Developers: Treyarch, Raven Software
Release date: November 13, 2020
Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
It’s another year, and not even a pandemic can prevent another entry into Activision’s long running Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty:Black Ops Cold War brings back the single player campaign along with a host of multiplayer modes and a new Zombies chapter. Developers Treyarch and Raven Software combine to once again deliver solid gameplay with tight controls and a campaign that has plenty of decent action. But while it’s a solid entry into the series, it’s also very familiar. There’s not much new to see here, but it may be enough to satisfy longtime fans of the franchise.
The campaign follows your created character, code named Bell, in a story inspired by actual events. Set in the early 1980s, Bell follows the orders of CIA officer Russell Adler in pursuit of a Soviet spy known as Perseus. The game takes you to various locales around the globe, including East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, and the Soviet KGB Headquarters. The game serves both as a sequel to 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops and a direct prequel to the 2012 game Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Along the way you’ll run into some familiar characters, and engage in plenty of firefights and a couple of thrilling chases. The gunplay is solid as always, and gameplay does get a bit varied when it comes to some of the stealthier sections. Trying to make your way through the KGB Headquarters without tipping off who you are offers a suitable amount of tension, and your choices do influence which of the three endings you get. Having multiple endings gives the campaign a bit of replayability, and while it’s solid overall, it’s not the best of the series. It’s 6-8 hour runtime means you could play it in one sitting, but it is an enjoyable campaign and worth revisiting to make those different choices.
The big draw for most players is the multiplayer, and how satisfied you’ll be with it depends on how much a Call of Duty veteran you are. Newcomers may be satisfied with the familiar set of game modes, including Team Deathmatch, Combined Arms (the Domination and Assault modes), VIP Escort, Kill Confirmed, and Search and Destroy. The more co-op modes like Domination and Assault are friendlier to newbies, while the Free for All mode may frustrate some players unless you a longtime veteran.
The game is launching with only eight maps- Armada, Crossroads, Satellite, Moscow, Miami, Cartel, Checkmate, and Garrison- and they can be a mixed bunch, with some maps providing too many places for campers to hide in and cheaply pick their targets off. They all look good, with plenty of detail, but there’s overall nothing you really haven’t seen before. The multiplayer modes are solid yet overly familiar. Class loadouts do become available after reaching level 4, and you can tailor your experience to your preferred style of gameplay.
Zombies gets a new story line called Dark Aether, but at launch only one map, Die Maschine, is available. You can play solo, online, or local with another player, and having someone to cover your back is advisable, as going solo could have you overwhelmed easily, especially once you enter the bunker. The mode is decent enough, but lacks the whimsical touches and humor that made the Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops III so entertaining and fun to play.
Zombies also contains two other modes to play solo or with friends. Onslaught, where you need to deal with waves of the undead, is a two player experience that is a timed Playstation exclusive. It can get quite challenging, especially when some bigger nasties show up. The top down twin stick zombie shooter makes its return with Dead Ops 3, and it makes for a fairly fun diversion. Like the rest of the game, Zombies is solid but familiar, providing some intense gameplay but nothing you really haven’t seen before.
In all, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is another solid entry into the long running franchise. The gunplay and movement controls as well as always, and the campaign has some varied gameplay, a good story, and is well voiced. Multiplayer is sure to provide fun for those who enjoy those modes, but the amount of maps at launch and the fact that the multiplayer really does nothing new may disappoint some veterans of the series. Zombies likewise is decent, but having only one map limits gameplay and provides only for a modest diversion. The game is solid but familiar warfare, and that at least makes it worth a look for long time fans.
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