A sneaky Bowie knife kill in Rivertown.

At first mention of Ambush, Black Ops 4’s most recent Blackout limited-time mode, I initially gave a dramatic groan and cringed. I love playing Blackout, but I loathed the idea of being limited to snipers, melee, and rockets only. I’ll try every mode at least once, but it was sheer stubbornness that kept me playing Ambush, forcing myself out of my comfort zone until I started having a surprising amount of fun.

Ambush, which is no longer available on PlayStation 4 but can be played on Xbox One or PC for the next week, gives you the weapon choice of snipers, a rocket launcher, or the Bowie knife, which can down a player with one quick stab. If you’re feeling brave, you can just run around unarmed and punching people. A game of snipers sounds kind of campy, but this mode has an unforgiving circle of Nova Gas. In Ambush, the circle is marked on the map right away, but there’s no pause between shrinking circles. It’s an ever-collapsing ring that forces players to meet in complete chaos.

Sadly, this is where I have to publicly confess that I’m an awful sniper, and I don’t knife much either. I usually only create and use sniper classes in multiplayer for completion of specific gun and camo challenges.

Dropping into my first match of Ambush had me panicked. Even though I’d used all of the snipers in multiplayer, I still had no idea which gun I’d be most comfortable using in Blackout. It didn’t matter anyway. I dropped down to a building with an enemy and was bludgeoned by their fists. A few more matches had me trying out whichever random sniper rifle I came across first. The pressure of Blackout and my lack of confidence with sniping had me missing every shot. I was frustrated, embarrassed, and wanted to quit the first day, but I was drawn back to the mode almost every day. I was determined to get better at sniping and build some confidence.

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My play style is usually aggressive, preferably with an assault rifle or submachine gun in hand. Ambush forced me to play more cautiously, get better at judging Blackout’s bullet drop, and learn to lead my shots. In the beginning, I would get flustered if I missed my first shot, causing my aim to get worse until I met my demise at the hands of a more skilled opponent. Eventually, my judgement improved until I had more hits than misses. I discovered I was best with the Outlaw or the Paladin sniper rifles, but the perfect combo was using one of those rifles for ranged combat and the Bowie knife for enemies looking to rush me.

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Days of practice later, I was finally surviving as part of the top 10 in most matches. By the time the circle closed in on the last few survivors, there was often just a chaos of sniper shots and knife fights in the haze of someone’s perfectly-timed smoke grenade. I was scoring kills, the adrenaline was flowing, and I was having a blast.

I probably still suck at sniping compared to most players, but Ambush has made me better. I earned the confidence to pick up a sniper rifle in standard Blackout, and I scored some nice top placements. Ambush has now been replaced on PlayStation 4 by a mode called Close Quarters Frenzy, which features close-quarters weapons such as shotguns and pistols with a fast-collapsing circle. Xbox One and PC users can still enjoy Ambush for another week of sniping. And I’ll keep practicing in standard Blackout, hoping to be an even better sniper if Ambush returns to PlayStation.