Let me start by saying that this is a very unique Call of Duty-experience, the campaign anyway. Treyarch did a marvelous job bringing new life into the story mode with inspiration from James Bond and storytelling moments that slow down the known hectic Call of Duty gameplay. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War feels like a reboot it needed. You certainly know it, most people buy this shooter every year for the online modes. We understand that, Activision understands that, and Treyarch understands it even more. It is a shame that the risk they take in the campaign doesn’t cross over to the online gameplay, but having one of the most popular paid online experiences comes with such pressure that I completely understand that changing the formula here is a too risky thing, it does bring forward a question though. Warzone aside, when will players get bored of this ancient old online gameplay?
We played COD Black Ops Cold War for 10 hours on Xbox Series X
What we liked!
- Memorable for non-typical Call of Duty moments: Halfway through the campaign comes something totally different for Call of Duty players. You take control of a KGB-agent and have the total freedom to finish a slow narrative mission. This was the best fun I ever had with a COD game, the pace, the dialogue, the gameplay options, and seeing everything come together was absolutely fantastic and a bigger adrenaline rush than with action scenes. This isn’t the only memorable mission as one of the last missions is brilliantly made too, tasking you to take several different paths on the same battlefield. There is no way around the fact that Call of Duty is gaming’s biggest Hollywood blockbuster with some big explosion and action setpieces but it was when it slowed down and put the control in the player’s hands when it became truly memorable.
- Fantastic psychological story: We all have had that ‘wait, what?!’ moment when watching a movie, Shutter Island, or Sixth Sense for example. Or in gaming the incredible and underrated Spec Ops: The Line. I wouldn’t place Cold War equally but it has one of the best stories from the 17 Call of duty games. The highlight is your character but the narratives, politics and the franchise action trademark come together in a very, dare I say it… believable way.
- Puzzle missions: You have two optional missions available in the campaign that require intel from other missions to finish correctly. To my surprise this is even randomized so looking up the solution won’t help. You have to go old-school and write down suspects on a paper and compare everything that the game gives from collectibles. The required detective work might be a bit too much for some but I personally loved this optional possibility. Important to know here is that you can play the two optional missions without knowing the correct answers, you just get a different ending. So you aren’t punished and miss out on something for being bad at detective work.
- Great sound and voice acting, except … Voice-acting is topnotch, except some overly forced German voices that tried to sound like locals but aren’t. You would think that Activision could get some real Germans in a recording studio… anyway, I am nitpicking a little cause the sound, music, and voice actors do an overwhelmingly great job. Gunfire sounds as it should, voice actors bring emotion to the table and the ambiance sounds in some missions is incredible, the Jungle mission for example.
- Zombies remain fun, even after 12 long years: My friends go crazy over zombies, I think if you ask them the question ‘if you can only bring one game to an isolated island’ it would be Call of Duty for the Zombies game mode. This chaotic co-op mode returns in full glory and is the toughest thing that you can play in Cold War. The main difference for this year is that leveling up your character is a lot easier as the class system is shared across everything, making it more accessible. More important even, it removes a big hassle around players who want to play together but didn’t invest the time in the zombies mode.
- Easiest Call of Duty I ever played (even on the highest difficulty, realistic): I don’t think I died more than five times while playing the campaign on the hardest difficulty. It was by far the easiest campaign I played in the Call of Duty history and I seriously missed some challenge. The reason being was clearly artificial intelligence from the enemies. When you stand in the middle of a battlefield for a few seconds and don’t get hit when more than 10 people are shooting at you something is clearly wrong. We aren’t dealing with Stormtroopers after all. Veteran used to be an accomplishment, something you could be proud of but now it is really a piece of cake.
- New online modes feel like a hit and miss: Fireteam is a mode with ten teams of four players that need to collect radioactive parts to detonate a dirty bomb. It sounds great on paper to have something in between Warzone and the regular online gameplay but it is just a confusing mess that isn’t fun. Combined Arms is another game mode that tries to find a balance between Warzone and the fast-paced regular multiplayer modes. Here vehicles play an important role in the outcome but again I wasn’t the biggest fan. VIP Escort is another story and I see this mode as a relevant addition for esports or tactical play with friends.
- Competitive multiplayer: Lacking in content is a bit weird to say when you have zombies, a campaign, and more. Plus, having the season pass in the previous Call of Duty games might be the reason here but I felt that it had far less content than previous games. You have less outspoken differences in weapons for example. Only having eight pretty small maps isn’t cutting it either nowadays, especially when I disliked three of them a lot. I do highly prefer the way it handles pacing and scorestreaks though, casuals are far more likely to get a scorestreak reward and have a better balance. (Please note, we didn’t take Warzone into consideration here as this is a free-to-play and free to download client.)
What we disliked
- A little bit of everything but no main focus on what it can be: (No score reduction) This might be a weird opinion but Activision is trying too much with Call of Duty. After playing a while I suddenly realized that I was playing four different games under the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War name. You have the thrill-seeking campaign, you have the competitive multiplayer, you have Warzone aimed for the Fortnite or PUBG players and you have the more casual co-op experience with zombies. I’m honestly surprised that Activision hasn’t released a standalone zombies game yet, but whatever. My point here, which is the most evident in the competitive multiplayer is that not all four parts are equally great. I am even willing to say that the competitive multiplayer feels a bit rushed and unfinished, just eight maps are in rotation and when you dislike three of them you begin to create an issue. I am aware that Activision has an army of developers making Call of Duty, year after year these games continue to be the highest-selling games but… wouldn’t it be awesome if the campaign took at least three times longer? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it had more diverse competitive maps? Wouldn’t it be great that you didn’t require 136GB of free space for let’s be honest, modes that all feel like something that could all be better with additional development time? Development time that is now split into so many parts because Call of Duty has to be so much? I honestly wonder how much more great Call of Duty could be if all that time went into one aspect. And yes, I realize that it is also a strength to be that diverse, I am fully aware of that.
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