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Black Ops 4 is changing up the Call of Duty formula for the better

The Black Ops 4 beta is already giving Call of Duty a great path into the future

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - Seraph jumping over a barrier and firing a revolver Treyarch/Activision
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Call of Duty is back from the trenches of World War II and this time it’s flinging players, once again, into the near future of the Black Ops series with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. While most fans would argue that multiplayer has been the centerpiece of Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2, Treyarch has finally made it official by doing away with the campaign entirely in Black Ops 4. Though the game will also feature a battle royale mode, competitive multiplayer will be the focus of Black Ops 4, and during this weekend’s PS4 only beta — which will go live for other platforms next week — players finally have the chance to check out the new multiplayer for the first time.

For the first time since Infinity Ward breathed new life into the series with 2007’s Modern Warfare, Treyarch is switching up the basis of of Call of Duty’s multiplayer. The result, at least in this beta, is a game that feels slower and more interesting than any Call of Duty game released since.

Slowing things down

Black Ops 3 was a game mostly marked by its movement. Between running along walls, boosting through the air or gliding around in hopes of the perfect headshot, everything in Black Ops 3 had an unstoppable sense of momentum and a disorienting breakneck pace. It was a bold choice by developer Treyarch and an attempt to redefine what Call of Duty multiplayer could be, but it never quite felt right. While Call of Duty has, since Modern Warfare, cleverly blended the fast-paced quick kills of arcade shooters with the delicate tactics of simulation games, Black Ops 3 seemed to lose the balance, falling a little too far to the arcade side for most players’ liking.

In an attempt to remedy that, the team at Treyarch has purposefully slowed things down. As they put it at the game’s reveal event back in May, Black Ops 4 is 100 percent “boots on the ground.” This latest game trades out some of its predecessor’s immense speed in favor of a gameplay that feels much more deliberate.

Players run a little slower, jump a little lower and have, what feels like, way more health than they’ve ever had before in the series. While this is still most certainly a Call of Duty game, with all the twitch gunplay and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fights that go along with that, Black Ops 4 is more about your decision making than it is about your reflexes.

The right tools for any job

The most important of those decisions comes thanks to Black Ops 4’s completely new health system. Rather than the regenerating health of previous entries in the series, Black Ops 4 requires players to use a syringe every time they want to heal. While, on its face this may seem like an inconvenience, in reality it means that you can get your health back much faster than before, but you have to choose to do that. It also provides a sense of control that’s never been present in a Call of Duty game before.

Suddenly, every fight you win becomes a choice: do you want to replenish your missing health or reload your gun and get ready for another enemy to show up? Knowing you have to pick your shots perfectly because you opted not to reload, or playing a fight a little safer than you might want to because you are low on health is a key part of Black Ops 4 and it introduces a different kind of pace to the game. You have to think about your next move rather than just charging ahead, knowing that your health will take care of itself. Every fight becomes a series of important choices.

While Black Ops 4 is only in beta and its launch date is Oct. 12, the game already seems to be a solid update for a series that has remained largely the same for the last decade. By slowing things down and making players focus on each firefight, Treyarch has created a game that feels new and interesting while still keeping things familiar enough for longtime Call of Duty fans to recognize.