Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Publisher: Activision| Developers: Treyarch, Raven Software (Campaign), and Sledgehammer Games| Release Date: November 13,2020 | Genre: FPS| Reviewed On PS5
Review copy was bought at retail
Update: 12/28/20 Video Review Added to text review.
Raven Software was founded in 1990 and acted like a cousin of ID Software in the early days of First Person Shooters. Located in Middleton Wisconsin They worked on games with John Romero acting as producer on Heretic, and the gory Soldier of Fortune series. They also worked on some solid license games in the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises with Jedi Knight and Elite Force. They helped develop the campaign for Black Ops Cold War.
Treyarch meanwhile covered the multiplayer and zombies component was founded in 1996 and worked on one of the best license game, the open-world Spiderman 2, they helped with production after a falling out between Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games when the title was one known as the new Call of Duty title set during the Cold War. Once Treyarch took the reigns it was officially known as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Now, onto the gameplay.
The gameplay is similar to prior Call of Duties but is more like the one before Modern Warfare (2019). The ability to mount to increase weapon accuracy and super sprint is omitted. What was removed from the basics, Raven spiced up the structure of the campaign has exciting new additions that are new and used in prior Black Ops Titles.
Cold War’s campaign puts you mainly in the boots of a covert operative codenamed ‘Bell’ who you create after clearing the opening mission with series mainstay, Alex Mason. You can choose from the real name, gender intelligence agency background, and psychological profile. The psychological profile is set dressing for perks that the character will have such as faster reloading or increased movement while aiming down sight.
The Campaign may seem like a midquel set between Black Ops and Black Ops 2 but hints at being set in the same universe as the Modern Warfare reboot. That I won’t spoil. The game starts with the familiar chase scene, set in 1981 Netherlands but then at the end of it you get a choice to either kill or capture an enemy mook. This does have a consequence of losing intel for side missions you can do. Yes, there are side missions, but unfortunately, they’re only two of them.
You do have to use the intel you get from the main missions which are put on the evidence board in your safe house as you globe-trot from an occupied Berlin as you tail a Stazi around town. Speaking of which, there’s more of a focus on stealth and espionage. It felt thrilling going outside the game to figure out who are the moles are in Western countries, and to decryption a cipher with some notes, you jotted down. It helps sell the role-playing of a cold war era spy and since Bell is a cryptographer fits in with what they’re good at. The solutions are also randomized each playthrough so you can’t just look up a guide online to ‘solve’ them..
Speaking of espionage, you do play as a double agent inside KGB Headquarters in the Lubyanka building in Moscow where you have to get a key. It does give you some open-ended objectives on how to get a key. You can bribe guards, convince a prisoner to kill the key owner or plant false evidence on him.
This campaign does have a lot of variety in between the frantic combat it’s known for. Also, in the game’s penultimate mission, there’s a nice homage to Hideo Kojima’s P.T. (Playable Teaser) & some bits that reflect on the player’s agency during the said mission. This leads up to the story’s twist which is somewhat telegraphed in earlier missions but is well executed.
There are a total of 18 missions and last about 4-8 hours depending on the difficulty. The game on default difficulty is a bit too easy and is recommended to play on Hardened or higher. There are two different endings with two different final missions. This is determined by the choices in the penultimate mission. It does add replay value and acts as an homage to Black Ops 2 more open structure.
Graphics are great for a cross-gen title, the game is enhanced with PlayStation 5’s ray tracing capabilities which enhances the lighting. It’s not all for show though as in one of the stealthier missions you can use shadows to detect a location on an enemy above you on a staircase.
Multiplayer is what you expect with the progression with a twist. When the player’s profile hits the level cap, a prestige key is unlocked. It even allows you to unlock old prestige emblems from prior Treyarch games. This unlocks bonus cosmetics the player can use. As stated earlier in the review, the removal of moves was noted. This makes the game feel a bit less tactical and more twitchy than the likes of Ghosts and Black Ops 2. Another key difference is the increased time to kill which will be a turn off to fans of last year’s outing. Lastly, there are more large map modes such as dirty bomb which is a take on Battlefield’s Rush mode.
This mode has players divided into fire teams with up to 40 players on a large map. The objective is to retrieve uranium which is in crates placed on the map as well as killing other players. You then drop the uranium to a bomb and either you or a squadmate detonate the bomb. After that happens, it causes that area of the map to be irradiate and your squad has to escape to safety. Once the time or score limit is reached the match ends.
The rest of the modes are what you’ve seen before from Team Death Match to Domination. As well as combined arms which has larger player caps. It provides a mode for casuals to competitive players.
The last mode is Zombies which has been a staple since World at War. This time the mode has been rebooted to its roots, but with a modern twist. The first difference is weapons drop with different types of rarity. They offer various sidegrades. This enhances replay value with much-needed progression as well as way points that’ll help new players navigate the map. The streamlined mechanics take out the superfluous stuff that plagued Black Ops 3 and 4. It’s an enjoyable ride with friends and even got a few good matches in matchmaking.
Overall Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War does what you expect in an annual COD game. It does go above its punching weight in terms of the campaign with story choices, stealth mechanics, and putting you in the boots of a Cold Warrior. Multiplayer is good enough and Zombies has been refreshed to be more welcoming to the newer or players who were turned off with the convoluted designs of prior iterations of the mode.
If you did get a PS5 for the holidays, Call of Duty: Black Ops is a safe choice to get.