Playing Black Ops 4 Again and Again
Call of Duty has always been one of those games where it seemed like it could be more fun playing with others than playing alone. The campaigns, while increasing in quality and scope over the years, were sometimes one and done experiences. At the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 , I came away with the impression that Activision is attempting to create a more enduring experience. The multiplayer, Black Out and Zombies modes all seem designed with longevity in mind, something that came through in my hands-on multiplayer mode sessions with the games. In each situation, it felt like it was a chance to give and excuse to find new ways to play.
I was able to go through three types of matches that will be in the final version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ’s multiplayer. Control is an entirely new situation where two teams have a shared 25 lives. They take turns, where one team has to defend three points, while the other tries to take them, before all lives run out. It is a best of three situation, which means plenty of opportunity for back and forth. Another, Domination, is a standard situation where people try to hold three points from the opposing team. Hardpoint involves reaching a position and staying in place for a period time holding or attacking it, depending on your time of arrival. In each one, you could try and paint yourself as “good guys” with a story to tell depending on your Specialist choices and maps. All of them offered plenty of alternatives for how to complete goals and succeed.
Speaking of Specialists, a number were on display and playable when I went through Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 . I could choose between Ajax, Battery, Crash, Firebreak, Recon, Ruin, Seraph, and Torque, though 10 will be available at launch. Before heading into a match, you determine your load out. This lets you pick your guns, armor, and perks. Once a match begins, you choose your Specialist. Crash is unique, in that he is a medic that can actually drop a bag for people to use for supplies and bonuses points. Torque offers more defensive options, with barbed wire and a barricade. You could rely on Firebreak to keep people out of an area, as Reactor Core uses radiation to kill people in an area and he has a Purifier flamethrower. Ruin is a classic attacker who is good at pursuit, with a Grapple Gun that crosses distances, and keeping up pressure, with Grav Slam causing damage around him. Each person could use any loadout, but their unique abilities give you a more defined role in battle.
This range provided replay opportunities even at the event. When I was playing on the PC build, I tried to go with more supportive characters. I am not as comfortable with a keyboard and mouse and wanted to help people who were. Recon let me do that. During the Seaside Control matches, I would plant a Sensor Dart at a contested location, so my team could see if opponents were attacking or defending it, all without actually being there. I would use Vision Pulse during Domination, so we knew where every enemy was lurking. When I was on the PlayStation 4 and more in my comfort zone, I went with Firebreak and Ruin. Firebreak was fantastic during Control and Hardpoint, since I could really discourage people from getting near certain positions. And Ruin’s grappling was a huge help in the Payload map, where I would need to go inside plane engines or quickly cross rooms. These characters’ offensive and defensive tendencies make each map and situation play differently. It also provide more of an opportunity to work together as a team, rather than just be four people working toward a shared objective.
Once I was in a Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 match, I could feel how much the game has changed. There is this emphasis on classic gameplay. Boots are definitely on the ground, and I could feel and hear it. When I was in the Seaside map’s cafes, enemy footsteps sounded different than ones on the ground in Contraband or snow in Payload. There was this satisfying recoil with each gun, letting you feel the weight of your actions. My guns were always up, making shooting from the hip feel more natural and keeping me active. Even the healing makes you think more about your decisions and actions. I could find natural rhythms for attacking, stepping back to heal or reload, and maybe moving to another position as I did.
The maps available did a good job of feeling similar to past Call of Duty offerings, but distinct. Contraband has these buildings to hide in that are worn down, but provide just enough cover. There is a bridge to protect, with line of sight positions on the side. There is water, where you could jump in and lurk. It is about creeping around. Seaside allows you these pathways where you have more narrow hallways between rooms. There is some verticality there, since you can be going inside buildings and up stairs. It is like you need to find your way around the sides of the map, to prepare a good position to strike in more central spaces. And Payload has these spots where you have one or two main entrances to cover in a military installation, but you still can find your way through or around these engines. Each map has its own sort of atmosphere here, and in my brief time with them I was finding new pathways to explore that I could exploit later. They encourage players to learn.
It will take some time to fully understand how the community will receive Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 . It is a game that, in many ways, completely turns players’ expectations on its head, what with no traditional campaign and battle royale has been integrated into it. But the portion of multiplayer I went through felt very active and true to the Call of Duty mission. It seemed like something that would take a short time to learn, but a long time to master or tire of.