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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (PS5) Review

November 18, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
7
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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (PS5) Review  

It’s been a fairly long while since I’ve looked at a Call of Duty game.  The last one I touched was 2017’s WW2 game, which was fine, but I didn’t feel was really groundbreaking.  Since then, I’ve avoided the franchise because one focused solely on multiplayer (which I’m not a huge fan of) and the other was an odd reboot.  Well, I’m here to try Cold War and while interesting there are a lot of issues with it.


Name:   Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Platform:  PS4, PS5 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X
Developer:  Treyarch, Raven
Publisher: Activision
Genre:  First Person Shooter
Players: 1-40 (Online Multiplayer)
Release Date:  November 13th, 2020
Price $69.99 (USD)

Cold War has three distinct parts: Campaign, Zombies, and Multiplayer.  I’ll break each part into its own section below.

The Campaign

The actual campaign in Cold War is…alright?  It doesn’t reach the highs of original Modern Warfare or Advanced Warfare but isn’t as bad, as say, Ghosts campaign.

You primarily play as one of two characters in the campaign, Alex Mason and a user-created character with the codename of “Bell”.  You are trying to hunt down an international terrorist named “Perseus”, who is trying to escalate the cold war into a hot one.  Bell is part of an international team of agents to hunt him down, if you can.

I should note: I have NO idea when this game takes place in the Black Ops cannon, if it’s even a part of it, or if it’s a reboot.  There are familiar characters: Woods, Mason, Hudson in here, but also there is Imran Zakhaev in here.  He was the “Ultranationalist” one-armed dude in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, who was the main bad guy in that.  So, I’m really not sure where, or even if, this game falls in any Call of Duty continuity.

Create-A-Character

Right from the get-go, the idea of creating a character is both good and bad.  I’ll start with the bad: why does this matter at all?  You can name them, pick a gender, place of birth, and military backstory but none of this actually (seemingly) matters in the game.  You character doesn’t really speak or have agency in the game, so it feels really out of place, just like in recent Far Cry games, for the game to make you create a character and having nothing to do with it.

Psychological Damage

On the flip side, the character creator does have one really interesting feature and that is the “Psychological Profile” part of it.  Basically, you can pick two psychological issues that bestow perks on your character.  These range from “Tormented” to “Paranoid” to “Relentless”.  None of them really have negative tradeoffs, despite the flavor text.  You’d think “Aggressive Behavior” might be bad, but it just increases your reloading speed by 50%.  I generally picked the two most benign sounding ones: “Reliable” (increases ammo by one clip), and “Methodical” (weapon kick reduced by 25%).

For as dumb as the idea of creating your player character, this psych perk system is intriguing.  It would have been cool if some of the perks were really game-breaking but could really screw with your game.  Like “Increase all damage by 50% but hear voices at random times” (Schizophrenia), or “Half the time increase all stats by 75% and other times reduce all stats by 75%” (Bipolar)

Pop culture References

I’ll get into some of the missions below but I’ll point out that this game is rife with cultural reference.  Your main hideout is basically out of the late 90’s film “Ronin”, the basic plot is copied from the life of “Carlos the Jackal” (which is what the first Jason Bourne book was also cribbed from), and your main team leader looks almost exactly like Robert Redford in his prime.

Missions

About 80% of the game is your usual bog-standard CoD missions: move through a level, kill everyone, occasionally look for collectibles, rinse and repeat.  There are a few missions that break up the monotony and are really fun though.  One mission involves you sneaking around an East German town, trying to be as stealthy as possible, while planting a bug on someone’s case.  Another involves you flying a helicopter for a bit and raining death down on some Viet Cong.

But my favorite might be when you are in control of a Russian double agent and you have to infiltrate a Russian military base and steal a keycard.  You are given a few different ways to accomplish this: you can make a copy on a blank card, you can poison the general that has one and take it, you can have a prisoner strange the general,  etc.  It’s just a very neat level that encourages experimentation.

Evidence Uncovered

Remember in past CoD games there would between 3 and 5 “Pieces of Intel” (collectibles) per level, and you could grab them?  Well, that is largely gone in this game.  Instead, the few pieces you collect are now called Evidence and they tie directly into the two optional missions.

Each optional mission has a notification of “GET THE EVIDENCE AND SOLVE THE PUZZLE FIRST” warning before you start them.  You can just do them without collecting it, but you won’t get the better ending sequences.

The optional missions each have three evidence things you need to collect.  You then have to work out a few logic problems/piece together the evidence to crack the code and fully complete the missions.  I wish there was a lot more of this stuff, to be honest.  It felt really unique but alas there’s just not too much of it in the game.

Technical Issues

I’ll get into some of the multiplayer issues before but I didn’t have the smoothest experience, even playing the single player.  For some reason, Cold War had a really annoying issue of keeping track of my save.  It also completely BSOD’d my PS5 at one point, freaking me out.  I just had to wait a few minutes, let the storage system rebuild itself, but it was a tad scary.

