How Pressing A Button To Heal Can Change Everything


Black Ops 4 is a Call of Duty game that’s all about the online multiplayer experience. Campaign is gone for now and multiplayer is once more accompanied by the co-op mode Zombies. Then there’s also Blackout - Treyarch’s take on the battle royale genre. But if there’s one thing that stood out in my time so far with the game it’s the change to how a player heals in multiplayer.

When you press L1 on your PS4 controller you’ll see your chosen Specialist stab a syringe in his arm, slowly gaining health back. The auto-heal that’s been a staple since Call of Duty 2 has been replaced by a manual press. It also has a cooldown, and in almost every gunfight I find myself in, I'll need to press that button. But… should I?

It adds more tension and demands some judicious thinking during these fast-paced gunfights. Should I heal now or reload just in case another player comes around the corner? It gives the player full control of his/her fate, and disincentivizes a reliance on cover, where one used to sit praying auto heal triggers sooner rather than later.

The auto-heal system was also absent in the campaign for last year’s Call of Duty: WWII replacing it with limited medpacks found in the stage as a tool to heal players. It’s a treat to see manual healing properly reintroduced into multiplayer mode and feels like a risk well-spent. It complements the adrenaline-inducing gameplay Call of Duty is known for and should be the standard for future titles.

In one 1v1 skirmish, I was left with 20% and an enemy I could flank at the end of the hall.  I took a risk by engaging while simultaneously triggering the heal, hoping it would be enough to win the next encounter. The result was a decisive victory. In any case, retreating to regain health tends to ruin the momentum, but getting the option to reclaim your health when you need it greatly changes the feel of multiplayer.

This is just one aspect as to why Black Ops 4 is shaping up to be one of their best entries in this generation. Specialists this time around have been changed so that players can fill in a specific role that they think will make an impact in the upcoming match, which makes this Call of Duty more strategic and less about racking up the points in order to score some killstreaks.

More about other sections of the game in our full review here.