Call of Duty is quite the enigma to me these days. After playing every title from Call of Duty 2 all the way up to Black Ops 2, it’s fair to say I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on the franchise. Sure, watching CWL is usually fun no matter what game is being played. When it comes to playing, though, the series had lost its flair for me. Editor’s note: It’s worth noting Wyatt is also bad at the game.
Then I played Black Ops 4 at E3 earlier this week.
After playing the game for about 20 minutes, I am wholly sold on the Kool-Aid that Treyarch is selling this time around. Playing both Domination on Contraband and Control on Frequency, I got a pretty good slice of the changes that have been made to try and differentiate this game from previous entries to the franchise.
While Domination was the same game mode that we’ve been playing for years, you can immediately see that the focus of the game has shifted even when playing this mode. Treyarch seems to have placed much less focus on kills in an effort to make players actually focus on the objectives (what a concept). Opening the scoreboard will not show your kills and deaths, as has become a time honored staple of the franchise, but rather you’re shown your overall score, how many objectives you’ve contributed to, and your overall damage. There is no way to see your KD until you get to the post-game lobby after the match is over.
While I can see why some people would be upset with this change and say that this is Call of Duty trying to be like Overwatch, in practice, the change is a welcomed one. By not glorifying how many kills each player gets, you have no choice but to start racking up objectives in order to flex on ‘em. Further, you can still show off how good you are by posting high damage numbers since more kills means more damage. Nothing in the game has changed. Treyarch has just changed how players receive information.
Not only is this a welcomed change for an overall gameplay standpoint, but it does a lot to help people (like me) who might be kind of (i.e. very) terrible at this game but just want to have fun. Sure, if you’re really bad, you’ll still post low damage numbers. But even then, it relieves a bit of the pressure to perform that is painfully present during online multiplayer.
Along with this new focus on objectives and playing as a team comes the new game mode, Control. It’s similar to Domination in that there are points on the map that must be captured and held. The difference here, though, is that there are only two as compared to the three in Domination. Further, it takes much longer for the points to be captured, meaning that you have to actually coordinate with your team to keep a hold of the points.
In addition to the communication that it takes to capture points, Black Ops 4 allows for the existence of team compositions like you would see in a MOBA. While Specialists are certainly not new to the Black Ops series, having some variation as well as specific archetypes such a tank, healer, or area denial, there exists an opportunity for real team synergy that wasn’t necessarily always present before. For example, you can pair the barricade ability of a Torque with the grenade launcher of a Battery or flamethrower of a Firebreak to set up a solid defense of a point.
This focus on teamwork over individual hero plays is something that I think is incredibly healthy for the franchise as a whole and could leave a more welcoming and varied style of play. That’s not to say that the hero plays are gone as they are very much still present. I mean, even I picked up Play of the Game once with a triple flamethrower kill. But the fact that I (being the scrumb that I am) felt like I was still contributing to my team was something that’s been somewhat lacking in the past with previous entries.
At the end of the day, though, this is still Call of Duty. If you’re not a fan of the series, this won’t do enough to rope you in. And of course, with an immense degree of change comes a chance the franchise could risk alienating the fans it has cultivated for over a decade. But Black Ops 4 is more or less the same as Black Ops 3 without jetpacks, which is a huge compliment. Yes, the strategy of the game has changed, but that doesn’t undermine the product - rather it enhanced it, at least for me. I look forward to the game’s release in October, if only so that I can work on my barricading skills.