Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 offers 10 different approaches to the action with its diverse squad of Specialist Operatives. Effective Specialist selection can make or break a round, and while they can be swapped between deaths in many of the game's core modes, picking the right one and sticking with them ensures that no ability and equipment charges are misspent.
The game does offer up a Specialists HQ option from the main menu, which provides constructed scenarios and objectives for all ten characters, pitted against AI-controlled enemies. While this can teach newcomers the utmost basics, the best way to learn each Specialists is to simply try them out in-game and get a feel for their individual details and quirks. For players wanting to jump directly into the action, however, there are no on-the-fly tutorials baked into multiplayer modes.
Each Specialist in Black Ops 4 functions, in many ways, like individual class-based characters in competitive multiplayer shooters like Overwatch. That means that they're all equipped with certain combat options simmering on regenerative cooldowns, along with a unique high-powered ability that – when used appropriately – can turn the tide of battle, somewhat similar to how ultimates work in Overwatch. Some Specialists are designed to function more aggressively, two are in a supportive class, and some of their abilities admittedly feel overpowered at present. Specialist selection is restricted in certain competitive modes, which means that it’s a common occurrence for a favorite to be locked off if someone else is quicker on the draw during setup. Make a mental list of your preferred specialists and don’t get dissuaded if the top picks are spoken for; it just means that the opportunity to master another has been made available.
Let's take a look at each Specialist Operative in Black Ops 4, revealing what players might expect in the game's early hours, as well as some things to keep in mind when out in the field.
- Ability: Ballistic Shield – A fortified shield which protects Ajax from front-facing damage, allowing him to return fire with a machine pistol. Note that he can still be damaged by gunfire through the small window in the front of the shield.
- Equipment: 9-Bang – A grenade that both flashes AND stuns, throwing enemies in the line of sight into a compromised state where they cannot shoot, heal or use abilities. 9-Bangs can also be cooked to trigger multiple detonations.
- Notes: An enemy afflicted by a 9-Bang is all but destined for death, as they are sent stumbling blindly to avoid getting killed. Remember: they can still shoot (and even kill you), but they’ll have no visual, so watch out for pray-and-spray.
Ajax’s Ballistic Shield delivers varying results depending on mode and enemy loadout. Smart players will flank him, forcing him to drop his shield for increased mobility and putting him at a disadvantage. However, if enemies are clustered in a hallway, a shield-wielding Ajax appearing at the opposite end can be an intimidating sight.
- Ability: War Machine – A grenade launcher with splash damage, especially viable for enemies clustered together and/or behind cover.
- Equipment: Cluster Grenade – A sticky grenade which releases multiple smaller grenades on detonation.
- Notes: Battery’s equipment can kill enemies caught in the first explosion, as well as create a kind of explosive effect which can briefly provide area denial. Note the setup time needed for her equipment and ability, as neither are quick-activating and need to be prepped well in advance, with the War Machine's load animation requiring a few seconds of vulnerability.
Battery is one of the few grenade-wielding Specialists (along with Ajax) in Black Ops 4, but her specials can be effectively countered via medium-to-long distance targeting.
- Ability: TAK-5 – Over-heals player and allies, making them harder to take down.
- Equipment: Assault Pack – Drops a duffel bag which allows allies to grab extra magazines for their weapon, within a reasonably long distance.
- Notes: Crash is something of a support specialist, though ammo provision considerations in Black Ops 4’s early hours may be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Staying alive is more important than replenishing ammo at this stage of play, especially when players are allowed to quickly loot potentially decent weapons from downed operatives.
In the long game, though, Crash is an absolute boon to have on the team. Beyond the benefit of simply providing more ammo, kills made with Assault Pack boosts grant Crash bonus points, which can lead to multiple TAK-5 deployments within a single round.
- Ability: Purifier – A flamethrower which obliterates close-to-medium distanced enemies caught in its wake.
- Equipment: Reactor Core – Attaches to surfaces and emits radiation, which reduces the max health of nearby enemies.
- Notes: Using Reactor Core around key points of activity can be absolutely devastating on Control maps, turning bullet sponges into easy kills and disrupting heals. Additionally, Firebreak’s Purifier will decimate noobs looking to engage at close range, though it has a very recognizable sound and is easy to spot from a distance.
Reactor Core can be a fiddly piece of equipment on its own, since it needs to be primed carefully, its radius of damage grows larger as it’s charged, and even damages the user – for best results, get as close to the red as possible without overdoing it, and retreat and heal when needed. Its most effective application is in modes like Control, Hardpoint, and Domination, where it can severely hamper a team attempting to secure a point, and its spherical AOE penetrates through solid walls.
- Ability: K9-Unit – A killer dog who can guard a player’s proximity or patrol ahead, quickly killing any path-crossing enemies.
- Equipment: Mesh Mine – A laser-triggered pair of mines.
- Notes: A quick glance at the trending posts in the Black Ops 4 subreddit says it all: Nomad’s attack dog feels somewhat overpowered and hearing the callout "K-9 Unit in your area" increases enemy blood pressure. The dog can be killed, sure, but absorbs a surprising amount of damage and often unpredictably, making Nomad an excellent starter Specialist.
Mesh Mines are a godsend to snipers, who can position them in stairwells next to their nest to kill enemies and/or set a triggered alarm advising them that it’s time to reposition. Note that the mines are a two-step action, meaning that you have to position each in a functional distance and orientation to each other to activate the laser tripwire.
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