Basically, the game somehow got locked into one mission, I think the 7th one, “Echoes of a Cold War” (the one that also locked up my console).  I completed the mission and did two missions after it (including an optional mission), but the game still thought I had a save on the Cold War mission.  Once I completed the “Desperate Measures” mission, and got back to my safe house, I stopped the game.  When I reloaded, it showed that mission as “Complete” (checkmark in the corner of the level select), but I couldn’t actually select the next mission.  I had to replay both this mission again, and one of the two optional ones, in order to get back to where I was.  Since then, I pretty much just played the rest in one go, because I didn’t want to replay any more missions.

While not a technical issue in and of itself, the SECOND you accidentally shoot a friendly soldier, the mission ends and you have to restart the checkpoint.  There is one mission where you get off a helicopter and gun down some people in a few jeeps approaching you.  I had an AI teammate who kept running into my field of vision when I was shooting at enemies, which meant that he got hit and I got a game over.  This happened like 3 or 4 times until I just said “Screw it” and ran WAY ahead of him and killed everyone by myself.

Multiplayer

When it works, it works well.  Honestly, the multiplayer feels similar to the old style of stuff.  You have a player level, weapons levels, etc.  You pick an operator (character) per side, but it doesn’t amount to anything.  Honestly, it’s hard for me to judge the multiplayer.  The last time I played a CoD multiplayer was WW2, which had that social space aspect, and crates that were constantly dropping out of the sky.  This has none of that, at least that I can find.

I feel the multiplayer system is really confusing, especially the deeper you get into it.  If you just select “Quick Match”, it does work.  Loadouts are fairly standard also, although the Gunsmith thing is dizzying with the amount of stuff you can do to a gun.  You can basically put five attachments on a gun from the optic, muzzle, body, etc.  That’s fine, but it’s all the appearance stuff that the game really feels overwhelming.

There’s one thing I can’t figure out.  I have a “CP 400” thing at the top of my screen, I have no idea what it is, the game doesn’t explain it, and I can’t select it.  I haven’t the foggiest.

Field Upgrade

One thing I’ll mention that is new (to me) is the Field Upgrade system.  I guess this was introduced in Modern Warfare but I didn’t play that, so here we are.  In addition to the non-lethal/lethal grenades, you can equip a new piece of equipment that operates on a timer.  This can be either lethal or non-lethal (Proximity Mine, Jammer, Gas Mine, etc.) but each has its own timer.  You can only place one, generally, but is another useful tool if you plan it right.

Server Woes

I said above, “When it works, it works well”, because honestly, it seemed pretty unstable.  If I hit Quick Play five times, I can guarantee at least two of those times the server will bomb out before the match even starts.  I can excuse this to a degree, it is the launch of both a new platform and the busiest time of the game, but I can’t excuse it when I’m just playing a game with one other person.  I did a few zombies matches with a friend and one time the server dropped while we were waiting to start, and another time we were in a match playing when it just dropped.  With 12 people playing, I can understand, but with just two, that becomes a bit less forgivable.

That aside, I honestly don’t have much to say on the multiplayer.  I can’t even tell if this game has new modes, or what they are.

Zombies

The Main Mode

Like with Multiplayer, I don’t have a ton to actually comment with the Zombies mode.  Near as I can tell there is only one map and it actually uses some of the CoD: WW2 Zombies mode stuff as inspiration.  There are two main modes, Endless or 20 round, and you fight waves of increasingly large/dangerous of zombies, all the while buying new weapons and upgrades for your character, as well as unlocking new areas in the complex.

Once you get deep enough, you can use a dimensional transporter to get to a new area and fight more enemies.  After waves 10, 15 and 20 you can exit and “complete” the mode.  One really cool thing is that multiplayer progress is shared with the Zombies mode, so if you earn experience in one, it is across the board.

Onslaught Mode

One new mode, I gather, is the Onslaught mode.  This is an interesting mix of Zombies/Multiplayer.  You fight the zombie hordes on multiplayer maps with only one other person (or by yourself, if you want).  The outside area is deadly but a ball of energy shields you, but enemies have to be killed in it to power it.  Once the ball is powered up, it’ll move to a different spot where you have to follow it.  After two rounds, it’ll summon an elite zombie, which is far tougher than the regular ones.  The Field Upgrade system works the same way, but you have different abilities than in the regular multiplayer.

Dead Ops Arcade

The last mode is a returning one, with Dead Ops Arcade.  This is a top-down dual-joystick arcade shooter where you and other players can take down the hordes of zombies all while trying to defeat some evil female gorilla.  It starts off weird, let’s just say that.

I’ve never played the Dead Ops games in past games so I was in for a real treat here.  It’s actually a LOT of fun, there are a lot of unique weapons and bonuses you can do as you play.  It gets even better if you have three other players blasting alongside you.  If Activision isn’t going to pump up Geometry Wars games at a steady clip, this is actually a reasonably good alternative.

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
It’s weird, this is a generally decent enough game but it never goes above and beyond what it tries to do. Like, the psych stuff is interesting but it doesn’t go far enough, there is some player choice in the story but not enough, even the more CoD “spectacle” missions aren’t as bombastic as they’ve been in previous games. I did have fun with it though and the few sparks of creativity are good but more would have been better. I would have scored the game an 8.0 though if not for some of the glitches, both singleplayer and online I ran into.
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Marc Morrison