Hot off the return to form that was 2019’s Modern Warfare, Call Of Duty is back with Black Ops Cold War. A direct sequel to 2010’s namesake from veteran COD studio Treyarch, Cold War is another refreshing return to the series roots.
Ditching the exo-suits and all of the other Titanfall wannabe crap, Cold War focuses on “Boots on the ground” warfare and real-world firearms. The newest iteration in the Black Ops franchise would seem to be made for the old-school mum wranglers and new trash talkers alike.
The copy of Cold War reviewed was purchased by me, the reviewer with my own hard-earned cash. Now that the formalities are out of the way lets get down to brass tax. Is it any good or was my purchase money down the proverbial drain (Infinite Warfare, cough, cough)?
“Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains. Upscaling to 4k, 120hz is the only way.”Vladimir Putin – Russian Leader and Activision CEO
The thing that made 2010’s Black Ops campaign so good was the mixture of Vietnam’s rocking soundtrack and a web of conspiracies unavailing before your eyes. The mystery surrounding the numerous exploits of Mason and Woods was epic, gripping and balls to the walls Bruckheimer action. It was also innovative with easter eggs and secrets which encouraged multiple playthroughs and for the first time in years leant itself to the watercooler conversation pieces that games like Resident Evil did so well back in the 90’s, the moment you realised you could break free of the chair in the main menu and play the epic Zork on a secret monitor meant you could not wait to tell people about it and see if they found it or something even more intriguing.
Cold War tries to capitalize on what made its predecessor great while trying to stamp its own mark and inject some new ideas into the formula. Kicking off the campaign to the killer “The Stroke” by Billy Squier, Cold War lays down the nostalgia gauntlet from the start and sets the standard from the off. The game brings you along for a greatest hits of the classic Cold War-themed films of the 80’s and throws in it’s own blend of Black Ops intrigue and explosive action.
You play as a protagonist that goes buy the codename “Bell”, you choose the gender (or lack of, in true 2020 fashion) and history/personality of Bell, a first for the COD franchise. A choice that seems odd for a Call Of Duty game but something that has a moderate pay off in the latter stages of its campaign. This isn’t the only left field idea thrown in to the formula though, the campaigns mission structure is made up of main story and side missions. Another first I believe for the COD franchise.
So, the campaign takes “Bell” on the hunt for a Soviet operative known as “Perseus” stretching from the Vietnam war to the cloak and dagger of the Berlin wall and beyond. Your team of freedom loving operatives are made up of franchise bread and butter, Mason and Woods, sexy English spy Park, Iranian tough guy Lazar, the dependable Sims and bad ass, young and scarred up Robert Redford who goes by the name “Adler”.
The ensemble of ragtag spooks are brilliantly acted and animated as we’ve come to accept as the COD standard and it’s just as you’d expect. They do a great job of making Adler look like Robert Redford while making him not look too much like him so it doesn’t feel like the more recent shameless COD cameos such as Connor Macgregor and Jon Snow, but more like what Kevin Spacey did with a more nuanced character.
The missions play out in spectacular Black Ops fashion with healthy doses of covert espionage, stealth tactics and dick engorging shootouts. There are definitely some standout missions that beg to be replayed namely “Desperate Measures” and “Echoes Of War”. There were no bad or boring missions really, there’s one later on that if you aren’t fully invested in the story may become tedious but if that was the case you would have bailed by now anyways.
The campaign can be completed within 9 hours, my first playthrough was about 6 hours and my second was around 9 as I decided on my second romp to go spend the time to find the evidence scattered throughout the campaign which leads me to the twist.
In each of the mainline missions, there is optional intel dotted around that once collected goes on your mission wall, the mission wall is your investigation board and mission selection menu. In this menu/board there is a couple of side missions and to complete these adequately you will need this intel, there is also an encrypted mission that will take your wannabe spook code-cracking skills to access. These side missions add to replayability and a level of gameplay that COD has never really had. Along with the addition of player narrative choices sprinkled through the campaign that can result in different contextual endings, there is an element of varied experiences within multiple playthroughs. It was a really nice innovation of the tried and tested COD formula.
“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting. Also I railed your mom!”Richard M. Nixon – Xbox Live Party Chat
Multiplayer, the quintessential COD experience is once again solid. Using the same engine as the previous Call Of Duty entry, Modern Warfare this new iteration feels mostly the same with just a few tweaks to the formula as to cement its Black Ops credentials. Offering a wide selection of modes there seems to be something for everyone. Free for all and team deathmatch are there for the kiddies and more objective-based modes such as domination and hardpoint are on the menu for us more refined and slower players, giving us somewhere to focus our repeated deaths and 3 killstreaks. The continuation of softcore and hardcore variants of multiplayer modes once again tries to add a level of skill depending on your preferred playstyle and sadistic need to be killed more easily. Every mode is classic COD and exactly what you expect from the multiplayer behemoth.
