Activision and Treyarch finally revealed Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 to the world, and there was a prevailing theme during the reveal event. Continuously they brought up the word “change,” calling Black Ops 4 the biggest game that Treyarch has developed yet. The changes coming to Zombies and the addition of a battle royale mode are certainly big, but that core multiplayer Call of Duty experience is, well, mostly the same thing that fans have been playing for years, for better or worse.
Twinfinite recently got some hands-on time with Black Ops 4’s multiplayer during the reveal event, and it’s clear that Treyarch has been the most conservative with this aspect of the game, deciding to really hone in on that core experience rather than try something big and new. A few changes have been made this time around, but nothing drastic. A big part of this multiplayer experience is its focus on “boots on the ground” combat, completely taking away the wall running and double-jumping in Black Ops 3.
Despite these changes, the speed of Black Ops 3 still remains, letting players dash around at breakneck speed, slide into cover, and hold their guns up while doing all of that. Another addition adds predictive recoil to every gun in the game, which basically means that each gun has a predictable pattern of recoil that you can learn. Getting these recoil patterns down pat means that you’ll know how that recoil can work, and can build that into your strategy.
On the visual/audio front, guns definitely seem more impactful and visceral this time around. Bullet streams help you identify just where fire might be coming from, while the audio on each gun has slightly more punchiness to it, though still not on the realistic level of something like Battlefield.
All of these changes are small and simply refocus everything into that core Call of Duty experience, and really, that feels like what Black Ops 4 wants to be, boiling down the series to its core. This is the traditional run and shoot experience, coordinating your movements with your teammates, and racking up those points for scorestreaks. Black Ops 4 does away with a lot of the complications of more recent titles, simplifying its gameplay and class systems.
The biggest changes to Black Ops 4 comes in the way of specialists, returning from Black Ops 3. This time around, these specialists are even more focused characters, although you can equip any of the game’s weapons and perks on any of them. These specialists almost function like “heroes” as each one comes with their own unique equipment to use, as well as a skill. Both of these are on a cooldown, while the third type of “skill” is the same on every character with a healing button, also on a cooldown. Unlike in past games, your health doesn’t regenerate automatically; instead, you need to use your healing ability to prompt your health restoring. This lets you approach situations differently, ducking into a corridor or cover to restore your health quickly, or deciding if you want to continue on low on health.
All of these skills give Black Ops 4 a bit of a hero shooter feeling, like Overwatch or Rainbow Six Siege, although it doesn’t lean into those elements nearly as much as the other games. It’s an odd mix, with the multiplayer still having that tried and true gunplay, while mixing in character-specific cooldowns. This larger focus on specialist abilities means that each player can fulfill a role, while using the weapons they prefer. There’s definitely some balancing that’ll need to happen with the game, as certain specialists, like Firebreak, simply feel more useful than others. This is something, however, that will definitely be changed and iterated upon both before and after release.
On the technical front, Black Ops 4 looks and plays great, even at this early stage. Playing on both PS4 and PC was smooth, and there’s a quickness to Call of Duty that other games just don’t have. The PC version, in particular, ran like butter and felt comparable to the speed found in Titanfall 2. It’s worth noting, of course, that the event’s matches were offline.
Multiplayer in Black Ops 4 certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it does have a few small, meaningful changes. To me these changes, the more hero-like characters especially, helped make the game more approachable. Skills made it so you didn’t need to solely rely on loadouts and specific weapons, being able to fulfill more of a role in battle. Even so, I wish Black Ops 4 leaned more into its hero shooter inspirations, as there’s enough here to make characters distinct that I really wanted more. The differentiation is nice, but underneath it there’s still all those Call of Duty systems we’ve dealt with for years. Black Ops 4 is definitely trying to be different and more ambitious than ever. Considering the huge changes coming with Zombies and Blackout, I just wish multiplayer went a little farther with its changes. Still, we’re early on and only time will tell how everything pans out.