Title: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Release Date: November 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: First-Person Shooter
There’s a pretty substantial gap that separates the hardcore and casual gamer when it comes to specific genres. However, the Call of Duty series has always blended the two through its single and multiplayer modes. The series does amazing in sales each year and excels in pushing first-person shooting systems.
Still, in recent years, I’ve noticed that attempts to stay “with the times” have only distracted from key elements that this series does best. Staying away from the future tech of Modern Warfare, developer Treyarch delivers a much more grounded entry with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Through its campaign and multiplayer offerings, we find a release that seems to be the foundation of bringing the series back to basics.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War features a campaign inspired by events during the Cold War. As US forces clash with Communist Russia, we see the darker side of events required to collect intel on enemies while taking out key opposition targets. Players assume the role of an operative codenamed Bell, which can be customized through a few options. This is pretty surface level, but it allows you to choose two perks, making greater difficulties more manageable.
An interesting aspect of the campaign is just how they go about telling the story. You’re often playing as a few other characters to show the events that led up to uncovering information about the game’s antagonist, Perseus. The story beats don’t just have you hunting this guy down, though. Instead, you are tasked with collecting information on a project known as Operation Greenlight, which ties into some dealings with characters in your inner circle.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s campaign is actually better than I could have expected. It allows you to directly affect the narrative with choices made during dialogue, requiring you to pay attention to the narrative. As all the pieces begin to be put in place, there’s a rush to the climax that is quite thrilling.
However, this focus on the big reveal was too substantial as some story beats during missions felt weak in the long run. Such as a mission where you have to infiltrate the KGB as a double agent, but instead of raising tension using this character, everything naturally plays out so that the good guys win, limiting the effect of a supporting antagonist. I understand a few twists are coming, but I wouldn’t have minded the stakes be raised without this focus on two versus a hundred heroic rescue missions.
Regardless, I enjoyed each location and the different mission objectives. It’s possible to collect intel on side-missions as well, which I thought was a great feature. This also encourages replaying missions since they don’t make it too easy to find special intel or optional objectives during a mission.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s multiplayer plays it exceptionally safe in terms of modes and environments. However, you’ll probably only really notice this if you’ve been a long time fan as it resembles systems we’ve seen in older entries.
Along with the modes that you’d expect, players can jump into a chaotic Fireteam match of up to 40 players. There’s also a variety of different maps depending on what mode you’re playing, which works most of the time, but still, I found that some modes during VIP or Domination didn’t always work on the general Team Deathmatch maps.
The maps here don’t get very creative, but I think they are the best versions of these layouts. From the rocky desert to wartorn streets, you won’t see anything new. However, their layout flows so nicely once you find your bearings and understand the choke points. The lack of creativity is balanced with expert map design, which is both good and bad.
I did enjoy the Custom Classes and rank system. It’s just so straightforward in the sense that you can get the most out of no matter what kind of player you are. There’s no barrier to entry when it comes to unlocking guns and attachments, complemented by an easy-to-understand menu design. Everything is tied to the level of your character and proficiency with the different guns.
Players can also choose one of four wildcards that add variety to any loadout, such as additional perks or more throwable equipment. It definitely differentiates players in the field, so I’m glad the developers kept navigating these custom systems easy.
Ultimately though, I enjoyed the multiplayer for what it is. It’s fast, chaotic, mindless fun. It will definitely evolve over the course of the year until the next release with additional maps and modes to keep players interested, but I’d like to see more creativity in these layouts. These maps work for an old fan like me, but their generic themes could put off a new generation.
Zombies finds its way into Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and, yes, there’s a storyline now that is a continuation of the story from Zombies Black Ops 4. I’ve never taken the Zombies mode too seriously, but it looks like I should have given the focus on creating a prominent universe for it.
Across waves of zombies, players must collect intel and unlock new areas as they try and put as much space between them and the zombies as possible. The narrative runs alongside the gameplay here, and it does have a natural feel to it. However, I don’t think I really needed a reason to kill zombies. Regardless, a nice touch is that multiplayer loadouts can be used here, and players can hit the ground running with a weapon of their choice at the beginning.
Presentation-wise, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War looks decent. I’m sure the series will improve, leading further into the new generation of consoles. If we focus on environments, I think Treyarch are geniuses in this field seen in the excellent map crafting of the multiplayer and single-player modes. Where the series excels in, though, is sound, and this entry is no different so you’ll want to play with a decent pair of headphones.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War acts as a return to form for the series as Treyarch takes a safe approach to design and online modes. The campaign’s choice-driven narrative is a huge plus as it helped introduce a level of immersion that the series desperately needed, but it relies a bit too heavily on the big twists than the smaller story beats. With a foundation as good as this laid out, it will be interesting to see how it evolves in future updates.
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