Treyarch and Raven have pulled it off

Call of Duty Black Ops Cold war is the latest in the long-running CoD franchise and the latest addition to the Black Ops developed by Treyarch with the help of Raven Software and published by Activision across Xbox one, Series x, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and of course PC released November 13th. The other sub-series being the Modern Warfare series which saw a long-awaited return of the much-wanted boots on the ground combat and going back to the Modern day. Seeing great success with CoD veterans, many seeing it as a return to form and a good reimagining and soft reboot to the series, even seeing success with bringing new blood to the series with the release of CoD Warzone being free unlike Black ops 4s Blackout. CoD’s own Free to play Battle Royal offering Warzone has seen huge success, of course, being free does help.

So, how’s this relevant? Well other than the tied in level and season pass progression across MW, Cold war and Warzone, across all modes except for campaign. That’s Multiplayer for either Modern Warfare or Coldwar, Warzone and of course the much loved and stronger this time than its last couple of iterations is the Zombies mode. Zombies mode personally my favourite mode in CoD since World at War and with Dead Ops Arcade even making a return this is much more of a complete “Black Ops” package than its last outing but does lack in some areas like Multiplayer and Zombies maps. This is something which will hopefully be resolved by the end of its free DLC cycle Nuketown already being added to multiplayer as of the 24th.

“Much like last years offering, Cold war is somewhat a soft reboot to the Black ops series in more ways than one. In terms of the campaign the game actually having one this time, (I’m looking at you Black ops 4.) It’s great to see some returning faces like Woods voice acted by someone new this time round although you can even play as Woods Multiplayer with a unlock. “

Going back in time and taking part mostly in the 80s of course to the Cold war, a defining era where Berlin was very much divided East and West, unified once again being a key point of tension and a turning point of the free West vs the Communist East. MTV still played music, IBM’s first home computer made the market boom into what it is today and Arcades were still very much a thing. The tension of nuclear war loomed that being the second biggest threat to your life the first being running low on hairspray for that mullet. Before diving into the wetwork, the politics behind the scenes shadow war, I have to address a rather large and irritating elephant in the room. The cutscenes could be particularly annoying in the campaign, some of them seem like they have been either compressed or complied weirdly with shadowy areas looking grey and pixelated to other times where the cutscenes straight up stop, slow down, speed up or skip the issues here are endless and pulled me straight me out of my intrigue of the plot anytime I started to get into it (as of writing luckily this has addressed and is something they will be working to fix.)

The story itself which to be honest is pretty good from what I got to enjoy, mostly in-game of course, being set in the past again and being Black Ops there are plenty of returning familiar faces like Black Ops one’s protagonist’s numbers man, Alex Mason. Who you also occasionally get to play as here for a couple of missions, one even including a neat reference to Mason’s past In one as well as Jason Hudson, and Frank Woods and a certain other characters which tie Black ops and Modern Warfare together…in more ways than one and if expanded on in the future well could do a lot more for this series down the line and has the potential for some great and interesting tie ins.

“One of the great little details the arcade machines you can find and play, a good use of Activsion’s IP backlog these authentic games like Pitfall you can find dotted around levels really help sell the era.”

Finding yourself sitting at a table in a small neon-drenched dive bar in Berlin with the smooth 80s pop-rock tunes of Billy Squier “The Strokes” playing in the background the patrons? Celebrating the new year 1981, the same year Reagan became president, there is even someone playing Barnstorming on a Cabinet. After a quick hunt for a target Qasim Javadi in Berlin, and choosing whether to kill, capture or have a new Character Russel Adler, or Adler for short, to do the dirty work for us. Choices being something new here that CoD specifically Black’s Ops has tried before and is welcome again, nicely these do affect the ending. In addition to this, there are extra side missions you can get into requiring you collect various pieces of evidence and examine them to unlock these two side mission and while these are largely short and throwaway I will never say no to extra content.

” The safe house is where you spend time between missions, you can use the time to have a look around and talk to your fellow teammates. This is also where the evidence board is where you can piece together Intel found on missions to unlock side missions that affect the story.”

In fact, the choice is something that is done well here while you occasionally jump in the shoes of characters like Mason, for the most part, you play as Bell who you get to customise and create to your liking to a degree. After your first initial mission with a “blacklisted” document, you can choose your Bell to your liking want to be male or female? Sure. Non-Binary? They have that covered too. The biggest thing of note to me here was the ability to give yourself perks by picking psychological traits, like the ability to have full movement speed while ADS or increasing your rate of fire, this is definitely something I want to see more of going and I’d even love to see a few of these in multiplayer.

