Opinion PlayStation

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Private Beta Impressions - A Solid Foundation

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Over the weekend, we’ve been playing a tonne of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 via the Private Beta on PS4 and for me, the experience was quite enjoyable from start to finish. Boots on the ground gameplay with some great weapon ballistics, all-new maps and Specialist classes made the weekend something to remember.

Even so, it goes without saying that beta is beta and there will be some issues that developer Treyarch still needs to address. Further, the game’s battle royale mode called Blackout wasn’t in the beta and let’s face it - since there will be no traditional single-player campaign, the battle royale mode will be the thing that makes or breaks Black Ops 4. Check out nearly one hour of beta gameplay below.

The game definitely looks good in motion and as you can see from the video above, the gunplay is fast and furious, while the Specialist skills add more depth to the gameplay.

Specialists on the ground

The coolest thing about the beta was that I was able to test out all ten Specialist classes and their various ability. There are definitely some tweaks to be made and some Specialists are definitely more powerful than others, but that’s what this beta testing is for. Across a boatload of matches in Team Deathmatch, Control and some Search and Destroy, the latter only being available since Sunday, Black Ops 4 had a refreshing feeling to it with the Specialist classes in play.

The class I saw being spammed the most and picked almost instantly was Recon, as map vision is simply fantastic to have, while the Nomad was also picked a lot, because you get to send attack dogs with the class, and what COD player doesn’t love some K9 friends to help sniff out the enemy.

My personal favourite Specialist is the Prophet due to its awesome seeker mines and an extremely powerful sniper rifle as its ultimate ability. I found the Seeker Mines extremely useful and used one whenever the ability was off cooldown. Basically, you throw these little buggers down on the ground and they head off to find an enemy to stun to the ground. This skill can not only create a lot of kills, but I found that running just behind a Seeker Mine to be an extremely effective way to take down enemies.

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Unfortunately, beta is beta and that means I did encounter a couple of bugs with these mines. Sometimes when I used the ability, the mine just stood in place and didn’t move. This didn’t happen very often but it was still somewhat of an annoyance and something I am sure Treyarch will fix.

As I continued to play and got to roughly my fiftieth match, gameplay already felt a little bit repetitive. The thing that made me continue playing was, without a doubt, the great gunplay and building up my custom class, which felt like a mini-RPG experience and will surely keep players busy for months on end.

After reaching level 5, the real fun begins with the create-a-class and upgrades aplenty. Every time you level up, you get new unlocks that range from scorestreak bonuses like Care Package to Wildcards that increase your character's strength, to new weapons and much more. The thing I liked most about all the unlocks is individual weapon upgrades. Basically, the more you play with a weapon the more things you get to put on it, such as a grip to increase accuracy, different weapon sights such as optical with a zoom, laser sight and more.

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Even if you don’t level up after a match, there is always a little something new and on Sunday, double XP kicked in, which means it was raining unlocks the whole day long. The developer further increased the level cap as well and released the Search and Destroy mode yesterday, which quickly became one of my favourite modes as everyone tries to play safer and Specialist abilities become even more important to use correctly.

For those new to Call of Duty, the Search and Destroy game mode sees one team defending two bomb sites while the other team tries to set a bomb and blow one up. With Specialist abilities in play, this becomes even more tactical than ever before, for example, some players might place barbed wire in an area as a defensive measure, while others might set a trap with sensor darts and wait for the enemy to walk past them, or use a radiation skill to make a hallway unpassable a while.

The Black Ops 4 Private Beta on the PS4 was also one of the smoothest beta experiences I have ever encountered and I could play for hours on end without any server issues.

However, not everything was sunshine and SMGs…

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Firstly, I did experience some lag in the form of enemies rubber-banding from time to time. This wasn’t a regular occurrence, but when it did happen, it was quite annoying. Then, there was also the issue of frame-rate drops which I experienced across several matches and coupled with long loading times, the experience wasn’t exactly smooth on my PS4 Pro. In Black Ops 4, you can slide and it feels great doing so, but I think the sliding mechanic needs to be tweaked as it gives the player a little bit too much speed at the moment, as if the acceleration after sprinting and then sliding has been turned up to 11. 

