Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the latest title from Treyarch, delivers a campaign, multiplayer content, and the renowned zombies mode. While it’s a great addition to the series, is it a good game? In this review, I’ll cover all three modes. Beware of spoilers.
It seems like just yesterday that the Cold War ARG came online, with players deciphering codes and receiving secret messages in the mail. The trailer featured an interview with Soviet defector Yuriy Bezmenov, who fled to the US to reveal the Soviet Union’s ‘Grand Plan’ for America. The harrowing video set the stage for Perseus, the main antagonist of Black Ops Cold War – a Russian spy hiding in the US with plans to unveil something big. However, the campaign could have been better.
The campaign is not bad or boring; it’s a fun ride from start to finish. However, like I wrote in my Metro Exodus review, it feels like a stepping stone to something greater. Call of Duty campaigns have rarely been great, with some exceptions like World at War and Black Ops 1 and 2. The premise of the campaign is to discover Perseus’s identity and stop his plans. The first mission starts with a lighter-in-darkness scene, signaling that this game is a direct sequel to Black Ops 1. The player is quickly thrown into action, chasing down suspects and making dialogue choices that impact side missions. This non-linearity is new for the series and a step in the right direction. The cast of mysterious characters includes Adler, who is so enigmatic that you never even see his eye color. The player can’t help but wonder and investigate these characters.
There is little to investigate about the characters, and the side missions are fun but underdeveloped. The campaign has memorable moments but is too short and relies on a tired formula, except for two missions – Lubyanka and Break On Through. Lubyanka is an immersive spy thriller that borrows elements from immersive sims and offers multiple options for completing objectives. Break On Through is a delightful romp through the main character’s mind, culminating in a choice between siding with Adler or Perseus. These missions show the team’s capability to create great content and begs the question – why not make the entire campaign like this?
The rest of the missions vary from bland to fun, with the lasting impression coming from the final moments. The ‘good’ ending involves stopping the Soviets from detonating nuclear bombs but losing Perseus. Adler pulls a gun on you and it’s presumed that someone shot first. This ending questions morality and whether doing the right thing is worth getting shot. The ‘bad’ ending involves betraying Adler and killing the entire team to detonate nuclear warheads and destroy Europe. The twist that the main character was brainwashed by Adler is interesting but the ending where he shoots you is questionable. The premise of the ‘bad’ ending, where you doom all of Europe, is so cartoonishly evil that it’s unbelievable and historically inaccurate. It calls into question the message of the game. In the ‘good’ ending, Adler betrays you for a good cause, while in the ‘bad’ ending, Perseus doesn’t betray you even after you destroy Europe.
Modern Warfare uses the IW 8.0 engine, a superb display of technological engineering that made it a worthy competitor. However, Cold War uses an updated version of Black Ops 3’s engine and falls short in comparison. It is visually and performance-wise inferior and lacks the feeling and fluidity of Modern Warfare. Despite this, Cold War’s features may persuade some to have a different opinion.
Zombies mode has a massive following and allows developers to get creative with new maps. The endless loop is addictive unless you know how to complete the Easter Eggs. I’m a fan of the improvements in Cold War’s zombies mode but they removed things that players enjoyed. The contrasting personalities of Dempsey, Richtofen, Nikolai, and Takeo were beloved for their attitudes and interactions with the world. They had quips, fourth wall breaks, jokes, and quotable lines. Their relationships grew over many maps and their story came to a tragic end. Treyarch replaced them with generic multiplayer characters with bland voice lines and personalities. Weapon upgrades are just percentage stat damage increases with cool names. The maps are not as fun or memorable as Kino Der Toten.
The maps are boring and small, with easy Easter Eggs. The Wonder Weapons are not as fun as the Ray Gun and Thunder Gun. However, the updated mobility and easier difficulty make it more appealing to new players. The new mini bosses are alright and the return to the standard perk system is appreciated. The story is intriguing but lacks impact without the original crew. The launch package is small and the map Die Maschine is just an expanded Nacht Der Untoten with a vacuum cleaner and modern retexturing. Completing the Easter Egg solo was fun but I don’t feel motivated to return to the map.
The map Firebase Z suffers the same curse as Die Maschine, boasting two maps in one but both are equally boring. The base and village areas are small and the Mimic enemy is a cool addition but copied from the game Prey. The story is creatively bankrupt and offers nothing to bring players back or excite them. The return of Samantha Maxis at the end of Firebase Z was underwhelming and she’s locked behind a paywall. The abrupt ending to this section echoes the abruptness of the Cold War Zombies experience.
Featured Image by: Ronan Furuta @ Unsplash
Game Review Thumbnail by: WikiImages @ pixabay
Game Trailer by: Activision
Call of Duty: Cold War
Call of Duty: Cold War is a perfect example of the 1 step forward, 2 steps back mentality that the gaming industry suffers in recent times.
- - Engaging story with cool endings
- - Zombies mode gets a much needed touch-up
- - Free maps coming out with the new Seasons
- - Multiplayer maps are much more engaging than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
- - Short campaign
- - Zombies mode lacks a soul and identity
- - Gun customization lacks varied options
- - Smallest starting package in all of Call of Duty