maps, Treyarch came out swinging with five different maps for the Black Ops 4 beta. Most of the maps do feel on the smaller side, but the tight flow forces lots of action. One new and helpful feature is a pop-up when loading into a match that gives your stats for the map and mode you are loading into. This way you can tell if you’re struggling with a mode on a specific map or vice versa, and Black Ops 4 is already letting me know I suck at Hardpoint on all the maps.
Black Ops 4 adopts more of the balanced formula found in Rainbow Six Siege or Overwatch. Instead of 6 versus 6 modes being the standard like previous Call of Duty instalments, most game modes will now be 5 versus 5 and not allow duplicates of a specialist on either team.
There are currently three playlists available:
Chaos Team Deathmatch exists with a classic 6 versus 6 experience, allowing only two of any given specialist on each team. It doesn’t really live up to the “chaos” name as the mode feels balanced and manageable even with some duplicate specialists. This is a great improvement over Black Ops 3’s lack of limit to specialists in its non-competitive modes, where you could literally face an entire team of Ruins with Gravity Spikes or Prophets with everyone using the Tempest electricity weapon. Those moments were actual chaos.
Capture Moshpit is a rotation of Hardpoint and Domination, which are both classic, respawn objective modes. Domination remains your standard “three flag locations you must hold for points,” and Hardpoint remains unchanged with rotating map locations know as “hardpoints” you must secure and hold for longer than the enemy team.
Control is an all-new mode that feels like a Frankenstein of classic Call of Duty modes. Control has an A and B point, which are zones that look like Hardpoint objectives points that don’t move. Then, you must capture and hold the points in a Domination fashion. While Control starts off as a respawn mode, there are a limited number of lives per team, making it feel like a 5-on-5, no-respawn Search and Destroy match by the end. You can win the rounds by either holding the capture points or slaughtering the enemy team until they are out of lives.
There’s a pretty generous selection of scorestreaks available in the beta, and while there’s nothing super new or special here, it is great to see a big variety of popular killstreaks return, like attack choppers, RC-XD cars, and a gunship. Some streaks are still locked behind higher-level requirements than what the beta currently allows. Level 25 seems to be the max level for the moment, but Treyarch could possibly increase that at a later time.
I personally appreciate the weapons made available for the beta. At the moment, Black Ops 4 feels like it could lean towards an assault rifle-dominated game. The KN-57 and ICR-7 assault rifles feel fantastic, and the Cordite submachine gun is nice. There’s even a weapon class for tactical rifles, which provide burst fire for long-range precision. Shotguns feel underpowered in this game, but they can now be equipped as your secondary gun instead of a pistol or launcher, so maybe they aren’t meant to be super powerful here.
Some players are already complaining about the time-to-kill in general, but I personally don’t think it feels too slow—unless the enemy is running body armour. The body armour makes headshots feel more crucial as the players can sponge more bullet damage. You should be able to counter their armour if your gun has the AP Rounds attachment, which deals more damage to enemy armour.
Overall, the Black Ops 4 beta has been really fun and addictive. The beta had a pretty smooth launch, and it was nice to see the party system working right away. Previous launches have seen a rougher start with issues connecting with your friends. I haven’t had any real connection issues at all, but the frame-rate seemed a little choppy in the beginning and the game made the PlayStation Network menus super laggy. But after a quick 1.04 patch, things seem to be running with less menu lag.
Call of Duty won’t have a campaign this year, as Treyarch focuses on the multiplayer, Zombies, and the all-new Blackout battle royale mode for Black Ops 4. The lack of the staple campaign feature means the extra multiplayer focus really needs to shine here in the finished product. So far, the multiplayer beta gives great promise for more addictive gameplay and thus higher replay value. Blackout will receive a separate beta in September for us to judge whether Call of Duty can compete with Fortnite in the battle royale trend, and we may not care about a campaign at all if Blackout is a real contender.