Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s beta has kicked back into action, and this time it is on PC and Xbox One as well. I jumped into the Battle.net version this afternoon to try out the new Heist mode, which is Treyarch’s twist on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive formula. But that’s not the only game Black Ops 4 is reminiscent of — the game is also taking cues from other popular and successful shooters like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege and Blizzard’s Overwatch.
Black Ops 4 still feels like a Call of Duty first and foremost. When it launches on October 12 on PC and consoles, you won’t mistake it for any of those other games. Treyarch is obviously borrowing ideas from the competition, but the foundation is still a million miles closer to Black Ops II than Rainbow Six. In fact, I’ll just say that I don’t think it feels anything like Siege even if I see the inspiration in some of the design.
So instead of changing the feel of Call of Duty, Treyarch seems like it is just borrowing ideas from other franchises to make something that is still familiar to fans while also offering up something fresh. But let me give you some examples of where you’ll see echoes of those other games in the design of Black Ops 4.
The Heist mode is the most obvious one-to-one from another game. It is a round-based competitive mode where players must retrieve a pile of money before the other team and then take it to a rendezvous with a helicopter at a random spot on the map. The mode features a shop system where you earn money by damaging other opponents, surviving, and winning rounds, and then you use that accumulated wealth to buy better weapons, armor, and equipment for the rest of the match.
That should sound familiar to Counter-Strike players, which uses that system in its standard competitive mode. I won’t pretend to know if that came from some other shooter first, but most people should know it from Valve’s military shooter.
Again, Heist still feels like Call of Duty more than anything else, but you cannot mistake the effect that Counter-Strike is having on the series at this point.
The comparisons to Siege are not about a mode and instead relate more to the mechanics.
Sure, Black Ops 4’s specialists will remind you of Siege’s at a glance, but the similarities are subtler than that. Black Ops 4 is a tiny bit slower than a standard Call of Duty, and the time-to-kill an opponent (TTK) is longer. That gives the action a more deliberate pace where you feel like you can take your time to approach a corner while slowly aiming down sights. You will never do that as much in Black Ops 4 as you do in Siege, but I definitely was having success in this Call of Duty using skills I’ve learned in Rainbow Six.
Heist, with its objective and lack of respawns, heightens those similarities.
When it comes to the characters, Black Ops 4 mixes in ideas from both Siege and Overwatch. Like in Overwatch, you are building up an ultimate the entire match that you activate by pressing “Q.” And then you have an ability on your “E” key that is different depending on your character or class. These include a dart that senses enemies who walk by and a grappling hook. You’ll find analogues for a lot of the ultimates and the special abilities in either Overwatch or Rainbow Six.
Of course, I am only playing the beta, and we are still waiting to see Call of Duty’s battle royale mode Blackout. When that is in the game, you can add PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite to the list of inspirations.
And I’m OK with that because Activision and Treyarch in particular have shown that they know how to refine an idea and make it their own.