STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Xbox One)


Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
by Kirby Yablonski

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Box art Another holiday season is upon us, and with that means a new Call of Duty game. Holiday 2020 is also when the next-generation consoles (now current gen?) from Xbox and PlayStation arrive, and the new Call of Duty covers all currently available consoles. One thing remains steady though, if you are a Call of Duty Fan, then you should no doubt be picking up the recently released Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Why is this you ask? Well, even though some may find a few hiccups and some familiarity along the way there is a lot to like. To make this review somewhat flow, we will be covering the game in three separate areas: Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies Mode game’s narrative takes place after the events of the original Black Ops. Dan Bunting, one of the Co-Heads of Treyarch, stated that this game “…dwas a chance to go back to the roots of the original IP“. The story heads back to the 1980’s once again. I found that I enjoyed much of the 80’s atmosphere, from the clothing, technology to even the music. Given that this is a Black Ops title, the dev-team wanted to make it seem like you were involved in a cold war, that being the East versus the West.

Not to go too deep into the story, but you take on the role of ‘Bell’, who joins returning CIA characters Woods, Mason and Hudson. Along with your new character, there are four more new team members that complete the squad. You are trying to track down an elusive man codenamed “Perseus” in an effort to prevent him from creating chaos and destruction in this 80’s version of the world. During your adventure you will also get a chance to play as a few of the other team members as you traverse the globe to various locales to complete your mission.

The game has a lot of stealth involved, as opposed to just going in guns blazing. Do not get me wrong though, if you are detected you can still use your trusty weapon to get out of a jam. I enjoyed that they put in some ‘sneak around’ parts like this, as it added some variety. The game also allows you to participate in dialog and make decisions that influence the game’s final ending. There are multiple endings based not only the decisions you make, but by completing two separate side missions that are not part of the direct storyline. To successfully complete these missions, you collect evidence that is specific to each side mission that allows you to solve the puzzles in the side missions before undertaking them. These pieces of evidence are found in the campaign missions.

As this game is developed by the studio that released the first Black Ops game in 2010, there are a lot of twists and turns that will mess with not only the story, but your mind. There are some big revelations in the game that you will not see coming, which makes this story so unique. Your central hub during the story is a Black Ops Safehouse that really makes you feel like part of a team that works from behind the shadows, which of course the CIA is well known to do, especially during the Cold War. If you are wondering how long the campaign is, if you have played any previous Call of Duty campaign(s) before, then expect the same 5 hours or so of gameplay.

Multiplayer

Any Call of Duty fan knows that the multiplayer experience is where people like to hang out, and I think that this will be the case in Black Ops Cold War as well. What is interesting though is that Treyarch and Raven Software have stated that the campaign is just the beginning, and that multiplayer would be a continuation of what gamers experienced in the single player mode. The multiplayer story takes places a few years after the main campaign, and there is a detailed cutscene that leads players into this mode. The multiplayer is inspired by what Co-Head of Treyarch Dan Bunting said is “…the Cold War Vibe”.


There are 10 MP maps to kick off Black Ops Cold War multiplayer experience. You will be battling it out in maps based in countries like Central Africa, East & West Germany, and of course the USA and the Soviet Union. There are more maps and more modes coming after launch, and they are all free with no timed exclusives. This is great news, not only because it is free, but given Sony and Activision have participated in timed exclusives for many of their titles but with no timed multiplayer exclusives it allows Xbox players to play the content at the same time as PlayStation players. This makes sense though as the game is cross-play enabled for all consoles and PC.

The classic gameplay modes are back like team deathmatch, domination, free for all, kill confirmed, search & destroy and 5-point domination. New modes have been added to Black Ops Cold War multiplayer, and they are as follows:

- VIP Escort: 6v6 players - One team attempts to escort the VIP to one of two extraction zones while the other team tries to stop them from completing their mission. The team with the VIP can also win by wiping out the other team.

- Fireteam: Dirty Bomb: 40 players, teams of 4 – Each team of 10 must take down enemies, collect uranium caches, locate Dirty Bombs, and detonate the bombs they find.

- Combined Arms: 12v12 players – Two teams of 12 fight over a central neutral capture zone. Once captured, both teams move to a new one deeper into enemy territory. First team to infiltrate and capture enemy’s final zone is the winner.

You will once again find a Create-a-Class that allows you to fine tune your specific loadouts for specific modes. Something that you will find addicting, especially if you have not played COD multiplayer lately, is levelling up of your weapons, opening up attachments that make your gun perform better, and entering the gunsmith mode to do so. With each weapon having its own progression path and XP to earn, you will most likely find yourself playing a few more matches just to unlock that one attachment you have your eye on. Of course, you can’t forget the need for weapon skins as well, as there are many of them again for you to obtain.

Multiplayer plays as one would expect a COD multiplayer game to play; it is fast, it is twitchy, and it gets crazy at times. I did note some things that really made a difference for not only myself, but for some of the people I played with. New to Black Ops is a ‘Ping System’. You can use this to ping objectives for your teammates to see, such as locations of enemies or what specific area to focus on. It is assigned to the d-pad, and it is a great way to communicate with those you may not be in a party with. Something that also made a difference is something PC gamers have had for a long time, and that is a Field of View (FOV) slider. This can literally make your view wider, showing more area on screen then static FOVs. I won’t lie, it will take some getting used to as you may not be accustomed to having this kind of ability to alter how much you can see in front of you, but in the end many will find it useful.

