Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta Impressions
First impressions are a big deal. And something like a demo or beta can either get you really hyped up for a release, or take all the wind out of its sails before it even hits the release date. It seems that the Call of Duty community is very divided over the recent Black Ops 4 beta, so I’m here to give you my unbiased opinion on what I thought worked and what needs a lot more tweaking before release.
Some issues I noticed during my time with Black Ops 4 were visual. The game simply does not look as sharp and detailed as its predecessor, with blurry textures, textures that take forever to load in, and seemingly a lower resolution overall. I wasn’t sure about this until I came across a Reddit post showcasing images of the Battery character model in Black Ops 3 vs Black Ops 4. That said, I really liked the look of some of the maps in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 beta. Seaside, Contraband, and Hacienda were my faves, while Payload was probably the most drab and generic. The bright colors on some of the maps reminded me visually of Overwatch.
There also is the new addition of having the screen darken significantly when you are being shot, which lasts for almost six whole frames and basically completely blinds you – long enough for an enemy to get the upper hand. Many times I had an enemy in my sights and dead to rights, but then someone would shoot me from behind, causing this mess of visual distortion and making it impossible to see my target. The blurrier visuals make it harder to see far away enemies. There’s also a new “fog of war” on the minimap, which I’m not sure how I feel about yet. The immediate area around your player is all that you can see – maybe a few feet.
I experienced a lot of connection issues as well. There were plenty of times where I shot first on an enemy, and the enemy returned fire and somehow killed me. This is more noticeable with Black Ops 4’s greatly increased time to kill, due to the new armor system. Some matches it seems I have the upper hand when it comes to lag, and I’ll be racking up killstreaks. The next match, I’ll be killed before I can even see where I’m being shot from. The hit detection seemed off at times, and game-ending disconnections happened more than once for me. Hopefully, these connection issues will be solved before the game’s launch.
I’m really interested in checking out the new Blackout mode, which is a battle royale mode similar to Fortnite in that 100 players are dropped in simultaneously to fight for survival. I also had some thoughts that perhaps the lowered graphical fidelity is due to Treyarch having to optimize the engine to be able to handle 100 player matches. I played a bit of the Heist mode, which is a fresh change of pace, although its mechanics feel lifted directly from Counter-Strike: Go. As you play through matches in this mode, you earn money that can be used for weapon and armor upgrades.
Black Ops 4 also takes away jetpacks and grenades, which gives the game a much more grounded firefight feel. Black Ops 3 got a bit ridiculous with players who became gods at the ballet dance of jetpack jumping, wall-running and sliding, making the gameplay less about who is the better marksman. I enjoyed seeing the return to fast and fluid action after the slower-paced gameplay of Call of Duty: World War 2.
Black Ops 4 incorporates a lot of gameplay mechanics from other popular shooters like Overwatch and Destiny, and while it felt fresh and fun at first, I quickly began to realize that this game has an identity crisis. There’s a reason Call of Duty is so successful, and while it’s good to innovate and add new ideas (the Blackout mode is a good example of this), it’s not good to change the basic gameplay mechanics so much that it barely feels like Call of Duty. One thing I noticed was that squads are favored much more in BO4 than in previous entries.
The rise of the “Hero Shooter” games like Overwatch have had a profound effect on Black Ops 4, mostly in the fact that choosing your Specialists and mastering their unique abilities are much more important than they were in Black Ops 3. For instance, Ruin’s grappling hook can get players to an objective much faster than other Specialists. Seraph can change the dynamics of a match quickly with strategically placed Spawn points. I mostly played as Battery, as I prefer the run-and-gun approach and her War Machine explosives ability. Sure, you can play Black Ops 4 just running around shooting everyone, but teams that master their Specialist abilities will definitely have the upper hand. Hopefully, there will be a mode in the final game that takes away the abilities for players that just want some classic Call of Duty shooting action.
If you’re playing alone without a headset, your team is practically done. You’ll have entire squads plowing through the maps, decimating their opponents with laser focus. There are plenty of times that I just want to play a few rounds alone before I go to sleep or whatever, and I feel like I can’t do that in Black Ops 4. People keep different schedules and it’s hard to get a whole squad together every time you want to play. If it stays this way in the final release, I’ll probably end up playing lots of free-for-all instead.
Technical issues aside, I did have a fun time playing the Black Ops 4 beta online with friends. I’m sure that after playing the final release for tens of hours online, that the quirks of this new release will become second nature, and hopefully all the bugs will be squashed by then. I have a feeling that Black Ops 4 will live or die by how successful its new battle royale mode is.