As we were told before Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s reveal event: Forget what you know. While going hands-on with the multiplayer initially feels reassuringly familiar, like a wonderfully cosy pair of slippers, you soon realise that a series of subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks are shaking the series’ signature mode up.
How do we know? Well, we got the chance to spend an hour with Black Ops 4’s multiplayer and put it through its paces! From rediscovering Specialists to gambling with our health, we’re going to highlight five ways Black Ops is evolving.
1. Specialists are special
Like in Black Ops 3, you’ll play as a character (known as a Specialist) who has a unique ability that can turn the tide of a battle. However, the crop of super soldiers in this sequel feel more tactical than its predecessor, with each Specialist’s strengths and weaknesses more defined.
Take Torque, a lumbering Scot who boasts the ability to lay down razor wire or erect a barricade. We picked him for our second match – a game of Control, where you have to defend or attack a certain point – and he was perfect for creating impromptu choke points. This meant we could control the space the opposing team was trying to attack us from and whittle down their numbers.
However, a foe playing as returning specialist Firebreak, could get close to our barrier and unleash an area attack that, well, sets us on fire. It’s great fun learning how to react and adapt to the Specialists other people choose.
2. Recharging health is gone
One of the most eyebrow-raising changes announced at the Black Ops 4 reveal was the removal of automatically recharging health, which has been replaced by a system that sees you topping up on health manually. It’s a huge break from what the series has traditionally done, but it gives an extra tactical edge to Black Ops 4’s action.
Do you wade into a huge firefight and hope to stay alive by healing halfway through it? Or do you turn tail and flee, saving your restorative syringe for when you need it the most? Because it feels just as natural as reloading your weapon after a few games, we love how we started to change the way we play to focus on surviving rather than running into bullets constantly.
3. Boots on the ground is back
Black Ops 3’s zippy moveset that allowed you to wall-run and boost jump is no more. Don’t worry though, while Black Ops 4 is returning to boots on the ground gameplay, it isn’t sacrificing the speed that makes the series so thrilling.
Little things like being able to slide a huge distance at quick speeds, or your gun staying up as you vault a wall or throw a grenade means that firefights remain an ultra-fast, and ultra-smooth, experience. Keeping the action slightly more grounded without sacrificing its style makes this more accessible for newcomers.
4. Maps feel like classic Black Ops
A Call of Duty multiplayer experience isn’t complete without inch-perfect map design which look as good as it feels to run-and-gun through, and Black Ops 4’s doesn’t disappoint. The first map we play, Contraband, may look like a tropical paradise, but there’s plenty to be wary of here. An underwater section that runs through the middle of the map will allow clever players to sneak up on unsuspecting foes.
Seaside has an Italian coastal vibe, but a bombed-out church reminds us this isn’t a vacation in Sicily. A tight three lane design means it feels like classic COD, and that Church has handy tower that makes sniping a worthwhile pursuit on this map. Finally, Payload is the largest of the lot, with this wintry wonderland boasting plenty of hidden paths and opportunities to quickly flank your enemies.
5. Multiplayer narrative intrigue
Although we didn’t get a chance to see the Specialist solo missions that were teased during the Black Ops 4 stream, they are a mouthwatering proposition. Adding a backstory to the soldiers we play as means we’ll care that little bit more about our favourite specialist.
Plus the multiplayer is aiming to bridge the gap between the narrative of Black Ops 2 and 3, and we’re excited to see how Treyarch will experiment with their storytelling now they’ve confirmed Black Ops 4 won’t have a traditional single-player campaign. Considering how delightfully dense the series’s story can be, we can’t wait to see more.