Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Hands-On Preview: Back to Basics

Following Thursday's Black Ops 4 reveal livestream, Shacknews had a chance to jump onto some multiplayer. Here are some of our observations.

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While Call of Duty has been a staple of gaming for over a decade, the Black Ops series has proven so popular that it's nearly become a brand in itself. Treyarch has put together a solid reputation over its past several iterations of Activision's long-running franchise, but something about Black Ops 4 felt both contemporary and refreshingly familiar.

Shacknews had a chance to try out the Black Ops 4 multiplayer on Thursday and walked away with a few observations. The first of which is that this feels a lot like classic Call of Duty.

The first thing to note is that movement has returned to a sense of normalcy. While Black Ops III prided itself on frenetic movement, Black Ops 4 takes a step back by removing thrust jumping and wall running. There's still unlimited sprint to offer a sense of speed and locomotion, but removing a lot of the verticality makes multiplayer feel more reliant on close quarters action and on teamwork.

Specialists are back from Black Ops III, both new and old. Utilizing some of their abilities might be the one instance where wall running and thrust jumping were missed, because crazy jumping/wall running combos into a Specialist's special ability was one of the most fun elements of Black Ops III. That isn't to say that Specialists don't have their uses in Black Ops 4, because their abilities not only work to great benefit in this game, but also appear more acclimiated to team play. For example, there's Crash, one of Call of Duty's first dedicated medics, who can heal teammates or boost their health, while Recon can use his Vision Pulse to reveal foes on the minimap.

One other item to note is that automatic healing is out the window. Players must manually heal using stimpacks that are tied to the left shoulder button. This is one of the more welcome changes to the CoD formula, particularly for snipers that are playing from afar. There were several instances where I was firing from long distance. If I was discovered from afar and plunked in the chest, I could back off to safety and heal myself. Players are encouraged to think strategically about where and when they opt to heal, since these periods are one of the few instances where a player is completely defenseless.

Only four game modes were shown off on Thursday, three of them returning from classic Call of Duty games. Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Hardpoint are all back and just as frantic as ever. The newest game mode is Control, in which two teams battle in a best of five rounds to capture a pair of control points. Each team only has a limited number of lives, making it possible to win by simply outlasting the other squad. Each team is also given an extra push by the fact that an unsuccessful point capture does not reset the progress meter, making it more critical to contest the point. While I could appreciate the thought behind Control, it's definitely not for CoD novices, as they could quickly become liabilities by gobbling up the finite number of lives available. On top of that, this game mode lasted much longer than the others and has the potential to drag on. The best of five formula may prove to be too much in this instance.

Many other elements of Black Ops 4's multiplayer will feel familiar to series veterans. The Pick 10 system returns, allowing players to stack up on attachments or perks. Maps are appropriately labyrinthine, with some featuring underwater areas. Others feature central combat zones, like a dilapidated church in the middle of the Seaside map. And of course, there are the multitude of Scorestreak perks, like the attack chopper and the Hellstorm missile. There's nothing drastically different here and series fans should feel right at home.

There's much more to Black Ops 4, but Activision and Treyarch weren't quite ready to show off the game's Zombies mode or Blackout, the series' first stab at a Battle Royale mode. More information on those modes are more than likely coming soon.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is set to release on October 12 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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