There’s no better feeling that when a game surprises you – and that’s exactly how I felt after playing the demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at E3 this year.
Before I get on to the game let me be clear, I wasn’t excited for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 but I am now. Having bought every iteration of Call of Duty since the original Black Ops, and enjoying each subsequent game less and less, I fully expected to dislike this game. However, what I got to play felt intuitive, strategic but most of all just damn good fun.
The demo saw players try two different modes of the new games’ multiplayer mode; classic team deathmatch and a control map.
Player customisation has been improved significantly. The classics return of course – all of the perks, weapons and mods you’re used to will make an appearance in the game. But now players can decide to play specialist classes which give the player new tech that can change the direction of a battle. This might sound overblown – how can these classes make such a big difference right? Well, for those out there who are familiar with hero shooters such as Overwatch, they change the tide of the battle like a special ability can in those games. That makes the game feel more dynamic and versatile.
For example, the load out I picked came with the ability to deploy a person (and moveable shield). Movement was slowed when moving with the shield, but I also had the opportunity to lengthen the shield to provide cover to my teammates too. As someone who doesn’t have particularly good aim I suddenly found a use for myself on the battlefield. Using a perk that allowed me to see my own team mates through walls, I could stick with them and hold my own until my special ability was ready to deploy. Once I saw we were about to go into a large team fight, I threw myself into the fray (like an absolute hero), deployed the shield and before you knew it we were five points ahead in deathmatch.
We saw this again in the Control game mode. The team took point A all together – and as they were moving to point B for the big fight I held back. Using my shield I was able to defend the point against four attackers before I was eventually defeated.
These options excite me – as someone who has typically been left behind by FPS games that have progressively focused more and more on a pure FPS experience, that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is able to include this kind of gameplay – that puts emphasis on team play and positioning – means I can find a route back into the game.
But what is even more exciting, is that you don’t have to play like this if you don’t want to. My colleague who I was playing with built the exact load out he’d have used in a previous Black Ops game and played without any emphasis on his ‘special’ ability. He performed just as well as me and had just as much fun.
A couple of additional changes make sense within the game too. The enemy health bars feel intuitive and feel like a worthy addition to the game. The new maps are big enough to feel real, but small enough to force action in the right places. The weapon feedback feels much more natural and comfortable when shooting too.
In all, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a Black Ops game I can get behind. Enjoyable, complex and simple at the same time and able to generate that ‘just one more round’ feeling.