Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review – Better Days Ahead

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review

Several months ago, in the middle of the first wave of the global pandemic, I felt Activision should have just delayed Call of Duty this year. Modern Warfare was still going strong. Everyone was still playing it and the season pass model seemed to be working like a charm. Meanwhile, studios everywhere were sending their workers home to work. My feeling at the time, why rush another Call of Duty game out the door? If there was any time Activision had an excuse to delay a Call of Duty game without any blowback, it would be now.

Clearly, that didn’t happen. So here I am reviewing another Call of Duty game. This time, during the second wave of a pandemic where Treyarch even admitted development was a challenge for them. In some ways, it showed.

For starters, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War single-player campaign does feel a bit rushed and shallow. The innovation isn’t quite there this time around. It has a ‘been there and done that’ feeling to it. It’s also incredibly short and has some bugs. Yet, that doesn’t take away from how much fun I had.

I played through the campaign twice. Visually, it looks sharp. Perhaps the best-looking campaign we have seen to date. Specifically, the ‘Fracture Jaw’ level is a jaw-dropper and a visual showcase for next-gen consoles. The level of detail from the characters to the environments is absolutely stunning.

I’m A Shadow

It doesn’t end there. The stealth sequences kick-ass giving me some serious Dishonored vibes and the combat is silky smooth. The guns feel great while mowing down enemies is as satisfying as ever. You won’t get bored playing the single-player mode, at all.

The story doesn’t have the same complexities or branching storylines as we’ve seen in years past. It’s pretty straight forward and doesn’t require any previous experience with the Black Ops franchise. The campaign acts as a direct sequel set 13 years after the original Black Ops story. Cold War takes place, as you would guess, at the height of the Cold War. You, along with a newly formed group of CIA operatives have been tasked to prevent a global nuclear disaster.

Those familiar with the franchise will recognize Mason, Woods, and Hudson; and some other surprises which I won’t give away. The single-player campaign takes you across Amsterdam, Turkey, Russia, Vietnam, and the USA. You’ll do things like man APC turrets, and pilot deadly choppers but the majority of the gameplay consists of a ton of gunfire and moving from one epic set-piece to another.

Cold War

There are dialogue choices in the game, more so than we have seen in other COD games, but it doesn’t really impact the story; which is mostly linear. Your choices matter towards the end of the campaign but certainly not for the majority of the experience.

I burned through the single-player campaign in about 5-6 hours. It’s short, but there is some replayability as you’ll want to collect evidence along the way and there is a rather significant different ending. You’ll definitely want to play both endings.

Same Old Song And Dance

Cold War’s multiplayer offerings remain on par with other Call of Duty games. You get 10 maps at launch (including a number of variants), all the traditional modes fans love return, scorestreaks are back, the gunsmith is back, select your Operators and Gunfight makes it return when season one launches next month.

You’ll also be able to jump into Warzone again but sadly it’s the same map from Modern Warfare, not a new Warzone map, unfortunately. Even the IU looks nearly the same as it does in Modern Warfare. It remains a premium online shooter, but one that feels a little too familiar this time around.

In fairness, there are some new modes. In addition to those COD staples, three new modes have been added: VIP Escort, Fireteam: Dirty Bomb, and Combined Arms: Assault and Domination. VIP Escort plays out exactly as its sounds. Escort the VIP to the extraction point before the other team takes you out. Sound familiar? I thought so too as I’ve played a number of those escort style modes before.

Cold War

Fireteam involves huge 40 player battles where everyone is broken into 10 teams. The objective is to collect uranium, locate Dirty Bombs, and detonate them for the win. It was pretty intense, I died a lot, snipers should have a field day in this mode but it was a nice change-of-pace from COD’s traditional online modes.

Combined Arms plays out similar fashion to Modern Warfare’s Ground War mode. Two teams of 12 battle over neutral capture zones. The maps are huge, once again snipers will have a time and it is satisfying when you win. This will never be my thing, Ground War wasn’t either, but I appreciate it’s inclusion. Bottom line, if you are a Ground War fan, you’ll love Combined Arms.

We’re Not Making Out of This Alive

Call of Duty’s Zombies mode returns and for the first time in franchise history, it’s Cross-Play and CrossGeneration. This should open up the player pool and perhaps get even more people involved in the mode. Zombies isn’t for everyone but it remains as intense as ever. Sure, one map at launch is a letdown considering we had at least three the last time a Black Ops game launched, but the mode remains frantic, full of surprises, and more strategic than players would give it credit for.

A nice new wrinkle added to the mix this year is being able to play with your custom loadout. You can still buy guns off the walls or take your chances with the mystery box, but being able to start out with your favorite weapon was a nice perk. The goal in Zombies remains the same. Kill zombies, unlock areas, upgrade your weaponry, and find Easter Eggs. It remains as difficult and as punishing as ever.

Cold War

Last year, Infinity Ward made a splash when they ditched the old quarterly DLC packages with free maps, a battle pass system, crossplay, cross-progression and no lootboxes. And, of course, they brought the single-player back. I am happy to report that’ll all continue with Cold War. But I guess that is my biggest issue with the game. Aside from the stunning visuals in the single-player mode, Treyarch hasn’t really pushed the needle forward. It feels like more of the same. Almost like they barely made it to the finish line releasing a Call of Duty game that feels a little lighter than usual.

Treyarch is quick to admin they faced development challenges during the pandemic. To a degree, it shows. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War doesn’t innovate in any big way. It merely gives Call of Duty fans more of what they have been accustomed to playing year after year. At the same time, Cold War is truly an enjoyable experience delivering over 100gigs of content that’ll get ongoing support and free content long after this review is posted. In short, better days ahead. Cold War will once again be considered the must-have shooter this holiday season. Deservedly so. Just don’t expect anything incredibly groundbreaking.

***PS4 code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • SP looks great, really great
  • Combat remains the strong point
  • MP & Zombies is still a blast

The Bad

  • Too much of the same old
  • Lacks content compared to other CODs
  • Not enough new