Release Date November 13, 2020
Genre FPS
Platforms PC/PS4/PS5/XBO/XBX/XBS
Developer Treyarch/Raven/Beenox
Price $59.99 US
ESRB Rating Mature
Players 1-40 Players

 

*A copy of this game was provided by Activision to FYIG for review purposes*

After a few years of games that were leaving many to questions the quality of the franchise going forward, Activision really knocked things out of the park with 2019’s Modern Warfare and the free-to-play Warzone that came along with it. The question became, could Treyarch follow that game with another quality effort? Let’s take a look at Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Explosions!

We’ll start off with the campaign which is a theatrical showing of set pieces. It opens with a flashback to Vietnam set to Steppenwolf which really set the tone for me early. It’s about as close to action movies as you can expect and that despite it being a bit over the top and silly at times. There’s a lot of good comedy in the dialogue and it really seems like Treyarch wasn’t trying to take the campaign too seriously. This is a nice change from the tension-filled campaigns in a lot of shooters, this one just felt fun for the sake of being fun. 

I really enjoyed the fact that there was actually a lot of choice in the campaign and that it wasn’t a completely linear experience. There are plenty of optional side missions, dialogue options, and you can choose whether to capture or kill enemies (or throw them off a building). Most of these choices don’t make a huge difference in the outcome of the campaign but it was fun to play around with the different options at my disposal.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
The arcade includes playable games from Activision’s past.

There is some simple stealth in the campaign that I enjoyed versus just going in guns blazing to each new area. You’re really only worrying about staying out of sight and knifing enemies when they aren’t expecting it or hiding bodies for the most part. There was a cool point where I had to find an item in someone’s apartment while he was putting his daughter to sleep and his wife was talking on the phone. This required careful movement through the different rooms and up the stairs. There are a few moments like that throughout the campaign that really make you feel like you need to really pay attention to how you proceed.

The level design is pretty par for the course for the franchise with objectives and set pieces littered about. There are hidden intel and optional objectives scattered throughout to encourage some exploration but you never need to stray too far off the beaten path to find it. One of my favorite spots was a run-down arcade littered with different Activision arcade games from the past that were fully playable. It was a fund side-bar to the action in the campaign and just one of many little easter eggs like a vintage Doritos poster on the wall of a subway car.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Product placement at its best.

The story itself is fairly fantastical and does its best to avoid real-life events save for giving you the Cold War backdrop. Ronald Reagan appears at the start of the game and with a few lines at the end of the campaign but it comes off as a quick way to get you interested in the story instead of something that actually matters. It could have easily been any generic President and it would have had the same effect.

Multiplayer is obviously the bread and butter of Cold War and the standard set of 6 vs. 6 modes return for the most part. There isn’t really much to say that hasn’t been said for years and years about those. There are a small handful of maps right now with more on the way. The standout to me is Miami which was so distracting with the nighttime neon lights. It was one of the first things that really wowed me on the PS5. What I loved about these maps is that they translated well for snipers and people who prefer close-quarter battles which I didn’t feel was necessarily the case in Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Ronald Reagan in a video game in 2020.

Fireteam Dirty Bomb is an interesting new game mode. It’s 40 vs. 40 which isn’t quite as big as Warzone but it’s equally as frantic. You drop out of an airplane in a free-for-all against other teams of four. You can respawn after a short cooldown over and over again. The annoying part of this game mode is that the objectives are scattered all over the map which leaves you very susceptible to being ambushed by other teams because you never know where they might be coming from. The maps could stand to be a bit larger for this type of game but I really think game modes like this are a welcome addition to this franchise. It’s my hope that Call of Duty slowly starts to have something for every type of player like these large scale battle versus the traditional style of multiplayer.

Combined Arms is another somewhat-new mode, it’s kind of like this year’s version of Ground War and quite a bit better in my opinion. This one is a 12 vs. 12 game mode that incorporates vehicles. You’ll be seeing boats on Armada, motorcycles on Cartel, and snowmobiles and tanks on Crossroads. Armada is awesome with ships connected by ziplines. You can either sneak up underwater or go in loud with a vehicle. The other levels aren’t quite as memorable and work better as 6 vs. 6 levels in my opinion.

It was hard to get used to the Black Ops style of gameplay versus the Modern Warfare style. It’s not better or worse, just different. You can’t mount weapons or change the fire rate in Cold War which is strange when you switch back and forth with Warzone which is still an active part of the Call of Duty franchise. It’ll be interesting to see how Cold War is integrated into the ecosystem and how it changes the way Warzone plays.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Flying into battle.

Zombies makes a return and this has always been one of my favorite game modes in the series. There’s just something satisfying about going in with a buddy or 3 and mowing down a bunch of zombies. Die Maschine is a great level as it doesn’t take too long to learn where everything is and there’s a lot of room to move around and manage the hordes.

The difficulty curve really ramps up after level 10 and you have to really figure out how to use your points and salvage in a hurry otherwise you’ll be dead. There are damage tiers on top of Pack-A-Punch and it makes everything a bit more difficult than it needs to be. You also need to use salvage to upgrade your armor and grenades so you have to decide on what you want to upgrade on the fly and it usually ends up with you dead. The bosses don’t help this matter as they’re definitely bullet sponges and I’m usually running around trying to get ammo while running away from them. Once the game throws a few in there, I usually can’t keep up. I’m not great at this mode, but it seems to go from being super-easy to me being dead in the span of a couple of minutes. 

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War is a good addition to the series but I’m not sure it takes over for Modern Warfare in the way that Activision expected it to. I think we’re going to find that there will be a distinct group that like one versus the other going forward. Campaign is fantastic, Multiplayer is hit and miss, and Zombies needs some tweaking but this is definitely still worth checking out.

Pros Cons
Great campaign with lots of action Zombies needs balancing
New MP modes offer more variety More maps needed in multiplayer
   

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