Takeaways from the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta
Although it’s tough to offer any real Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 tips from just the beta, we have a few key takeaways.
It’s a new year and that means you can expect a new Call of Duty game. But just because there’s a shiny new number 4 on the end of the latest COD subtitle, does that mean it’s filled with innovative new features or is it just a polish of previous games?
It’s a difficult question to answer at the moment, but we know more than we did before. The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 beta for PlayStation 4 came and went this weekend, but betas can change things significantly prior to retail release. Still, with a game as long-running as COD – one that features annual releases – if you play them enough you can quickly pick up patterns and get a sense of what to expect, at least in general terms.
Call of Duty isn’t going to radically overhaul the formula that continues to make it one of the best-selling titles year after year, but there are changes that will make it stand apart from the other games in the series. Some might seem minor, but for longtime fans, even a little alteration can have a big impact. The final product will certainly have some differences from the beta, but in terms of design, the game’s philosophy is locked in.
So below, are a few of our key observations from the CAll of Duty: Black Ops 4 beta, along with some general news on the game itself.
The beta is rolling out in waves, with PS4 users having had the first shot to try it out on August 3-6. A second beta weekend is scheduled for August 10-13 and will include both PS4 and Xbox One users, while PC users will have their own beta from August 11-13 (with early access on August 10 for pre-orderers). All betas begin at 10 a.m. PDT and end at the same time on the final day.
Beta participants will receive in-game rewards when Black Ops 4 launches. Thos rewards include a unique commemorative calling card, and those that reach the top rank in the beta will receive a permanent unlock token at launch.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Launch Details
The retail version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will launch for PC, PS4, and XBO on October 12, 2018. The game will do away with the traditional single-player campaign and instead focus entirely on multiplayer modes. Game modes will include the traditional competitive modes (with a few additions and changes), a Zombies co-op offering, and an all-new Battle Royale mode called “Blackout.”
Black Ops 4 will also offer a new way of selling and releasing the game’s DLC. Traditionally, Activision has released the DLC as packs. Users could either purchase packs containing four multiplayer maps at a time, or buy the Season Pass and get them all when they became available. The new model is a little different.
Activision and Treyarch will release the same number of multiplayer maps after launch, but the pricing model is different and rather than launching them four maps at a time, they will be released sporadically over a shorter period of time. An exact roadmap hasn’t been announced, but there should be new content every few weeks as opposed to every few months. At the moment, however, the game is taking a step back from Season Passes in favor of the “Black Ops Pass,” which is sold as part of the special edition releases of the game. So at the moment, the only way to guarantee you receive the additional content is to purchase one of the more expensive versions – which begin at $99 and up.
Those that purchase one of those special editions containing the Black Ops Pass will receive a new Zombie map at launch and the rest of the content as it is available. A Season Pass will be release eventually, but it’s not clear if it will include the Zombie map available at launch for Black Ops Pass holder, or when users can purchase it.
The beta brought with it only a small number of game modes, none of them new. That makes sense for a beta, but it does raise the question of what new modes BO4 will introduce – if any. If there is a new mode or modes to go along with the traditional modes like TDM and Killstreak, it’s odd to keep it out of a beta. Treyarch may be keeping it internal for now to keep it a surprise, we’ll find out closer to launch.
One of the most talked about additions to the game is a separate game type called “Blackout,” which is based on the popular Battle Royale style. And if games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds are any indication, it will be an extremely popular mode. Blackout wasn’t included in the beta, but it will be interesting to see how the familiar mechanics work in this format – we should know more about that when the next COD beta, “Blackout,” is released in September.
It’s almost pointless describing the actual leveling system in terms of things like how fast you can rise, since Treyarch will probably be paying close attention to that and will make changes prior to launch. One thing that is clear is though, is that there is more reason to level up quickly than in some of the older COD titles.
It’s an increasingly familiar idea with the recent COD games, but while there are some decent weapons available early, the attachments give such an upgrade that those at lower levels are at a disadvantage. That might seem obvious, but that’s a relatively recent change. In some of the older COD games you’d still need to unlock useful additions, but you’d still be competitive without them. The bar has been raised a bit, as even things like killing someone with a headshot is harder without a specific attachment.
