For many gamers, Call of Duty holds a special place in their heart. Kids would run home after school to team up with their friends and play all night until their mothers yelled at them to go to sleep. The phrase “Rust ‘one-v-one’” still piques players ears because when that gauntlet was thrown down, things were about to get serious. The series inspired friendly competition and forged friendships amongst young gamers for years. With recent iterations though, CoD’s luster has dulled. An increasing number of microtransactions, less base content, and poor design choices have alienated the series’ faithful fanbase. In the case of Black Ops 4, Treyarch made a slew of changes to core mechanics that are hit or miss depending on who you ask. But one thing is sure. Black Ops 4 had more day one digital PS4 sales than any other CoD since Activision partnered with Sony in 2013.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Black Ops 4 is very much a mixed bag. With this years’ game being the fifteenth entry in the series and the novelty of jetpacks long worn off, it was time to shake things up in a way never seen before in the franchise.
The first and most substantial change is health no longer auto-regenerating. Now you have a stim-shot bound to L1 (or L2 depending on your button configuration.) This stim shot is on a cooldown and when activated will quickly bring you back to full health. The change is an interesting one, as it speeds up gameplay quite a bit. Instead of hiding for five seconds waiting for your health to regenerate, you can quickly dip behind cover, pop the heal, and get right back into the action. The issue though is in the upgraded stim shot. Easily the most overpowered equipment in the game, the improved stim shot decreases the cooldown significantly and allows you to hip-fire while it’s activating. Having a full heal on such a short cooldown becomes obnoxious when players can repeatedly undo all the damage you did almost instantly every few seconds. The stim shot ties into the other significant change to gameplay.
Treyarch also boosted the health-pool from one-hundred to one-hundred-fifty. These extra fifty hit-points are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for more competitive, mechanically skill-based gun fights akin to Halo. On the other, the increased health plus the upgraded stim-shot can be incredibly frustrating. When an enemy narrowly escapes death two or three times and then you get shot in the back, it is somewhat aggravating.
Another glaring issue with Black Ops 4 is the spawns. Often you will find yourself respawning directly into the line of fire or looking at an enemy. Spawns are a common issue in new Call of Duty games that gets fixed after a while. But this year spawn kills have been especially egregious.
Despite these issues though, man is “BlOps” 4 fun to play. While the changes might not be for everyone, it’s certainly not as jarring as the advanced movement was, and breaths some new life into the series. What is most important though, is that the game feels good. Call of Duty hasn’t felt so fluid and kinetic (but not overly so,) since Black Ops 2 when competitive Call of Duty was in its heyday. Audio design is fantastic; the guns sound threatening and distinct. The dynamics of each character and their abilities adds a layer of thought to team compositions. And the excitement of unwinding after a long day with CoD and a few friends is back.
There are still several kinks to work out. Certain specialists are overpowered compared to others, some perks feel useless, and Most Assault Rifles outclass SMGs. But game balance will get better with each patch. But the most critical factor; that the gameplay feels good is there. And that’s more than you can say about some of the more recent entries in the series.
Will Black Ops 4 return Call of Duty to its former status as the king of First-Person-Shooters? Probably not. But it is undoubtedly going to hold your attention for a while. That is, provided Activision doesn’t ruin it by oversaturating the game with microtransactions.
There’s heart in the franchise again. And the heart is what made CoD great in the first place.
Fun and Addicting Gameplay: Call of Duty’s biggest draw was always its gameplay. The fast-paced, but calculated combat drew players in for hours at a time. In recent years Call of Duty has been more annoying than fun. It’s about time there was a return to form.
Balance Issues: It’s a problem when you should ignore equipment in favor of much more useful items. The goal is to make everything have strengths and weaknesses, but some things are just too strong. Fortunately, balance patches will iron this out with time.
Spawns: Just like with balance issues, spawns need to be adjusted. This year though, spawn-kills are particularly egregious. Hopefully, Treyarch will fix this quickly.
It’s about time Call of Duty is fun again. CoD has been rinse-and-repeat, for more than a few years now. With each entry getting worse and worse, something needed to change. While Black Ops 4 might not appease everyone, it’s impossible to do so. Those who have stuck with this franchise since its heyday will be pleased to hear that Call of Duty is back.