The main plot sees you bouncing around the world to various global locales, kicking ass and taking names or mainframes in some cases… from the previously mentioned Berlin, a soviet facility in Ukraine, even Cuba all on the hunt looking for and tracking down Perseus a KGB agent who has his own agenda and plans for a new world order without the West. This is your typical CoD political terrorist doing things off the books even getting their hands on a couple of dozen nukes if the stakes were not already high enough. CoD Cold war is predictably Call of Duty even returning to Vietnam in a flashback at a couple of points. While predictable particularly its big twist at the end something I saw a mile off and you will too if you’ve played any Black Ops title. The journey is an enjoyable and well-paced, all the characters new a returning have their own personality and funny quips while little additions like night vision and modern warfare door opening are gone, the little bit of character customisation, secret special weapons you can find a use for Intel and evidence add to the experience in other ways and is an enjoyable Bourne-esk rampage.

“Bell a no-nonsense British MI6 agent who will join us in adventures across the globe is smart and resourceful with a good amount of British sarcasm, she’s also involved in one of the couples of choices you get to make throughout the campaign.”

Generally just how well it’s presented from the bar at the start to the 80s soundtrack and one of my personal favourites sections the Soviet facility in the Ukraine where after successfully sneaking in and while trying to pick a lock a guard on the other side must have heard the attempt. Opening the door and raising his Ak-74u, Woods quickly came to the assist things quickly turning to heck in a handbasket in the Soviet black site. As we moved through the facility and move in through one particular door Woods silent takes down a harmless mannequin and tells me not to “say a word to anyone” after a slight chuckle to myself and looking up to find myself in an American arcade? The Soviets had built their own little US Town and were running fire exercises it’s these little peeks behind the iron curtain and the obvious or at least to me a throwback to Modern Warfare 2s US invasion the town even having a Burger Town just like the town in MW2. (It’s little things like this that show Treyarch and Raven still care about this franchise and its community all these years later.) Having fought our way through the simulated town even encountering a returning enemy the well-know “Juggernaut” and having to avoid a BMP at one point only to steal our own and escape the black site. It’s pretty long to play too with something like 17 missions if you include the side missions and go through the effort to get those talking me 9 or so hours to do start to finish and has some good story beats, of course, it is revolutionary it’s fun while it lasts, it does what it does best a gig dumb shooter with a hint of cloak and dagger and a mild dose of conspiracy and is easily one of the better campaigns in the series.

Scorestreaks encouraging teamwork instead of one’s own kills and replacing killstreak by things like capping points in team games, spotting enemy’s with your own score streaks such as the spyplane potentially allowing you to get your final tier without being top tier, but still making you work for them and play for the whole team and hopefully a victory.

Of course, Call Of Duty would be nothing without its multiplayer to which there is plenty on offer in terms of game modes. You have Combined arms returning as the “big” game replacing Ground War with variations like Domination, and Assault and a new game mode Dirty bomb where ten fireteams of four drop into a map similar to how you do in Warzone. With your chosen loadout you have to collect uranium around the map to use to activate a dirty bomb and detonating them were the team with the most kills and detonation at the end of the round win. I found this game mode fun and think it would be right at home in Warzone as well as combined arms the problem I see happening is finding a game for these down the line if they fail to stay popular requiring more players and only having 4 maps to cycle through on these modes may lead them to become stale rather quickly. And as for combined arms not playing much in Modern Warfare myself, it’s okay as someone who has spent a lot of hours in Battlefield and with that franchise not doing so hot at the moment it was great to be able to fill that gap. That being said the mode could use some adjustments, the maps feel the right size for 24 players but the TTK and how quick you die often leaves you being one banged across the map as you get to a point by a sniper and running straight back there (Luckily respawning is quick). Taking out a tank with an M1911 Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan style and is just as ridiculous as it sounds ridiculous yet hilarious though which is something you can do given enough time.

“If you enjoy 6v6, Cold War has you covered too while light on the map department this is something that is already starting to be addressed”

You also have some six more maps seven now with the just-released Nuketown which is as excellent and Easter egg packed as ever, with all the game modes we know and love. Hardpoint, TDM, Domination, Kill confirmed the list goes on all for you to enjoy and in split-screen if you wish although this does kill the frame rate at times. They aren’t afraid to shy away from the traditional three-lane map structure while these maps exist too. It seems something about having to design larger maps with varied and interesting encounter spaces has paid off, most of a good amount of the interiors and exterior spaces with varying degree of cover and a good amount of verticality, offering you a lot in the way of choice and expression to use your chosen toolkit.
Limited but fast and useful movement options these include, jumping sliding, sprinting and mantling and these all feel snappy and responsive. These combined with your loadout which of course returns with a bunch of returning useful equipment this can be broken down into the usual sections, primary and secondary weapon slots for all your shooting needs that can be broken down into things like Tactical Rifles which are often burst fire or semi-auto like the AUG one of my personal favourites. A possible one shot to the head at the range but somewhat lacking at close quarters say against a more aggressive weapon like a submachine gun say the MP5 being burst fire, after all, you’ll be lucky to get a shot off before being sprayed with rounds.

