This weekend saw the first of a handful of beta test for Activision’s upcoming shooter, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and having spent the weekend stabbing myself with health packs, I have mixed feelings. While on one hand, it was enjoyable playing a new shooter from Treyarch, on the other hand, it didn’t feel like it’d strayed too far from Black Ops 3, which is a shame.

Call of Duty: WW2 broke the mold in terms of the monotony of Call of Duty’s ever-expanding complexity. Bringing the shooter back down to earth, Sledgehammer Games almost recaptured the joy we found in the game’s earlier series. So, like me, you’d be forgiven if you thought Treyarch would continue that trend, and in some ways they have, but it just doesn’t quite feel good enough.

Black Ops 4 felt, to me, very much like like Black Ops 3 but all of the fancy boost jumping and jetpacks had been stripped away. Which is actually a welcomed change, but its semi-futuristic setting just felt a little overdone at this point.

The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta on PS4 offered the chance for players to play through four different modes/playlists. Search and Destroy, the new Control mode, Chaos Team Deathmatch, and Capture Moshpit. For the most part, I played the new Control mode, which is a weird mix of Domination and Attack & Defend, with each team having a finite amount of lives.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Screenshot

Control was an interesting game mode as it not only had an element of strategy but also put the pressure on with the number of lives the team had left. And let me just say, those stupid mistakes felt a lot more damning in this game mode.

In our preview of the game at E3, we mentioned how the games’ Specialist system helped make players feel like a part of the team rather than just another mercenary, similar to Overwatch, and I can definitely echo that statement here. Now players are limited to one Specialist per team which might seem limiting, considering there are around 9 Specialists to choose from, but it’s not the end of the world as players’ Custom Classes are carried over.

The only real differences Specialists offer are special abilities, such as being able to turn yourself into a little ball of radiation, toss out a shock drone, or set proximity mines, to things like heal and boost the health of an entire team, unleash attack dogs, or equip yourself with a massive grenade launcher.

Each of these skills and abilities has their own set cooldowns and aren’t too different to the Specialist abilities from Black Ops 3, however, they seem to be focused more on working in tandem with other members of the team rather than just chance it alone. It’s this focus on teamwork which also adds a breath of fresh air to the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Screenshot

Finally, let’s talk about the health injection. In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 health doesn’t regenerate, instead, players are equipped with a health injection type gadget which has a cooldown of around 4-5 seconds. What I found with this is that players no longer stood around for too long while in a firefight, instead we’d be ducking and diving into cover so that we could jab ourselves with some much-needed health.

It’s a mechanic which honestly felt a little alien (and unfair) to begin with, but it quickly became second nature, much like reloading after a kill. Now, we jab ourselves, reload, and move on.

Of course, players can decide to ditch the injection and opt for another type of equipment such as body armor, and that’s something many players have taken a quick disliking to, however, it’s just one of those things we have to figure out how to counter. Sure, it sucks when you’re down to your last smidge of health and the opposing player is still half up thanks to their armor, but what are we going to do?

Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 seems to be restoring some faith in the series for me. Having turned my nose up at Black Ops 3, I was very dubious about this upcoming game almost disliking it before I’d even given it a whirl, but I’m glad I did as I’m starting to look forward to this year’s entry into the Call of Duty series.

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