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Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 Attempts To Add Some Rainbow Six Siege DNA, But Not Much Has Changed

Call of Duty is back, as always.

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In a time where Call of Duty sometimes takes undeserved flak, I have been a huge supporter of the series' efforts to stay fresh every year. Over the past decade, we've seen the franchise visit modern day, World War II, Vietnam, and various futuristic settings. We've seen it be a traditional "boots on the ground" shooter, an over-the-top military blockbuster, a psychological thriller, and a "what if?" sci-fi doomsday tale, complete with rocket boosters and exoskeletons.

Last year, we were told Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was "the wrong game at the wrong time," with the implication being that audiences were sick of futuristic warfare (after three games in a row set beyond the present day). That made it an odd decision, then, for Call of Duty: WWII's successor to once again head back to the future with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

In what is presumably an attempt to ground the game in a way Black Ops III did not, the latest in the sub-series omits its predecessor's double jumps and heads, once again, back to basics. Sort of. While Black Ops 4's futuristic agility powers may have been scrapped, the somewhat generic near-future setting has been preserved.

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I don't think many people had a problem with the rocket boosters--to the contrary, I think the rapid movement capabilities they brought have come to define the series. Rather, I think people were sick of the near-future aesthetic and storyline. I certainly was. But Black Ops 4 maintains that and drops the most interesting part of the advanced Call of Duty games--the movement.

This doesn't mean Call of Duty has slowed down, however. Black Ops 4 is just as fast as you've come to expect from the series--you just can't wallrun like you could in Advanced Warfare, Infinite Warfare, or Black Ops III. In a half-hour multiplayer hands-on demo at E3, it became apparent that Call of Duty is still very energetic, its maps still turn into race tracks, and its matches are just as frantic as ever.

One of Black Ops 4's big changes is the removal of regenerating health and the addition of health packs. Call of Duty: WWII introduced this in its campaign, but multiplayer returned to a standard, always-recovering health system. Black Ops 4 goes all the way and brings the tweak to multiplayer. However, while the change might seem a big one for the series to make--and, symbolically, it is, moving more towards Battlefield, Fortnite, and PUBG--in practice, it makes little difference. Because of Black Ops 4's aforementioned speed and typically high-impact weaponry, you don't tend to live very long, so it's rare you have the opportunity to heal before being killed. Even when you do, your health pack--which every character automatically gets from the start--replenishes quickly, so there's little strategy around when to activate it.

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The much-flaunted tactical improvements--most notably the Specialists' individual skills such as deployable barriers and barbed wire--are similarly less notable in-game than they might appear. Yes, you can deploy a wire fence here or bulletproof barricade there, and the comparisons to something slower and more thoughtful like Rainbow Six Siege are easy and fair to make. But you move around so much (and die so quickly) in Call of Duty that you'll never be around long enough to feel the benefit of your equipment. Other abilities--such as a flamethrower or a grenade launcher--have been seen before and so don't provide the breath of fresh flame I thought they might.

Black Ops 4 being more similar to its predecessors than expected is not necessarily a bad thing, however. The Call of Duty series is famed for its satisfying gunplay and that is no different in Black Ops 4. It feels typically excellent to land a headshot from across the map, as you'd expect, and the two maps I played--Contraband and Frequency--both contained excellent layouts that funneled players in exactly the right way for interesting engagements. Black Ops 4 will of course be fun to play--just don't expect its core multiplayer mode to be very different to anything that's come before.

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oscardayus

Oscar Dayus

Oscar is GameSpot's Staff Writer, and as the youngest member of the UK office he's usually the butt of the joke.

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