Long gone are the days of people bouncing around you popping off head-shots like some coked-up Avenger, Cold War is all about corners and tactics. Getting the jump on someone is no longer just literally jumping over your opponent it’s back to what COD was originally all about, taking tags and dipping bags. Checking corners and keeping lines of sight narrow is the name of the game. Sneaking up on a camper, dropping a 9mm round into his shameless dome and then celebrating your immense victory by repeatedly dipping your underage over his violated corpse is just as awe inspiring as it used to be.
Let’s be honest, most people buy COD for multiplayer, some people don’t even touch on the other modes so is there enough content at launch in MP to warrant the purchase of Cold War considering Modern Warfare’s MP is still going strong and is still seeing content updates and new seasons? In a word, maybe? Treyarch’s addition is essentially the same experience as Infinity Ward’s from last year, yeah it has a few tweaks so it feels like a BLOP’s entry but I wouldn’t say it’s an upgrade. The new MP is a side step as opposed to a step up, it’s just a slightly more rugged step. MW has always been the clean-cut purist MP where BLOP’s has always tried to push the boundaries, with wager matches and more quirky weapons. The best way to explain this is to use the Middleton sisters as an example.
So Kate and Pippa are both intelligent, beautiful women and I’m sure men and women all over the world agree. They don’t look too dissimilar to one another and you can definitely tell they are related, but I guarantee you prefer one over the other. Kate is the very clean cut and proper royal we’ve all grown to love. Kate is our Modern Warfare, good looking, fun and lives up to what we expected the future king’s wife to be. Pippa is our Black Ops, she is just as beautiful, smart and proper as Kate, but there’s definitely something a bit sluttier about Pippa. So it boils down to whether you prefer the polished, clean gameplay of Modern Warfare or the slightly sluttier gameplay of Black Ops. Myself, I’m a Pippa fan (Let us know your preferred Middleton in the comments).
Treyarch has definitely refined the MP experience for the original Black ops player. It feels like a BLOP’s experience in all of the right places except one huge void that is depressing for me, a huge fan of the original game. Where is Gungame, Sticks and Stones, One In The Chamber and the other classic BLOP’s modes? With the new focus on classic COD gameplay, these new entries have it seems mental to me not to include modes that made the original experience so different from its peers. Hopefully, these modes are added later on as it’s an easy win for Treyarch with fans of the original game.
One thing I have to mention is VIP Escort, now this is a very fun game mode given the right team however 99% of the time you get teamed up with an absolute cretin of a player as your VIP who decides the best plan of action is to invoke the great Leroy Jenkins and charge on like he’s the chosen one only to die almost instantly in a hail of bullets and mum jokes. If you are one of these people, ABG is watching, we will find you and we will defile your mum, then brag about it in game chat like the neck beardy bosses that we are.
“He [Ronald Reagan] won the first three waves against the zombies without firing a shot.”Margaret Thatcher – NATO Games Night – 1991
Probably the biggest difference and deciding factor in whether you’re an MW or BLOP’s fan is Zombies. Zombies is a wave-based horde mode where you shoot Nazi zombies in the face with friends but with the amazing easter eggs, perks and personality that only the Black Ops franchise can deliver on.
Zombies has had various versions and not all have been pretty (Here’s looking at you Zombies In Spaceland) but one thing that has always been true is that it’s fun with friends. The latest zombies is no exception, now with evac’s at regular intervals there’s no more three hours of holding in pee as it doesn’t have to be endless. There is now even a twenty round capped mode for the smokers and weak bladdered players.
The big reinvention of the zombies formula is loadouts, you can now pre-plan what you’re able to “Pack-a-punch” essentially changing the accessibility to more casual gamers and adding more strategic play-styles for zombies veterans. There is definitely a push back to a more horror element in the new addition with creepy labs, dark hallways and even the soundtrack is geared towards a more creepy nature, there’s still some quirkiness though, a zombie disco wave was a recent unforeseen gem I recently stumbled into and it acted as a good breather from me getting downed/revived constantly. The current map seems really well designed with lots of choke points and funnels to help with managing the later rounds and a good selection of Easter eggs for veterans to find.
Between dimension warps and the new bigger zombies types, the difficulty is still a challenge as we have come to love and as enjoyable as it has ever been. The addition of loadouts and evacs to the zombies formula is not only a nice change to the norm but potentially a whole new dynamic for the franchise. Some of the instantly more noticeable additions to the new zombies outing is the new weapon rarity mechanics making the choice between weapon swaps even more difficult and enticing. The bumbling zombies also now have life bars, which makes going for that final knifing less of a wild risk and more of a calculated fatality.
