Call of Duty is a series that introduced so many young gamers to multiplayer gaming. The series holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many young adults who have so many fond memories of coming home from middle school, turning on their Xbox 360’s, and playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for hours on end. Then, with the addition of booster packs, and an increasing number of microtransactions with each entry, Activision steadily alienated much of their core fanbase. Now that the series has finally returned to “boots on the ground” combat, Treyarch, the developers behind the Black Ops series, has their first opportunity since 2012 to return to form and give fans the Call of Duty experience they remember so fondly. While the open beta isn’t the finished product and the full release is still a few months away, it’s a reliable indicator of how the game will feel overall. And true to Treyarch’s nature, it feels great. Minus a few technical hiccups.
Treyarch is well known for making the best competitive COD games. Maps are generally well balanced with the standard three-lane layouts. Treyarch’s guns usually kill slower than in Call of Duty games developed by Infinity Ward or Sledgehammer. This longer “time to kill” makes fights feel more impactful than fights in other Call of Duties. And most importantly, the weapons feel fun to use; thanks to excellent audio production and weapon design. Players now have even more customization options for their loadouts, with each character having different abilities and unique weapons they can use. For example, the character Battery has a scatter grenade that sticks to surfaces and breaks apart into several smaller explosions upon detonation. You can swap out this grenade for other pieces of equipment, but you will only have one or two uses of it per life, rather than it being a cooldown.
The most significant change to gameplay is health no longer auto-regenerating. Instead of slowly gaining health back after not taking damage for a few moments, players have a stim shot bound to L1. Players also have the option to equip a tactical stim shot that lowers its cooldown and allows the player to shoot while using it. It’s an intriguing change that completely alters the flow of a fight. Instead of ducking behind cover for a few seconds and waiting for their health to regenerate, players can quickly break line of sight, pop their stim, and get right back into the action. Less time spent waiting and more time spent fighting is always a good thing.
Even though combat feels good, the game isn’t without its flaws. Luckily, none of them are unfixable. Enemy players will often start lagging and teleporting around, leading to several frustrating deaths. Hopefully, the netcode is smoothed out by the full release in October. Occasionally hitboxes can be questionable, but that’s almost standard in Call of duty at this point.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is shaping up to be a promising entry in a long and storied franchise. If Activision doesn’t ruin the game by saturating it with microtransactions, we could see the greatness of Black Ops 2 rekindled in 2018.