It may be the year of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but even that can’t stop Activision from releasing another Call of Duty game. This year’s entry has gone back to Black Ops series as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War goes back in time to the well, Cold War. It works when it wants to. The campaign is more fleshed out than ever before with some RPG mechanics involved. I could make decisions, create a character and even unlock special side missions by collecting evidence and cracking the code underneath it all.
The multiplayer is “okay”. I won’t say it is the best there has ever been as most of the mode’s feature feel watered down. We then have the zombies which is…. another Call of Duty zombie mode and Dead Ops Arcade which is fun. As you know, the Black Ops games have also delivered more bang for your buck by including more content and modes to enjoy. Apart from Black Ops 4 which was horrendous in this regard. This year, there’s a lot to chew on but most of it is just not that tasty.
The most exciting aspect of this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions. I reviewed this on PS5 and it was superb. The game looks fantastic and the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers deliver some fun “gun trigger” moments. There’s also the 120Hz mode which adds some extra precision and responsiveness to the multiplayer. You have to feel it to believe it.
After taking a break from a single-player campaign, last year’s Modern Warfare delivered one of the best campaigns I had ever played in a COD game. There were some intense moments which not only shocked me to the core but also questioned my own humanity. After that experience, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War had to pull out the big guns to surpass it and unfortunately it did not. Instead, I was forced to deal with terrible one-note characters with cliche and unbelievable personalities. Not to mention the extra side missions which are a chore to unlock, are a major let down too. One of them took me to a reskinned multiplayer map and the whole thing just smelt like Bungie in Destiny 2.
Thankfully, once you look past this all, the main campaign’s action is fun. When I was not controlling a machine gun attached to a helicopter and mowing down enemies, I was running through a KGB stronghold undercover while completing side objectives that gave me the freedom to decide the outcome of a mission. This sort of experience was so far from the classic COD recipe that it was refreshing to play through. I just wish there was more of it. Unfortunately, most of the campaign is padded with pointless filler missions that overshadow the few great ones. However, this is a step in the right direction and we can only hope things get better from here.
The campaign lasts around 7-8 hours which is expected. Certain decisions I made extended the missions a bit too and gave the story some life. As much as I tried, the characters are painful to be around. We are talking cookie-cutter, dumb “I think I am a badass” personalities with zero likeability whatsoever. I just hated them. You know, the developers of COD can make a game with actual decent characters that players can relate to and respect. Instead, we have Russel Addler, Alex Mason, and Frank Woods. If you had to watch a cutscene blindfolded, you would not be able to tell the douche bags apart.
In the end, the campaign, while having one great standout mission, felt incomplete. It suffers from an identity crisis and its wish-wash of different ideas never add up to anything with a wow factor. The player creation felt lacklustre, the story and dialogue are often painful to watch and the change of pace falls flat.
Looking past the campaign, there’s the obvious multiplayer mode which everyone loves and hates. It feels great most of the time and for the most part, the recipe seems pretty solid. Modern Warfare’s fast time-to-kill is gone which means enemies are harder to kill as they take more damage before dying. You will still find everyone player jumping around, sliding and camping. There’s no change here.
The usual game modes are back including Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint and Domination. Of course, the only thing you will probably play is Team Deathmatch. However, if you are looking for some diversity, Combined Arms is fun and delivers a larger, objective-based mode where players have to fight each other off while completing specific objectives. It works and is the best mode in the game. It also helps that the games last longer and the maps are enjoyable to run through. Each one also delivers some “Treyarch magic” and have been designed with some fantastic detail. All this compliments different play styles including the run and gunner, and the sniper. After a few hours in, you’ll be a master at knowing what type of player would be hiding out in which area.
In terms of content, there are three Combined Arms maps and nine smaller PvP maps. Of course, you can expect more to come in the months ahead as Activision has promised that all additional maps will be free. It means those hardcore COD players will always have something new to do even if they just spend their time laying on the floor in a room with a sniper.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer also has some new gameplay changes which make the game modes feel refreshing. Of course, not everyone will enjoy them. For example, scorestreaks no longer reset on death which means players who die a lot (like myself) can still use their gadgets by racking up points across lives. This change is great but also means that racking up points naturally without dying, never feels as rewarding.
We then have Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War zombies. It acts as the “supernatural” mode. If you have played a zombie mode in COD in the past ten years then there’s nothing majorly new here at all. Once again, the map is also a rework of another map from another COD game. This is something I am pretty tired of now.
The zombie mode does have some noticeable changes. This includes health bars above zombie heads and the ability to escape at any time. There are also objective markers which give you a little more direction this time around. I just feel as if the changes are more a quality of life patch which could have been deployed into the last zombie mode. The one map may have a bunch of intel to collect but it is just another zombie mode in yet another Call of Duty game. There is a plus side to this. If you love the mode, you will enjoy this but if you are longing for something new, you won’t find it here.
For every great change across each of the game’s modes, there is a list of things I disliked about Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. The campaign includes one fantastic mission but everything else is mediocre. The zombie mode is one map with the same repetitive gameplay. As for the multiplayer, it is most likely the only saving grace here but only thanks to the Combined Arms mode. Everything else is just the same. I am just getting a little tired of doing this every year. Aren’t you?
This Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War review was based on a code sent to us by Activision
Available On: PS4, PS5, Xbox | Reviewed On: PS5 | Release Date: 19 November 2020 | Price: R1.375