“Create a class returns and is as strong as ever with plenty of unlocks and room to tweak your class just to your liking.”

Every one of these weapons can be customised to your liking in appearance with unlockable skins this also extends to your player model in the form of operators some of these can be unlocked for free gladly and can be used in Warzone too though and reticules among other things attachments make a return being limited to five (unless you take a wildcard). Each offer there own pros like an extended magazine at the price of ADS speed for example you can unlock these by levelling the weapon individually. The rest of your loadout is further broken into tactical, lethal grenade options from flashbangs to C4 there is something useful for everyone and for every situation. Your last and final three supplements to your arsenal are your field kit which charges over time which can offer you advantages that like ammo kits that give bonus score for the enemy’s killed with it or the trophy system protecting you from grenades then you have your perks that can offer a number of good perks like reloading while sprinting or hiding you from other players spy planes. These are just some examples and of course, your wildcard lets you do crazy things like take 3 perks from the same perk list or take more attachments for your gun.
All this combines into a fast and solid enjoyable multiplayer experience dying isn’t an annoyance with fast respawns with plenty of past favourite weapons like the AUG and Famas, equipment like Tomahawks and perks like Ninja and Gung ho returning. It’s more of what you’d expect but feels very familiar to Black ops one in all honesty and it’s probably the most fun I have with the series multiplayer in a very long time and the now that allow you to call in powerful abilities known to the series like the RC-XD bomb car or copper gunner you can even flex on people with assassination.

If the plentiful amount of weapons, equipment perks and so on wasn’t enough either there are also challenges to work towards like weapon mastery and prestige returning this time being the games season pass being shared between the three current titles this is coming in December and should add more unlocks for players.”

Zombies and its smaller arcade-style top-down shooter Dead Ops arcade return in all their glory, this time with the old storyline with Richtofen and the gang being concluded we start a new chapter in zombies. A new timeline this time your own operators taking place of the original characters know by Zombies fans investigating the rise of the dead worldwide, you must go down into dying machina. Otherwise known as Nacht Der Untoten (Night of the Undead) the original zombies map expanded to outside that small building. A fitting return for a new start the map that kicked it all off to find the cause of the evil and the source of the leaks between us and the dark aether. The new things here I think work salvage used to buy armour and other goodies zombies dropping loot and of course even randomer! Weapons in terms of attachments and tiers, and the ability to extract ever so many rounds the causes a mad final push to get to the chopper! This ties into getting Athyrium Shard they allow you to upgrade your field upgrade of which there are a few like Aether Shroud handing for getting out stick situations making zombies ignore you for a few seconds and can be upgraded to instantly reload your weapon on activation this is just one of the six available for zombies but these Arherium shards may also to be used other skills and for a total of 5 categories including perks, ammo mods and weapon classes and these are permanent which is lovely.

“When you need to feel big and strong, Reach for Juggernog tonight!” Grab your Jug and Ray Gun Zombies still gets pretty tough and you’ll be screaming “plz bro I have Ray gun” in no time.”

Progression being tied in everywhere means a gun used in your primary loadout slot of which you get one of your choices in zombies of any you have unlocked and set up means zombies exclusives camos and other shinies giving you more reason to play, an interesting plot and Easter egg songs, pack a punch and all the perk machines returning the mode is great all you would expect with enough new twists. With foes like plague hounds a combination of Nova Crawlers and Hell Hounds, or how about the new boss who lobs radioactive goo and splits in two! The only let down the one map available something I hope will be fixed as I see great potential in this if it is supported correctly, the zombie’s community is ravenous and hungry much like the game mode they love some feel let down with the last entry, but this could be something which will keep them coming back for more.

To wrap things up in the face of the Covid-19 and working from home Treyarch and Raven have pulled it off, only with a few hick-ups here and there some more a nuisance than others that can surely and will be ironed out. Cold War is great fun and a deserved entry to the series makes think back to sixteen years old me finishing school and getting home and wasting hours on Black Ops, like its namesake and those secret operations no one knows about finding little secrets here and there but also just being stupid bloody good fun and with the host of extended options like FOV on a console for the first time, and no aggressive microtransactions not being too aggressive finally. I’ll be looking forward and checking back on the free content throughout as this is something it does lack in terms of maps for zombies and having only 11 for multiplayer at the moment I look forward to seeing what the next year brings for zombies and multiplayer content only time will tell. I do however look forward to seeing what they do next with the Black Ops series going forward.

A Xbox One review code was provided by Activision