The Call of Duty franchise is kind of like the Dalorean from Back to the Future. The ‘machine’ itself doesn’t really change, but where in time you find it is what makes the difference. In this regard, you know what you’re getting with Call of Duty: big, bombastic, and breathtaking; but what makes Black Ops Cold War unique is its semi-sci-fi, espionage milieu, jam-packed full of mystery, bizarre 1960s conspiracies, and clever scenarios.
And these scenarios are what CoD campaigns do best. From stopping a Russian plane about to take off to infiltrating the KGB headquarters, Black Ops Cold War throws you in some truly infatuating predicaments, while delivering the tightest and most solid tried-and-tested CoD gameplay to date.
Everything about Black Ops Cold War just moves, feels, and looks slick, so much so, that you’ll forget you’re not playing a Hollywood movie, albeit one that’s a mind-warping, alternate history blockbuster, inspired by the likes of Inception‘s Christopher Nolan.
Like the previous Black Ops game, the tone of Cold War is more nestled in the obscure side of war: brain-washing, secret bases, stolen nukes, double-agents, and the likes, and it’s all the better for it. The more explosive gameplay matches the sheer gravity of the narrative excellently, and you, playing as a new unknown operative alongside Black Ops veterans Woods, Mason, and Hudson, makes for a more immersive experience. You do jump around in time, playing some flashback sequences or (in classic Call of Duty fashion) take over as different characters from time to time, but the who-to-trust game of everyone looking over their shoulders is an interesting dynamic to the way missions play out.
Speaking of missions, besides the standard shooting and moving through densely-detailed environments, there are some great slower-paced levels which deliver some great variety to the pace of the game, along with introducing some new mechanics to the franchise, which, we won’t spoil for sake of the story.
The campaign itself, while fantastic, doesn’t last too long, and will take about 5 or so hours to work through. Of course, the meat of the experience lies in the online component. And, interestingly, just as the campaign looks to the past to deliver something fresh, so does the multiplayer. The variety of modes will keep you hooked thanks to the focus on 8 great maps and more balanced weaponary, as opposed to too many perks and mechanics, which do tend to deter some fringe players. If you can get your skills up to scratch, and wrap your head around some of the more straightforward maps this time around, there’s a lot to enjoy with Cold War‘s more streamlined multiplayer experience.
And the icing on the Cold War cake is the Zombies mode, which does away with the twisted alternate-reality sidestory from previous games, and basically gives you the beloved wave-after-wave action to play with some friends, along with a few refinements and environmental traps to give you an upper-hand.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is more akin to the first and second Black Ops games from 2010 and 2012 respectively, but in its spy-thriller tone, not design. Cold War introduces some interesting new scenarios and diversifies the classic CoD gampelay in interesting new ways, while still delivering those big, over-the-top set-pieces we’ve come to love from the series. While the multiplayer doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does revert back to what makes it so addictive in the first place, and the resulting package is something worth checking out.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X, PS5, and PC.