Dead Ops Arcade also makes an appearance and caters for that old school twitch we all get from time to time.
The new zombies is no Call of The Dead but it’s a step in a better direction in regards to recent entries for sure.
“The threat of a world war is no more. Servers are limited to 100 in Warzone now.”Mikhail Gorbachev – Call Of Duty World Championships – 1991
Warzone is yet to get an update for Cold War so maybe this will get updated later on…
You can access Warzone via the Cold War dashboard at launch, winner winner chicken….. Wait, wrong game.
“Communism. It just works”Todd Howard – Industry Chancer – E3 Berlin – 1989
Performance varies on which Xbox console you are choosing to play Cold War on. On the standard first-gen Xbox One I am using it’s for the most part plain sailing, I’ve had a few crashes and party issues but multiplayer has been for the most part solid. Zombies local coop seems to be completely broken and has been acknowledged by Treyarch, it looks like they are working on a fix.
The campaign on my Xbox One simply cannot run the cut-scenes for the campaign, it lags and freezes making that whole part of the story completely hinge on the voice over. I can give some concessions as this is the first time producing a game that will be at it’s best on two generations of console simultaneously but frankly this is unacceptable. Cut-scenes are a huge part of basic quality of life which could not have been overlooked in the post-production process leading me to believe they don’t care about the millions of people unable to obtain a Series X at launch.
Zombies local coop is a huge part of the games draw for players, being able to play split screen on Halo etc. is huge for fans and with this being taken away in a lot of franchises, the fact that it is an option but completely broken even a few weeks after release is down right disrespectful. There is a basic bar of quality that all games and salable products are held to. Does it work? This is a triple, triple A experience that seems to be shipped with entire features unusable.
At the dawn of a new generation of console where Call Of Duty is trying so hard to reignite the passion of it lost generation of players, it seems that hitting release date is the priority over gaining consumer faith.
Let’s just cut to the chase on this one. Call Of Duty only has one real goal every year, it has to be the biggest and best, balls-out action fest of the year!
Last years Modern Warfare proved to do this it didn’t need exo-suits and trendy gimmicks to be excellent. It went back to basics, told a personal yet globetrotting story and delivered solid functional gameplay, winning back fans of the earlier iterations, drew in new players and pleased its current fanbase. Frankly, it was the best move COD has made in years and gained back some of its pre Ghosts credibility with its original player base.
Cold War sets out on the same covert mission, renew, revitalize and recruit interest and players. For the most part, this is achieved. A solid campaign, accessible and classic COD multiplayer and a reinvented Zombies experience that feels respectful to its roots. The new passion to go back to “Boots on the ground” combat, as gimmicky as it sounds is actually what players want and finally they seem to be listening. The campaign tries new things with its evidence and side missions but never commits fully to the cause. You get the feeling this game’s campaign is testing the waters for the next game, this isn’t necessarily to its detriment as it works to be fair and I was surprised by the steps outside of COD’s usual copy and past format.
Being one of the first titles available for the new generation of consoles it will be a lot of players first step into the new pricing structure for games this time around. With the vanilla version launching at ten pound/dollar increase on our usual RRP and the cross-gen version being another five of your hard-earned smackaroo’s it’s a more costly investment this time around (We have actually covered the price increase for next-gen already in more detail). The ultimate edition weighs in at a whopping £89.99 in the UK and lavishes the big spenders with some skins and a battle pass, I know right, who buys that sh#t?.
Unfortunately, there are an abhorrent amount of technical issues that are unacceptable in even a smaller game, let alone the multi-million dollar juggernaut that is Call Of Duty. This game is poorly optimised for the Xbox One and from all accounts is just as buggered on the newer Xbox consoles. I hope these issues are fixed really soon as it would be a shame for Call Of Duty to lose some of the goodwill it gained with its previous title. Unfortunately, though these technical issues have to stop me from going this game more than 7.5/10, There’s no real excuse for this amount of issues at launch even before you take into account the considerable increase in cash we are being asked to part with to experience these inadequacies. Activision, Treyarch, you must do better.
What I will say is though is that when it works, its a blast!
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Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - Xbox One Review
- Overall - 7.5/107.5/10
Black Ops Or Black Flops?
Black Ops: Cold War is a return to old school BLOPs and will please current, new and OG fans alike, but my god there’s some fundamental performance and optimisation issues that take away from such a promising game.
+ Great campaign
+Classic BLOPs multiplayer
+Builds on the Zombies for formula in a good way
+Warzone is there so there’s that..
-Zombies local does not work at present
-Campaign cutscenes are unwatchable on Xbox One
Gamer, dad and supporter of @SpecialEffect Charity. Dark Souls fan and gooner!