Title: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: callofduty.com
Release Date: November 13, 2020
Ah, Call of Duty. It’s a series that’s as old as time itself. Throughout the years, its had its ups and downs in various areas. Some have been heralded as true forms of art, while others are, in lightest terms, not even close. Regardless of what you think, the series constantly results in a successful business venture for Activision, so it’s not going away any time soon. I must admit though, I went into this review a little skeptical with everything in mind. Modern Warfare was good, but Treyarch’s previous two outings weren’t the greatest. Still, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War had some promise of being good. I’m happy to report though that, for the most part, that skepticism was wrong.
Cold War’s Gripping, Intense Story
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War tells the story of Bell, a custom character who’s part of the CIA. A dark threat known as Perseus has reemerged, forcing Bell and their team to locate and take down this threat. Perseus’ actions, if left alone, could shift the tide of the Cold War in the Soviet Union’s favor. I was surprised by just how well the character of Bell was developed, despite them never speaking. At the start, you barely know any of these CIA agents, but you slowly begin to grow a bond with those around you. You can even chat with them between missions, further getting an idea of their past and motives. Old friends Woods, Mason, and Hudson are along for the ride as well.
While this was good, this only gives a basic story on the surface. By the halfway point, I had a feeling this was going to be your classic “you’re a hero” story that COD is somewhat known for these days. With Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War though, you’d be forgiven to think that. The story takes routes that you wouldn’t normally expect, that of which surprised me and gave answers to many questions. I won’t spoil anything though, as it’s best for you to experience this for yourself. Fans of the earlier Black Ops entries, you won’t want to pass this one up.
This is all combined with some solid set pieces and intense combat scenarios. Black Ops Cold War is the most beautiful out of any COD game, with some stunning sets and incredible levels of detail. Treyarch may only have had two years this time around with the story being shorter as a result, but what’s there is awe-inspiring. Every level stands out and makes for an experience you won’t soon forget. I must stress this again, don’t pass up this year’s campaign. I promise you won’t regret it
Fun Yet Familiar Multiplayer in Cold War
After spending hours with the multiplayer, I can say this is your general, run of the mill multiplayer. Black Ops Cold War takes a much safer approach this time around, with some great elements but nothing that stands out much. Fans of 2019’s Modern Warfare are going to feel a lot of similarities here, with similar fluidity and moment-to-moment gunplay. One particular change though is the introduction of Wildcards, a modifier for your class or equipment. These are nice, but some do feel somewhat similar to perks in some previous titles. For example, one lets you have a primary weapon in the secondary slot. Not the first time we’ve seen that, but not unwelcome either.
All the weapons feel really tight in Black Ops Cold War as well. Each one hits really hard, giving them that unique feeling you don’t see in a lot of other first-person shooters. Oh and I’m happy to see shotguns finally back as a secondary weapon. Their balance may be another thing entirely, but the young me playing Modern Warfare 2 back in the day thanks you greatly.
Where the game does well in weapon design though, Call of Duty titles still suffers greatly from poor map design. There are definitely a few standouts such as the large-scale maps and Checkmate in the regular playlist, but many still feel terrible to play on. Cartel is a standout, due to a myriad of factors including its weird verticality and necessity to have too much going on everywhere. I still find myself immediately leaving the lobby if people vote for Cartel (and wondering what exactly is going through their head).
A Solid But Unfinished Zombies Mode
Zombies actually saw the most drastic changes this year, with much of Cold War’s systems being integrated into the mode. For example, you can now pick a class to have before getting into Zombies, instead of being stuck with a pistol. There’s also the new fluidity of recent entries, rarities on various weapons, and much more. While I’ll admit I was a little skeptical at first, playing around with all of the new features has been nothing but a joy. Going through several zombies runs has been an adrenaline-filled rush and an addicting one at that.
Where I think it lacks though (and this can be blamed on development time) is in its content. Compared to the usual Zombies formula of four maps at launch, Black Ops Cold War currently only has one. It may be addicting now, but I have no doubts that’ll become boring very quickly. Not to mention this year’s map includes Nacht Der Untoten within which has been a COD Zombies map since World at War. I’m really hoping we see more maps soon, as I can see the community getting fed up rather quickly.
Polish and Accessibility
For all it does right though, I’m shocked at how poorly optimized Black Ops Cold War is. Mind you they had less time to put everything together, but I’m finding numerous crashes and bugs to a whole other level. I shouldn’t be crashing on basic functions such as alt-tabbing out of the game or queueing up for a match, those should really have been fixed. There’s also the issue of framerate drops, with my PC being a bit above minimum specs and still showing serious stutters and inconsistent framerates.
Thankfully though, much of this is made up in the game’s accessibility and options menu. These are incredibly in-depth, offering you various possible changes to graphics, gameplay, and audio. Everything from anti-aliasing to screen space reflections are all customizable, along with languages and various other tweaks. The only other thing I’d want is a benchmarking tool, but that’s not too big of a deal. The ability to uninstall parts of the game is nice too, which is especially handy once you finish the Campaign.
Verdict: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a solid experience that any Call of Duty fan should enjoy immensely. The game’s story shows shifting tides, bringing us back to the gripping stories of earlier Black Ops titles. The multiplayer is enjoyable too, even if the team’s map design still isn’t their strong suit. All this, combined with an addicting Zombies mode, makes this a must-play for Call of Duty fans. Just don’t go in expecting drastic changes, as you’ll likely walk away disappointed otherwise.