Then, there’s also an issue that I really think shouldn’t still exist in a Call of Duty game in 2018. Spawning feels broken at times where you can spawn right behind the enemy team at times if you are lucky and rack up quite a few kills in the process. The last and most important negative aspect I would like to mention is an armour gadget that you unlock later on as you level up. This thing should just be removed from the game completely as it is simply too powerful and makes the player even tougher to kill.

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You already have a self-heal ability and it takes longer than ever to kill an opponent (excluding headshots of course) so this armour gadget just feels like overkill and if the gadget isn’t removed, then every player will just use it instead of anything else. Without the armour gadget, its actually great that players take a bit longer to go down, as this leads to headshots feeling more important and extremely satisfying to pull off. I also thoroughly enjoyed the ending of each match where the game shows you the best play of the match, combined with some great music that just gets the blood flowing and actually gave me inspiration to get better and jump straight into the next match.

Getting into that next match is fast and easy, but the time spent in the lobby after enough players have been found is simply too high if you ask me. It’s roughly one minute of just sitting there, waiting and waiting while someone’s mother asks them to stop playing games and get some food over an open mic. There were six maps available in the Private Beta and although none of them was terrible, none really stood out for me either.

Sure, there is some nice variation in terms of the environments, but they all felt like average-sized, standard COD maps to me. A few open areas, multiple entrance points and those small corridors where the player with the fastest reaction time gets the kill while the other does little to no damage at all. COD fans will likely enjoy these maps and even though playing six maps over and over again felt a little repetitive, I didn’t dislike a single one of them.

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All things considered, the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Private Beta was a whole lot of fun and that’s coming from someone that didn’t really like the last few COD titles.

The Specialist classes do give the game some added tactical systems to work with and the gunplay feels extremely satisfying. Creating your custom class is also quite addictive and due to all the awesome unlocks, it feels like there is always something to look forward to and another reason to scream “just one more match” as your family tries to drag you away from the game.

There are some glaring issues as I mentioned in this article and hopefully, Treyarch sorts it all out. I wasn’t expecting perfection going in and the back didn't disappoint in many aspects. However, Black Ops 4’s biggest attraction is the battle royale mode and unfortunately we weren’t able to test that at all. This will all change when a beta for the Blackout mode kicks off in September.

There is a good foundation in the game’s gunplay and Specialist classes, now we just have to wait and see if Black Ops 4 can bring it home with the Blackout mode.

Marco's two cents

The Black Ops series is by far the only one that ever matters in my opinion and Black Ops 4 will hopefully keep that tradition going. The beta was fun although buggy as I often had to restart the game due to it not loading into the next match. It is a beta so this is forgivable. 

Let's just talk about the armour for a second. What in the actual living hell was Treyarch thinking? It is so crazy OP at the moment that if you don't choose the armour in your loadout you are basically playing the game on hard mode. This armoured perk almost gives you another 50% health which completely unbalances the gameplay. Sure, it is great when you have it on but it is still an issue I hope they address. You cannot have one play have so much more health than another for the entire match. I can understand maybe having it as a usable item for a short duration but as it stands now it is not pleasant at all.

Overall, the Black Ops 4 multiplayer is looking strong. The inclusion of health bars, the unique skills that come with cooldowns and the ability to refill your health gives you more survivability in the match which for me works great. You can always retreat from a messy situation to heal up whereas before you probably never even made it out alive. The cooldown skills also work well with them feeling unique through each Specialist class to make sure they stand out from the rest of them. They also create a more streamlined class system which lets you focus on mastering the class instead of each item. I am sold on this system and the multiplayer in general. 

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"one of the smoothest beta experiences I have ever encountered"

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