One big surprise post launch was that there were little to no server issues. Getting into a match was easy and hassle free, and I was able to play with no lag or glitching. Past COD multiplayer experiences at launch were usually fraught with connection issues and other tech-issues that inhibited gameplay, but not with Black Ops Cold War.


Zombies

As with many COD games, Zombies mode makes a return, and this time it is a little special. If you are fan of this mode, you no doubt know that Zombies was originally a fun little side game that was created to give players something new and different to do. It was filled with tons of Easter eggs for the dedicated fans. Since that time, it has evolved into a full-blown game mode, with past versions having their own narrative and continuing story.

The team that has been working on the Black Ops Cold War version of Zombies are team members who have been working on the mode as a whole since its’ inception, so you have many of the original people who have been working through various iterations of it. Black Ops Cold War Zombies mode is going back the Zombies roots with the original, but redesigned, area kicking off the story. This version is seen as the zombie origin story but expanding and reimagining it in new ways.

As with the multiplayer experience, you will find that Zombies mode is tied into the story of Black Ops Cold War. While not affecting your campaign, the story is tied to the world of the CIA as you search for the source of dark power in an old WWII bunker. The cut-scene that introduces you to Zombies is impressive and detailed while setting the backdrop for what is to come. This is just the first chapter of a multi-part story called “Requiem”. The new chapters that are to follow will be free to players.

The gameplay is classic Zombies, as you try to fight off hordes of the undead while progressing through the level, upgrading your weapons, finding perks, and staying alive. The zombies are very much the lumbering beasts they should be. You use the same operators that you use in standard multiplayer and you can use the load outs that you create for them. Searching and obtaining rare weapons and powerful perks is not only rewarding, but they can pack a punch too.

A new feature to the mode is the ability to ‘Exfil’. This allows you, and your team, to call in a chopper if you feel that things are getting too risky for you to continue. As easy and useful as this sounds, be forewarned that during the time period where you are waiting for your rescue helicopter to arrive the zombie spawns increase quite a bit and it can become even more perilous and crazy, with a high possibility of your squad being killed before you get out alive. So, use with caution.


I have to admit that Zombies has never been my most favorite mode; however, the time I did spend playing it was enjoyable, and working with a team member, or two, to progress through the level was challenging, but yet worthwhile. There is no doubt that many fans of the mode will enjoy it, and I do think that those who just dabble in it for fun will find they enjoy it too.

Final Thoughts

Presentation wise, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is very solid among all modes; however, it is not without some criticism. I played the game on the Xbox Series X, both pre-release and post launch. The game’s framerate seemed to be rock solid for the most part. The 4K/60fps was crisp and virtually hiccup free. The menu showed support for raytracing; however I was unable to turn it on. I also should note that my console did freeze and crash a couple of times during pre-launch play, but when I played after launch, I did not notice any more of this.

The various global environments are extremely impressive, from the lighting, shadows, and environmental effects that adorn each area (e.g. blowing dust, water flowing, etc.). One such area early in the game takes place in Vietnam where you are in a helicopter. The lush, dense forests, the river below flowing down its natural path, and the mountainous valley you fly through were all very impressive. What I found somewhat average on the other hand were the character models. Although some of the game’s characters look good, you will find others that lack detail and seem robotic. I cannot explain why, but at times you will be floored by a character’s design and look, including in the cutscenes, but then in next area you’ll ask yourself “what the heck did I just see”.

In terms of the game’s audio, I played using headphones for most of my time reviewing the game. I have to say that once again each weapon sound is great, and the explosions are plenty ‘boomy’. You’ll hear the subtle things too, like the breeze and blowing leaves while sneaking through a jungle, the sound of heavy rain hitting the ground as you navigate back alleys to the sound of someone throwing up in a bar bathroom. There were directional effects too, so bullets whizzing above you, grenades bouncing beside you, various characters (campaign or multiplayer) yelling at you from different directions, and zombies lumbering or breaking through barriers behind you are all very prevalent. There is also a lot of dialog in the game, and it is all voiced quite well. I was somewhat taken back by the voice actor who played President Reagan, as he seemed to sound very much like him.

There is a distinct difference between this year’s COD and what was released last year, that being the stellar Modern Warfare. For me, as a reviewer, that game set the bar for COD titles, given the story, the presentation, and of course the multiplayer that led to Warzone. Black Ops Cold War is no Modern Warfare, and so it shouldn’t, as it is its own IP, from the twist and turn story to the world of the 80’s Cold War. The game will also be tied to the popular Warzone game, allowing fans to experience some new content with the IP in mind.

Sure, this latest COD does not break any ground for bringing a new and innovative COD title; however, when you look as the game as a whole, and realize that a major chunk of it was developed during a Pandemic where everyone was working remotely, and you can appreciate the title including the story, the multiplayer, and the Zombies mode. Given all of this, you will probably be playing this title for quite some time given that there will be free content arriving in the future that enhances both the multiplayer and Zombies mode. If you are a Call of Duty fan, Black Ops Cold War is a decent addition to add to your game library. If you are a casual fan of the series, or even new to the franchise, then this game will still be something you can enjoy too.




Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.4 / 10
Sound: 8.6 / 10

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