Call of Duty will forever be a series I hold close to my heart. Whilst I haven’t spend hundreds of hours in the more recent outings, I lived and breathed Modern Warfare 2. I was a new dad, so there were plenty of late nights and time away from work. It was a near perfect shooter, but with every new release, my time dwindled from one to the next. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War might just be the one to drag me back in. It’s an excellent shooter that is filled with a decent campaign, tons of multiplayer modes, and a fantastic Zombies package, and I’ll definitely be playing more as time goes by and new content is added.
The campaign isn’t going to go down as one of the best, but Treyarch has tried to make it more than an add-on to the main draw of Call of Duty: the multiplayer. Tasked with stopping a mysterious Russian known only as Perseus, you must track him down before he sets off multiple nukes and causes untold destruction. You play as a guy known only as Bell, but you can customise them to be somewhat individual. You’ll give them a name, choose their gender to be either male, female, or non-binary, and add a couple of perks like doing more damage or reloading quicker.
As a direct sequel to 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, you’ll work alongside familiar faces like Alex Mason and Frank Woods, but the new characters, specifically Russell Adler, are the main people at play. In terms of its story, there’s little that feels new. You must work towards stopping a nuclear holocaust, you know, your usual end-of-the-world type scenario. That’s not to say it doesn’t take some interesting twists, especially as you uncover more about who you are and what role you play in the bigger picture.
Some missions involve all-out warfare, whilst others see you sneaking around East Berlin as you try and uncover secrets to where Perseus is hiding, and who he actually is. One mission sees you playing as Colonel Dimitri Belikov, a CIA agent who has infiltrated the KGB. Sneaking around their headquarters whilst taking down guards and hacking into computers adds a nice change of pace from all the shooting. There’re dialogue options throughout, and whilst they generally don’t seem to effect what happens in any real way, you feel as though you at least have a say as to where the story is going.
When the option to launch a couple of side missions happened, I thought it might make the campaign last a little longer, but that wasn’t the case. However, finding evidence throughout the main story missions will allow you to take part in these. You may not find all the evidence and that’s OK. It doesn’t effect how things turn out, but it will give you a little more time to enjoy the story. Whether you’re piloting a chopper in Vietnam, surviving until a pick-up on a rooftop in Cuba, or meeting operatives in a coffee shop in East Berlin, it gives you a nice introduction to how the guns handle and what you’ll likely be getting up to in the multiplayer.
Many of the cutscenes on PS4 suffered from some serious lagging. It meant that many of the early cutscenes had the voice acting completely out of sync with what I was watching, causing me to miss out on some of the revelations without the impact due to the technical failings. It got better as the campaign went on, but there were still problems leading all the way up until the end. it’s worth noting that the PS5 version doesn’t have this issue at all, either.
Multiplayer in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War features a triumphant mosaic of modes, customisation, and action. Old favourites return such as Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, and Kill Confirmed, but the new modes are some of my favourites. Combined Arms takes place on a bigger battlefield where ten teams of four work together to secure points across the map. Vehicles play a big part, allowing you to travel on a snowmobile or take out enemies in a tank. Fireteam: Dirty Bomb has you searching for bomb sites and killing enemies to find uranium. Once you’ve filled the bombs with enough uranium, you can set them off and win the match.
VIP Escort plays out like Search and Destroy, and if you’re not playing with friends it’s nowhere near as fun. The main objective is to guide your VIP to an extraction point. It requires talking to each other and deciding on the best course of action, so if you’re with strangers who are muted or don’t want to talk, it can take a miracle to pull it off. All modes including my personal favourites, such as Hardpoint and Kill Confirmed, take place on new maps that all have various positives and negatives, but the necessity to memorise where all the vantage points are is the key to getting the most out of multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is as fast-paced as its ever been, and the maps so far seem to encourage speed whilst also offering plenty of hiding places and flora to take advantage of. I enjoyed Cartel, set in Nicaragua and features a warehouse in the centre of the map, with plenty of high grass and rubble to hide in and around. Another map I loved was Miami. It’s filled with neon lights and has a Miami Vice vibe to it, with art deco buildings and a beach to try to enjoy as you gun down your opponents. Checkmate is probably my least favourite. You fight inside a Perseus training facility which features a huge plane, and you feel to exposed to the dangers of other players. With new maps promised for free as the months roll on, I hope we get more that offer the freedom that many of the current ones do.
