Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (PlayStation 4) Preview

By Gareth F 12.08.2018

Review for Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII on PlayStation 4

As has now become an integral part of the Call of Duty release ritual, Activision has opened up the heavily armoured gates to the Black Ops IIII compound in the first of two Private Beta sessions held for pretty much anybody willing to stump up the cash to gain entry. While these kind of exercises are usually conducted to stress-test the servers and iron out the kinks, it's fair to say that in this instance it's more about driving up those pre-order numbers and introducing the much vaunted new play mechanics to the curious hordes. After all, Treyarch has been working on this title for nearly three years now, and given the complete absence of a single-player campaign, there's a pretty big gap to fill that may (or may not) be plugged by the Battle Royale-inspired Blackout mode. This particular run of Betas focuses on the regular meat and potatoes of the series - the e-sports centric multiplayer mode.

Battle harderned veterans of Call of Duty: Black Ops III will be pleased to see a few familiar operators returning to active duty for this latest edition of the franchise, and while the majority do appear to have kept their signature special moves, the evergreen Nomad has ditched his weird HIVE weapon in favour of a ferocious attack dog that roams the playfield looking for potential snacks. All the operators have now also been kitted out with a secondary special ability/weapon that replaces the grenade slot in the loadout and charges up at a faster rate than the main. The very noticeable knock on effect here is the total lack of any kind of explosive spamming out in the killing fields, which is a welcome change as even the few operators that do have some form of grenade as their secondary, still have to wait for a full recharge before deploying it. Ruin now has a Titanfall-esque grapple gun as a secondary that gives him a serious mobility boost, Firebreak has a mini reactor core that saps nearby enemy's health while simultaneously preventing their ability to heal, and Prophet has a seeker mine that zips around electrocuting people.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII on PlayStation 4

A few new operators have joined the party, too, and what's interesting is that their signature moves are geared more towards team support and defensive play, which takes the series into similar territory as hero shooter, Overwatch. The fact that certain game modes only allow one of each operator to be picked in a team does encourage a more of a tactical approach when selecting what character to head out as, and the gameplay feels a bit more balanced as a result. Of the new characters, Ajax has a ballistic shield with a built-in machine pistol, making him the team tank; Torque has a secondary skill of deploying razor wire, which is perfect for closing down routes to the objectives; and Crash can heal and boost the health of fellow teammates.

That's right, automatic regenerative health is no longer a COD given right but is actually something that needs to be initiated with a button press. The Stim-pack replaces the tactical grenade slot in the loadout and does, thankfully, possess a fairly rapid cool down, so Crash's presence on the team isn't a total necessity. It takes some getting used to but it soon becomes second nature and a well timed Stim Shot during a particularly hectic bout of combat can be the difference between life and death. Treyarch's boasts of making this a more tactical version of Call of Duty do seem to be carrying some water when all these little gameplay tweaks start to mesh together.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII on PlayStation 4

Of course, it's all about 'boots on the ground' nowadays, although, surprisingly, the trouser-destroying power slide has been retained for Black Ops IIII, so while the tempo of play doesn't quite hit Infinite Warfare or Black Ops III levels, it's still pretty darn zippy.

The weapons all seem to handle nicely and, while there were zero player/gun customisation options included in the beta, rest assured they will no doubt be present and fully monetised in the full release. The beta comes bundled with a very generous six maps, which range thematically from a gridlocked Japanese city centre, to a quaint Spanish seaside town that appears to have been heavily influenced by the Ilios map in Overwatch. The level design regularly hits the high standards expected from the series and Treyarch has done a pretty good job of delivering a well proportioned and balanced selection that offer space to breath, punctuated by plenty of deadly bottlenecks.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII on PlayStation 4

There's a new game type called 'Control,' which sees one team trying to capture two points, while the other defends, and both teams have 30 lives that will result in an automatic defeat if depleted. It's been done elsewhere before but it's a fun addition to the already generous smorgasbord of modes. Given the strong, prevalent Overwatch influences at play here, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see the Payload-esque 'Safeguard' show its robotic face again in the full package. Even the scoring system appears to have taken a leaf out of Blizzard's popular hero shooter, as kill credits now get awarded for just contributing to an enemy's demise, even if the final bullet came from somebody else. There's nary a mention of the kill/death ratio on the final match scoreboard either, which seems strange given the heavy emphasis placed on these stats in previous editions. It's hard to predict if the more hardcore veterans of the series will embrace this going forward but, for newer players, it definitely makes COD a less intimidating proposition.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII on PlayStation 4

Final Thoughts

While there are no real radical departures from the well worn, fast-paced Call of Duty gameplay that the series is renowned for, Treyarch has done a pretty good job of finding a balance between the fresh and the familiar. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII definitely has that new COD smell about it, yet it's hard to ignore the very obvious Overwatch fragrance that's wafted in and permeated the mix. This isn't a bad thing, of course, as Overwatch is undeniably great and, in this particular instance, the end result makes for a fun, addictive blast.

Also known as

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Developer

Treyarch

Publisher

Activision Blizzard

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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