Written By: Steve Vegvari
For the first time since the 2005 debut of Call of Duty 2, the franchise is seeing a significant change in its healing system. Treyarch has traded out automatic health recovery, in favour of a manual healing mechanic in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
When Call of Duty 2 first released, Infinity Ward introduced players to automatic healing in Call of Duty. Rather than searching the map for health packs, players would recover health as long as they were not receiving damage.
This continued in both Call of Duty campaigns and multiplayer all the way through until Call of Duty WWII last year. This was the first time in over almost a decade and a half that players had to seek out health packs. However, this change was only met in the campaign. Players of the multiplayer could continue playing as they were.
Until now. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s multiplayer and Blackout mode have both gone the way of manual healing.
At the start of each match, players will undoubtedly notice the six-block health bar in the lower left-hand side of their screen. Representing the player’s health, any damage done to the player will be reflected immediately.
The only way to recover health is to now initiate a manual healing stim. The default control button is LB on Xbox One, L1 on PlayStation 4, and the X key on PC. Players are equipped with infinite healing stims. However, a cooldown of seven seconds must take effect between each use.
Even upon activation, the manual heal takes time to reach capacity. If a player is down to 20 percent health, the animation and heal take roughly three seconds to complete.
In most Call of Duty titles in the past, players had a certain level of comfort after killing an enemy. Players could go in and out of firefights and rely on the healing system to take care of itself. There was a certain level of comfort in knowing that within a few seconds, you’d be back in a fight with full health without doing anything yourself.
Now, players have to manage their healing. It is always something that should be of focus. After killing an enemy, do you quickly reload your weapon? Or do you initiate a heal? Players are unable to do both, and with a potential enemy running around the next corner, this choice is crucial.
Manual healing also comes with offensive advantages as well. You can jump into a fight knowing that the other team has to manage their health as well.
In an instance where you a reaching a fight and have to clean up after your fallen teammates, you can run in with some certainty that the weakened enemies will have to heal. This may result in stumbling across enemies unable to react to your fire. In the same vein, you may be able to take enemies out quicker due to their lowered health.
Manual healing forces every player to rethink their actions and slightly alter their strategies. There are moments when you will need to fall back after being tagged, crouching in a corner while your health bar replenishes.
The altered mechanic also encourages the use of healing and defensive specialists. Crash is a perfect example of this. His Tak-5 ability instantly heals all teammates while providing a boost of max health. Knowing a teammate is playing as Crash could give some peace of mind. Support Specialists play a crucial role in survival.
Playing on console adds an additional challenge. By default, initiating a heal will ultimately force the player to move their finger from the left trigger or button. In the fast-paced environment of Call of Duty, taking your finger off one of the most essential buttons –– aiming down sights –– could have ramifications.
Instead, it is encouraged to either swap to the Bumper Jumper layout and move the healing button to either A or X depending on the console. Or better yet, invest in a pro controller. Pro controllers such as the Xbox One Elite, or SCUF Infinity 4PS PRO are equipped with additional paddles on the back of the controller.
These paddles enable the player to customize their preferred control scheme. Doing so will allow players to assign the healing button to a paddle and no longer have to take their finger off the trigger.
PC players have a clear advantage. Healing defaults to the X key, which does not interfere with any other primary controls. Additionally, Treyarch put a lot of focus on giving PC players the ability to customize their control scheme and settings right off the bat.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode, healing works the same way. Instead of being equipped with healing stims from the get-go, players will have to scavenge the map for healing items.
Heals come in the form of three different items. The most basic is the First Aid bandages. First Aids are typically found in excess. Two or three First Aids will spawn in a cluster. Each bandage will recover one block of health with roughly one second needed for recovery time.
The other two healing items are Med Kits and Trauma Kits. Med Kits will recover 50HP, while Trauma Kits will bring you to full health and add 50HP in boosts for a total of 200HP. These items are a bit more of a commodity. Finding these items will significantly increase your chances of survival. Upon finding a Trauma Kit, it is a good idea to always use it immediately. It is always useful to have that extra health when moving forward.
The same strategies that apply in multiplayer apply in Blackout. The last thing you ever want to do is put yourself at a disadvantage and take your finger off one of the most critical button prompts. Especially when you are not able to lean on Specialist abilities to pinpoint enemy locations.
I believe that while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s revamped healing system is a good change of pace for multiplayer. It will require players to revisit their strategies slightly. This is a brand new muscle to flex and will take time to perfect and balance. Best to invest some time into customizing your control scheme. Keep health as a priority and don’t forget to spam that health button.
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About The Author: Steve Vegvari
Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.