That’s an extreme example and you can still succeed with basic weapons, but it’s hard to deny the advantage of leveling up your weapon. You also need to wait to unlock additional tools that used to be available at much lower levels, like grenades.
That all gives you even more incentive to put in time to level up, plus it means that there will be fewer games where it’s nonstop, overwhelming assaults as lower leveled players won’t immediately have access to those tools. But it may also create a much more pronounced gap between those at high levels and those just starting out.
One of the small-but-big-impact changes to the game is the inclusion of manual health regeneration. Regardless of the specialist you choose, all characters have a health ability that refills your character’s health and then renews over time after use. So if you get into a firefight and take damage, that damage remains until you use your health.
It seems like a relatively minor addition, but you can think of it sort of like reloading a weapon – you need to think about when you’re going to do it and factor that into your strategy. If you only take a small about of damage it will put you at a disadvantage, but it also means you still have the ability to heal and you won’t have to worry about the cooldown as others you’re fighting might. The regeneration also takes a few seconds, so you’ll need to get to cover or make sure you are clear when it kicks in.
As part of that, your health is now represented by a numbered bar, so you will always have a precise figure for how much health you currently have. You can also see the health bar of an enemy while shooting them, so you can decide if you have enough to finish them off or not, and it warns you when an opponent is armored.
Eventually using this new tweak to health will probably become as natural as any command, but expect some pain as people acclimate to it and learn to strategize around it.
Although there were only a handful of maps on display in the Black Ops 4 beta, if you’ve played previous Black Ops games (and COD games in general), you’ll feel right at home. There remain clear paths from one side of the map to the other, and it leads to setups you’ve seen before – more circumvent but safer paths on the outer areas, and a larger center that offers a larger area for open battle. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.
There are also multiple levels of paths, but the idea is consistent from previous games – if you’ve played the last four or five COD games, you’ll probably even recognize some of the designs that have been reused. Just chose one of the three areas and sally forth.
General layout aside, the maps shown work against campers and slow play. It’s a familiar trend in the COD games and many FPS competitive shooters to push players onward, and BO4 is no exception. There are only a few spots where you can hold up without having a blind spot – that isn’t to say they don’t exist, but the maps are created to encourage movement.
Beyond that, it’s business as usual, at least based on the beta maps.
The loadout system will be familiar to anyone that’s played a COD game in the last few years. You have 10 slots of weapons, perks, attachments, and equipment you can bring with you, and each item you chose takes up one of the 10 slots.
It will all come down to personal preference (mixed with what is unlocked and available), but there are a few perks things that will probably be used more often than others, like bringing additional armor (expect to get sick of that one fast). It will also probably be common to not carry a secondary in favor of more attachments on a primary, but that might change based on how the weapon balance plays out.
The Specialist classes return to Black Ops 4, with each specialist offering a unique ability and a special attack. Only one class of specialist can be selected per team, and if the one you want isn’t available the game will default you to a free specialist.
Ideally, you’ll work with players you can coordinate with and select the best people that work within each person’s style. Realistically though, it will be best to get used to multiple specialists and know how everyone’s abilities work. It’s also difficult to know which specialists players will gravitate to. Some like the recon specialist – which includes a sensor that shows enemy locations in a small area and earns points for each kill it leads to – will probably be in high demand for people looking to level up fast. The same is true for the specialists that through down gear the team can use.
The primary weapons fall in five familiar categories: assault rifles, submachine guns, tactical rifles, light machine guns, and sniper rifles. Although the weapons are original and reflect a futuristic level of development, they feel familiar based on the last few COD games, especially the last two Black Ops titles.
As with previous games, there is an effort to mix the weapons based on play types. If you like to move but engage from a distance you’ll ideally want assault or tactical rifles, mid-range is best for SMGs, while LMGs are best for an all-out assault style. Shotguns can be equipped as secondary weapons along with handguns, so close-quarters players have that option as a backup (once unlocked). In reality though, the SMGs will probably reign supreme again thanks in part to weapon attachments, and people will use sniper rifles like single shot rifles while running around maps.
If you like fast, aggressive games, BO4 should fit right alongside the previous COD titles that followed the same philosophy.