When it comes to the Call of Duty universe, because let’s be honest it is a universe level series now, my go to entry has always been Black Ops from Treyarch. In part because it has a campaign that is connected to a degree with each version and it always resonated with me far more as a shooter fan than the Modern Warfare side to the universe. So just as the next generation of consoles were releasing, what better element to Call of Duty verse would be their entry for this very busy time in gaming. It was time to go old school…..and give the Cold War the Call of Duty make over!
Starting with the campaign and I really enjoyed this entry into the series a lot as it felt being back on familiar ground after the far too close to home modern setting of the last Modern Warfare campaign, I can really do without fighting through a terrorist attack in my home time of London thanks. The campaign returns to the past, this time the 80s at the height of the Cold War era where there was a real time world threat of Nuclear war between the USA and Russia with you the player a member of a deep Black Ops off the board team put together by then President Ronald Reagan and tasked with putting an end to a plot to trigger that very same Nuclear War. Standard Call of Duty story telling you would think.
But where this campaign differs from everything else in the series is that there has been a real focus on growing the campaign beyond the usual short cut scene before going into a level and shooting and blowing things up before another short cutscene moves you along to the next mission. In Cold War, a real attempt has been made to make this a true interactive experience and thankfully more grounded in being a Spy than an ‘invincible no super but behaving like a super soldier’ hero. The story itself is very solid and uses the setting of the Cold War era of the 80s very well and it is the new elements that made this one of my favourite story campaigns yet. I appreciate that now the time between the action has far more to do as you move around your spy house talking to the other members of your team with actual dialogue trees to reply and ask questions to them, learning more about them and the story as it unfolds. I really liked that whilst your character name always remains the same, you can actually customise your character by deciding gender and appearance options before you start but you can also pick a background for your character that will actually decide what perks you will have access to in the campaign itself such as faster reloads.
This was all very surprising and I am truly hoping that this is the new style of story campaign, because it just adds so much to the experience and though the campaign can be considered as short, there are so many elements to it beyond just skipping cut scenes to get to the action. I love that collectibles are now actual evidence that you can investigate back at the safe house to unlock missions to take on giving an actual reason to seek them out in a level and even replay them if you miss. Interacting with other characters puts you the player into the story instead of just being a viewer of it until a gun is put in your hand. Even the fact the campaign has multiple endings depending on choice you make gives it a replayability I really like which almost makes up for the short length of the campaign. But it is a strong mode to have and feels less throw away than other recent game entries in the series.
Of course, the amazing Zombies mode makes its return with Black Ops Cold War and when this mode was first introduced, I never expected it to become a go to mode for me with my mates years later but it has and I still love it. It still feels like a bizarre tradition now for Black Ops but having become something I now actively look forward to teaming up with friends for it. There is an attempt at a story that links it to previous Zombies modes in previous games which is fun if you are a fan of the mode but it is just as forgettable if you are not. Some revisions have been made so that now every ten rounds you will get the opportunity to Exfiltrate, meaning that starting a game does not require your entire team dedicating an entire gaming session to focus on playing one session of Zombies. With the cross-mode progression, you can now use any unlocked weapon from the multiplayer in Zombies, work to levelling that gun up and then taking it back into the MP mode all ready with any attachments you have unlocked thus making Zombies a great way to not only have fun with friends but an active way to improve your MP loadouts. Zombies is still a fantastic bonus feature to any Black Ops game and has some nice surprises that I will not spoil so make sure this is a go to mode when you play Cold War because it Is worth it.
Naturally the bread and butter of any CoD game is the Multiplayer and for me, Black Ops has always been my preferred version of the MP. I prefer a faster more arcade experience with my CoD MP and there is a noticeable increase in the frantic speed of the MP in Cold War than last year’s Modern Warfare. I find the longer time to kill factor to be more satisfying for me personally although I know it is not the same for my squad. There is a real sense of bringing the feel back to the original Black Ops MP Experience, the maps have a more simplistic design compared to Modern Warfare, and all the traditional 6V6 modes work well on this more stripped back maps. There are new modes added this year with VIP Escort which relies on team work as one member is designated as the VIP and the others must ensure they get to the escape point alive whilst the other team try to stop you and killing the VIP. This is a mode that for me is very hit and miss especially if you go in with a team of randoms and I can quickly see this being one of the first game modes I actively untick from the matchmaking filter. Dirty Bomb just feels overly long and again, unless you are playing with friends happy to work together to complete the objectives, playing this mode with randoms is going to be frustrating instead of enjoyable so again, another to untick in the matchmaking filter for me.
