Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War isn’t defined by any mode, unlike its predecessors in the past. It is a blend of everything. It takes us back to the very historical Cold War and places us in the midst of the tension between the West and the Eastern Bloc with a 2000s reminiscent era campaign and a traditional multiplayer set in the 1980s alongside the very iconic Zombies mode that made its debut in 2008’s World at War. As is tradition, each part of the whole stacks up differently, but the annual Call of Duty release is once again a polished gemstone of first-person shooting, even if it isn’t as robust as Modern Warfare 2019 or as exciting.
Multiplayer: First Impressions
The multiplayer suite of Black Ops: Cold War has plenty of options and modes for all types of players, and as in Modern Warfare 2019, it brings back some exciting features that made Modern Warfare 2019 a good Call of Duty like Gunsmith and Combined Arms being the Ground War type of experience for this Call of Duty where it brings back Momentum from World at War and large-scale Domination from previous Call of Duty games. If you don’t like Combined Arms, the true and tested modes have once again returned or you can try out Fireteams which is an all new mode that plays on the Cold War theme where you must plant dirty bombs across key locations in the Soviet Union or in the NATO-led countries. Fireteams takes a more focused approach, without the chaos that is Warzone. As a big fan of objective based game modes and large scale game modes, this was great fun although slow and tedious at times.
Although, on a more critical note: Black Ops Cold War is incredibly basic and that’s a terrible thing especially when Modern Warfare 2019 felt like a nice return to the modern era. Black Ops Cold War aims to recapture the magic that made the original Black Ops from 2010 so special and that’s stripping back a lot of the mechanics and features that’ve been layered on in the past several games especially Modern Warfare 2019. Make no mistake, it is great fun with each pull of the trigger capturing nostalgia from a more simpler time but it doesn’t do much right now at the launch of the game. With a longer TTK, a complete visual step down from the reboot of Modern Warfare, and a straight up return to more simpler map designs Black Ops Cold War feels like a complete step back.
Having put almost 500 hours into Modern Warfare and Warzone, jumping into Black Ops: Cold War was a complete rewiring of my brain. It felt like I was back in High School and playing the original game again which isn’t, per say, wrong but it felt completely different. It’s clear that Treyarch aimed for nostalgia with them going back to the era that made Black Ops so iconic in the first place. There are some quality of life improvements here, though, with the inclusion of an FOV slider alongside a few improvements that carried over from Modern Warfare which makes the multiplayer suite a bit of a blast.
In terms of maps, Black Ops: Cold War has very few. It’s almost like we get less and less maps every year. Cold War at launch has 8 maps + 1 with the inclusion of Nuketown 1984 which isn’t a lot and not a lot of the maps are enjoyable in my opinion, with the ones being enjoyable are Armada, Crossroads, Moscow with Moscow being undeniably “Call of Duty” with flashbacks to the original games but Moscow also suffers from what makes the maps less enjoyable: they’re just too empty. In my time with BOCW, I feel like I spent half the match just running around in circles trying to find enemies.
Black Ops: Cold War also suffers from visibility issues, which, is an annoyance as many players hide in Cartel’s bushes and it’s just plain difficult to see enemies running in the open. Then there’s the dark corners; obviously they aren’t an issue on every map, but they do provide campers with too many opportunities. The Miami map is 100% guilty of this as it is set at night and it has way too many buildings to hunker down in and it’s quite punishing in the street overlooking the night club as you receive fire from the balcony above or from the side street or from the alleyway.
In conclusion, the multiplayer suite when it comes to Black Ops: Cold War is one of nostalgia. It is 100% a shooter of a time that doesn’t exist anymore in the gaming space, an old-school type of shooter which is great but it doesn’t hit the mark quite yet. It isn’t as exciting as Modern Warfare, it isn’t as exciting as Warzone, it isn’t as robust as Modern Warfare and Warzone. If you’re looking for a fun time, you’ll find it here but not enough to keep you. In the future, there will be a lot more to enjoy here. It’s a good stepping stone for the year to come, let’s hope Treyarch continues to find its stride here in Black Ops: Cold War.
Campaign: First Impressions
Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War sells the setting of the iconic conflict well. Set at the beginning of the 1980s, you’ll see a lot of familiarity as you hunt for Perseus, a KGB spy who has tipped the scales of the Cold War every time he sets his foot down. During World War II, Perseus was the code name of an American scientist who allegedly sold the plans for the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during his involvement with Project Manhattan in Los Alamos and continued to involve himself with the Soviet Union in the post-war world, his existence has been debated for years, but, here he is the main antagonist of the campaign.
Despite being very good, the campaign doesn’t stray far from what made the campaigns of pre-Modern Warfare so iconic in the first place; it’s explosive, high-octane, set piece-driven experiences but it has enough narrative surprises to satisfy the best parts of what made Black Ops Black Ops in 2010. Unlike Modern Warfare’s campaign which took the best of war films like Zero Dark Thirty, Black Ops: Cold War returns to the era of the Cold War in the post-Vietnam War era to bring us one of the best campaigns in a long long time. The campaign blends together different elements of pop-culture all loosely reminiscent of a 1980s-inspired action movie and the end result is brilliant: It’s as close to a spy thriller that Call of Duty will ever get to. It reminds me of campaigns that were prevalent in the 2000s.
The campaign is most enjoyable when you have the narrative-driven aspects. The most memorable parts of the campaign are the Vietnam sections and a section where you play as a KGB agent who works at the Lubyanka building, the headquarters of the now defunct KGB in which you don’t fire a weapon until the very last 10 minutes of that mission. It’s a very impressive campaign that blends the narrative surprises and experimental sequences to satisfy the twisty, conspiratorial storytelling that the Black Ops franchise is so famous for.
Other than that, Black Ops: Cold War is a fine addition to the franchise but if you’re looking for a specific thing, Black Ops: Cold War isn’t all that good. Its multiplayer is an exhausting affair that is ruined by performance issues, balance issues, and is at times a complete step back to what the reboot of Modern Warfare offered last year. It’s campaign is a fun ride as you chase down a ghost, but, at the end of the day it isn’t as good as Modern Warfare’s and is somewhat outdated. Black Ops: Cold War isn’t good enough to justify what it demands it returns. Come back tomorrow for my Zombies first impressions and my overall review of the new Call of Duty.