This Thursday, May 17th, I had the privilege of getting a hands-on session with not one, but two versions of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at the Jet center in Los Angeles, California. After the initial, hour-long session reveal session, which was populated by many screaming people, blurring the line between objective writer and obsessed fan.
Taking advantage of the offerings at G's Taco Spot and the Grilled Cheese Food Trucks provided for by Activision, I waited an hour before making my way over to the PC section. The maps played were Seaside, a resort town with a linear pathway along each side, with some more maneuverable routes toward the middle; Contraband, a beach area with many rusted, decaying pieces of military equipment in the water and surrounding structures, with a forked design that allowed for three main routes of attack, although there were a few underwater routes that allowed for flanking; the final map was Payload, a snowy missile launch pad, whose design was similar to Seaside.
The modes played were Domination, Hardpoint, Control, and Team Deathmatch. The first three modes were essentially the same: there are a few designated zones that the players flock to, and subsequently massacre each other in many attempts to take control over. Domination has permanent sections, Hardpoint is roving, and control ends when the attacking players take control of all sections, or the defenders beat the clock. These were the strongest modes of gameplay, as they had all the players attempting to outwit each other in any way possible, which gave the modes much more intensity.
Team Deathmatch mainly had us roaming around the map, wiping out opponents where we could. This did not pack as many flashpoints as the previous modes, which lessened the impact of the minute-to-minute gameplay.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 takes place between the first and second entries, thus combining a "boots on the ground" feel with the futuristic takes of the later entries in the series. That doesn't mean that the game won't abandon the more far-fetched aspects of gameplay, however, as there are plenty of ways to disrupt players' plans. These mainly include timed abilities hot-keyed to two different buttons, and once enough damage or points have been accrued, the player can activate a special ability, including Ruin's Gravity Slam or Battery's Grenade Launcher.
The maps were easy to get around and easier to get a grasp of once players explore enough of them. There is an almost equivalent distribution of linear pathways, open areas, and chokepoints in all parts of all three maps shown.
The weapons, thankfully, were more diverse. The five classes: Guerilla, Frontline, Tactical, Heavy, and Marksman, contained SMGs, Assault Rifles, DMRs, LMGs, and Snipers, respectively.
There is, of course, further customization contained within each class, with plenty of modifications for primary and secondary weapons, as well as perks, explosives, and special abilities. I found myself mostly using a Frontline class with the character battery, with a combination of silencing perks and high impact special abilities.
Depending on the modifications used, the assault rifles and SMGs are practically identical (I say this because it is a video game, and not real life). The last three classes, however, provided more diversity and challenge to the gameplay styles.
I didn't excel very much at Heavy, and didn't even try Marksman, but I had the second-to-third most success with the Tactical class. It's a great supporting class that provides for good overwatch on modes like Hardpoint, Domination, and Control. What makes it a good class, however, is that it takes time to master it. The hit boxes are still wide for DMRs, but it is certainly not a shoo-in for greatest gameplay streak of each match.
Finally, a note on each version of the game that I played. The PC version of Black Ops 4 is developed in partnership with Blizzard and Beenox, and it shows. It ran practically perfect, a lot better than the PS4 version I played (I played the same maps and same modes and used pretty much the same weapons on each, hence the summarized version of my impression). I was surprised that I actually excelled on the PC version, as while I play PC games, I certainly don't run any current, high-power titles on my school-work Toshiba. Of course, I should acknowledge that I was probably playing on dev-kit appropriated hardware, but the PC ran great. I don't know what type of PS4 was used for its version, but there were a few bugs I spotted. All of that is normal, however, as the game isn't out for another five months.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 seems to be a mix of surprise and tradition. Although it's a little disheartening to see Treyarch leaving the game without traditional single-player, it's not altogether unsurprising. Multiplayer is the game's strength, and it's inevitable that the developers would take advantage of what they do best, and the players want most. Honestly, I really wish we could have played a round of Blackout, but it seems we'll just have to wait.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 comes out October 12th.