Combined Arms, the 12V12 big map modes is the stand out match type I would say, they fill big but not enormous and with vehicles and various methods to traverse the maps, they are fun and you can tell that many of the Score Streaks were designed with Combined Arms in mind. In fact, some of the 6V6 maps are just sections of the bigger 12V12 maps. Not al the vehicles work great though and tanks and turret boats can feel OP if one team can dominate with them. Gunplay is still very satisfying what ever the mode but it can feel like everyone is using the same loadout which is a side effect of one of two problems the MP has at launch. There really is a limited number of maps and guns just before the first Season kicks in for Cold War MP. Now that said, it does only have one map less than Modern Warfare launched with last year and development would have been hit by the global git that is COVID to a degree, but even before the game launched, a lot was made about post launch content in new maps and guns and it is noticeable just how limited they both are for the MP which is why a lot of players are defaulting to using the same loadouts rather than experimenting with different guns to change their gameplay.
Performance wise and this has not been a smooth launch which to be fair was always likely as Cold War is having to balance a great many things outside of just the gameplay. Not only is the game featuring the now standard full optional crossplatform with PlayStation, Xbox and PC but it is also dealing with a cross generational feature as well with PS4 and Xbox One family of consoles also able to play with PS5 and Xbox Series family of console players. I have been hit with server issues, party member disconnecting and in the case of friends with PS5 or an Xbox Series X, random console shutdowns. Unfortunately I am one of the thousands who is currently on a waiting list to grab a PS5 and a Series X but I recently got an Xbox Series S and at 60FPS this feels nice and fluid and smooth so can only imagine what the PS5 and Xbox Series X can do with full 4K and 120FPS. Technical problems continue to be worked on with updates and just as the first “Season” is about to launch, new maps and weapons will be added across its life time.
Visually this game does look stunning in 4K but it also looks good on a regular PS4 and Xbox One, I play on an Xbox One X for 4K as well as a Series S and it looks and runs great so those who are still waiting to jump to the new gen consoles can still enjoy this visually and with the base game being cross gen, it means you can instantly jump up to the next generation of console gaming with Cold War right away at no extra charge. Whilst the launch has not been the smoothest, there is one annoyance that just continues to bug me….the size of the installed game. Right now, Cold War is sitting at an incredible 137GB on my Series S, a third of the usable memory size of my Series S in fact and 85GB on my Xbox One X. This as well as Warzone and last year’s Modern Warfare are just ridiculously taking up massive space on console storage which can hurt if you are yet to invest in external storage. Whilst it is unfair to compare this size to other games such as AC Valhalla which comes in at 45.5GB and even my pre-install of Cyberpunk 2077 comes in at just shy of 60GB and you have to wonder why the hell is Cold War so big which also means the updates are often pretty hefty as well.
Overall Black Ops Cold War is another solid chapter in the Black Ops series for Call of Duty with a campaign that is rewarding and refreshing and Zombies which is a fantastic distraction. The MP element though is where the weakness lands and I am not sure if it is enough to take you away from Modern Warfare or Warzone, the free to play battle royal Call of Duty experience though Cold War guns are coming to Warzone so you can benefit there if you do play Call of Duty. Time will tell how much the Seasonal content will add but right now, this is your standard yearly Call of Duty release which is helped by a short but very good campaign mode.
One for the Christmas list and definitely one to showcase the power of your PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X if you were lucky to get one but it has been a rocky launch for the game with technical issues still plaguing the online element that till need to be ironed out for this to be the enjoyment Treyarch wants you to have.