The customisation in the multiplayer is excellent, offering tons of choices to create your class through unlockable items as you level up. Once you’ve settled on a favourite weapon, there really is no end to turn it from a standard issue gun into a tool of destruction. Scorestreaks return in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, meaning you’re rewarded based on your score than on how many kills you get. Some of the modes in multiplayer don’t always rely on kills, so completing objectives means you’ll be able to launch a spy plane, care package, or aerial assault if you fulfill your score quota.
Zombies has always been a fun escape for me, but I’ve never spent as much time with it as I have the multiplayer. This year, there seems to be more depth in the exceptional Die Maschine story arc. Playing as an operative of CIA-backed team Requiem, you head to an abandoned WWII bunker to uncover the mysteries within. It’s essentially a horde mode, but with each new wave you’ll move further and further within the bunker, unlocking more areas whilst fighting off increasingly aggressive zombies. The more you survive, the more you can unlock. You can purchase ammo for your weapons and use the workbench to buy grenades and more to keep the undead at bay. Zombies drop buffs such as insta-kill which lets you kill them with a single bullet, double XP, and Nuke, which wipes out every single zombie that is still trying to maul you to death.
What I love about Zombies is that your progression carries over to multiplayer and vice versa. Your rank will increase between the two, and it helps to level you up regardless of which online mode is your favourite. The PlayStation-exclusive Onslaught mode strips it back to two-player only, and whilst it might not be as good as Die Maschine, it’s still a lot of fun. You follow an orb around the map which is surrounded by a sphere you are required to stay in. Once it stops, a wave of zombies will try and kill you, with the occasional big bad popping up to really heat things up. New weapons and items will drop on the map, such as grenade launchers, dual-wielding pistols, and body armour, giving you something to help you survive a bit longer.
Dead Ops Arcade is the cherry on top of the zombie cake. Whilst it might not pull you in as hard as Onslaught or Die Maschine, it’s yet another game to sink your time into. It plays out as a top down twin-stick shooter. There are tons of weapons and bonuses to take advantage of, such as rocket launchers, rail guns, and mechs. You can even grab a power-up that allows you to play in first-person for a brief time. For those thinking that there might not be enough online content to get stuck into, you’ll be relived to know Treyarch and Raven Software have delivered in spades.
On PS4 the visuals are still incredible. Character animations were faultless (outside of the campaign cutscenes), and there’s amazing attention to detail in the varied environments and weapons. Handling the wide range of guns is also sublime. Each gun packs a punch to varying degrees, with the LW3-Tundra being the absolute best. Whenever an opportunity arises to use a sniper rifle, I am there. Pressing down on the left stick to focus slows down the chaos, and pulling back on the right stick to fire off a bullet packs a lot of weight as you see it fly towards an enemy’s head. On PS5 this is obviously even better, and the haptic feedback with the triggers means that every gun feels slightly different to aim down sights and fire with, offering a resistance to every bite on that trigger. When you’ve an empty clip you’ll feel a hollow clunk that signifies it’s time to reload, and it’s fantastic.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is jam-packed with online features, providing hours of playtime and even more customising your loadouts. Whilst the campaign isn’t as strong as the original Black Ops, I still enjoyed where it took me, even with the trippy finale I wasn’t expecting. It’s a visual treat, with great handling and attention to detail in the littlest of places. The multiplayer is excellent, especially Zombies, and the cross-progression between all online modes is a fine addition that keeps you leveling up and unlocking new stuff. For someone who has spent less and less time with Call of Duty over the years, Cold War is likely the one to pull me in again and keep me playing and playing until the next one.
Additional PS5 impressions added by Adam Cook
New multiplayer modes are great
Die Maschine is the standout
The addition of cross-progression
So much content
Poor performance during campaign cutscenes
Campaign feels shorter than usual