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Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 Multiplayer Beta – First Thoughts & Impressions

The Call of Duty video game franchise is one of the most profitable and enduring game franchises around. It has become an annual tradition to have a new COD game every fall, but this year there will be quite a few changes to the first person shooter.

For a start this year will be the first time there has been no single player campaign mode, instead the campaign mode will be replaced by a new mode called Blackout. It’s hard to preview Blackout without sounding a little cynical, as the Blackout mode is essentially a Battle Royale mode, which is looking to copy the success of PUBG and Fortnite. Players will be dropped into a large map and have to survive until they or their team are the last ones standing. When you look at the success of both PUBG and Fortnite, it’s easy to understand why developers Treyarch under parent company Activision have gone down this route.

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Yes, there are some fans of the single player campaign modes that simply will not be purchasing the game this year without that game mode. However, when you look at the statistics the majority of COD gamers go straight to the multiplayer modes and hardly touch the campaigns, and this grows each new iteration of the series. So perhaps this is indeed a smart move for the franchise? It certainly seems to appeal in concept, a Battle Royale game with COD‘s tight shooting mechanics. The question remains whether Blackout will be popular amongst the usually very casual gaming crowd that are into COD, and that remains to be seen.

LRM had access to the private multiplayer beta for Black Ops 4 this weekend, it was also available for anyone who pre-ordered a copy of the game. As someone who has engaged with COD games in the past and become disillusioned with the franchise in recent years, I was tasked with giving it a go-over the weekend on Xbox. The beta lasted for two weekends on PS4, but this was the only weekend for Xbox players to sample the multiplayer side of the game. So what did I think of the multiplayer beta for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4? First of all, it’s worth pointing out that this beta was for the competitive multiplayer modes only, the new Blackout game mode beta is coming in a month’s time (to be honest this is the part I am most interested to try). The multiplayer beta had…well, let’s get a bit technical for a moment shall we?

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There were quite a lot of issues regarding the Xbox version of the beta, with many fans not getting access for the first day or so of the beta weekend. The game was simply not launching for many and Treyarch had to deploy a fix before many fans could even get into the game. This certainly reduced the time I personally could put into the game this weekend along with countless other Xbox players. Unfortunately, the technical problems were not finished there. Players across both PS4 and Xbox were experiencing severe frame rate issues throughout the weekend. For the uninitiated, the frame rate, in layman’s terms, affects how smooth the movement is, and the map loading screens were horrific, at one point I watched a single leaf from a tree floating to the ground over about 4 minutes, it just kept sticking and rewinding. The game itself also had bad framerate issues and this made it almost impossible to play in certain games. COD has never had the most amazing net code (game lag has always been an issue) and was always a game where bad connections could ruin everyone’s experience, but this was as bad as I’ve seen in any game, beta or not.

When I did get to actually put the game through its paces there are some big changes here from previous versions of COD. Previously the player would heal automatically when not receiving damage, but now you have to find a quiet spot and inject yourself with a stim shot which heals you back again. This action takes roughly 5 seconds or so to complete and amazingly it does change the game in many ways. COD, for me, was never particularly tactical in its gameplay, a superstar player could literally destroy an entire team if they were good enough on their own, but with a slightly slower pace, players seemed far more cautious this time around. This definitely suits my play style, I definitely prefer a shooter that’s more tactical than pure reaction speeds, as I am getting on a bit these days.

The guns felt good to use (when it wasn’t lagging out) and players were definitely gravitating towards auto rifles as the meta weapons of choice. The game also has different classes of characters that can be chosen. To me, having played games like Overwatch, the classes here all felt a bit similar to me and not worth serious consideration, but to be fair, I only got to experiment for a few hours really.

I also took some time to browse some COD chat sites and engage in some discussion with other players to gauge their thoughts on the beta. The general consensus seems to be a thumbs up, other than the severe lagging and framerate issues I mentioned. Many players were even saying the changes made here equate to it being one of their favourite COD multiplayer games. I thought the health pack changes and the longer TTK (Time To Kill) would have caused an uproar, but instead they seemed to be warmly accepted to my surprise.

Would I purchase Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 this year? Unlikely, I’m afraid, as I have never been a huge fan of these kinds of multiplayer shooters, I tend to find there are better, more refined experiences to be found off the beaten path. The changes made certainly suit me more, but I have zero confidence in this game being anything but a lag fest online. COD needs to get into the 21st Century a little more in terms of using dedicated servers to run their games. They have never done this previously, because dedicated servers cost money and eat into profits. The current peer-to-peer set up isn’t anything better than we were getting with COD games back in the Xbox 360 and PS3 days, and lag is my pet peeve in these types of games. For those that don’t understand what lag does, Imagine sneaking up behind an enemy and unloading a full clip into their head, only for none of those shots to register and the other player to turn around and shoot you once and kill you, this is not as uncommon as you’d think in COD games and if anything the beta seemed worse than normal.

For me the key is the new Blackout mode, if this is somehow better than the likes of Fortnite and PUBG, then it could be huge, and I will try and get onto the beta for Blackout next month and share my thoughts on this new dawn for COD games. However, the multiplayer beta alone has done nothing to persuade me to part with my cash this year and my Son and his friends all seem to be more interested in the likes of Fortnite still. It will be interesting to see if this can lift the franchise to new heights or further compound its downturn over the last few years. There are fans out there who live for COD multiplayer and those fans will always buy the game every year, but for the moment I don’t see anything here that’s going to bring the more mature gamer back to this series, unless Blackout is a bit special of course.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 releases for purchase on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on October 12.

Did any of you readers get the chance to try the beta over the last two weekends on consoles or PC? Please share any thoughts you had on the multiplayer beta or any of the design choices for this year’s COD in the comments below.

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