This is of course the latest entry in the Call of Duty series. It aims to revisit past historic elements of the Black Ops franchise in a bid to hit nostalgia while also awkwardly trying to connect the story to the Modern Warfare part of the series. It’s a bit of an odd campaign, in regards to the narrative element and an alright one at that.
It’s fairly short, featuring a couple extra side missions that you can choose to do. You get a small bit of creative freedom in the backdrop for your character, and that does play out in an interesting way. It throws in a rather unique curveball randomly towards the end where you replay the same level and you’ll get what I mean once you’re working through it. I don’t really want to spoil things for you.
It just feels a bit off in general, like a greatest hits sort of situation where you play little chunks of high octane action sequences. It just doesn’t have the depth, and heavy hitting emotional points that last year’s entry had. Again, it’s also rather short and ultimately disappointing despite having one awesome set piece in regards to a mock American city.
You will see some familiar faces (with new voices), and also some locations you might have visited in the past. It just wasn’t structured in a necessarily exciting way, and the hub location to head out from could have been so much more. It really felt like a cut down story, and just an extra piece of this experience instead of being the front and center heart that the game could grow from.
It’s worth mentioning right away that they’ve included “Warzone” in the menu of the game. It launches that experience, so I will note that I do not consider it as part of this game when it comes to the scoring. It’s a great experience, but again a standalone release. Past that, they do try some new things with the competitive elements of the online multiplayer.
You get your standard modes, but they’ve tried some slightly larger scale ones too. I should mention that this does have a selection of ten maps. Two of them for larger play, and eight that get shuffled around for regular modes. It’s a rather pitiful selection of options, especially considering that Miami is the only good one. With that, Miami is one of the best maps in the series. It’s really neat, in terms of design and the way it glows. That aside, other maps feel rather basic in design and aesthetics.
A few of them are straight up warehouses, they just lack that exciting edge to them and once again feel like specifically created areas instead of real locations carved out for maps like in Modern Warfare. The larger scale maps are interesting, though not necessarily something for me. I do appreciate the Combined Arms option which provides three larger maps for players to battle on in greater quantities. These include two expanded maps, and one regular one made available.
The two expanded options feature some vehicles that feel slightly awkward in regular combat. They also feature some nasty sniper sight lines in the oddest of spots. This is a fine extra option for play and I’m sure many will fancy this one despite those notes. The other larger option features two bigger maps. This is Fireteam: Dirty Bomb which is basically a large scale shooting and then depositing type of setup. I found this one to be relatively boring, and the design of the environments had some issues with rendering. Wasn’t a fan of this playlist option, seemed a bit too random and loosely thrown together.
This was probably my favorite part of the overall experience, it’s an interesting take on the legacy of the zombies series while doing something slightly different with it. They basically took the original map, threw graffiti on it and bloated out the landscape. This provides some mysterious spots to visit in the surrounding area, and perhaps an otherworldly location too.
It has the typical staples of the mode such as power-ups or perks and of course the Mystery Box. Things are a bit different in that you have classes to use, and the option to leave. After so many rounds you can radio out, and there are even pre-set survival length playlists to use. This is a good cooperative time, bringing a decent amount of challenge and a large selection of the undead to mulch through.
It felt fairly expansive, though I do wish they would have done something more here since it is just the one map that really wasn’t too massive. There are some boss creatures too which I never liked in zombies, they’re not the worst to deal with however. I will also note that there are some weird lighting issues present as well on this one.
This is very much your typical look for the series, they took the more advanced design direction from Modern Warfare and added that typical Treyarch grit to it. I find it to be far less visually impressive than Modern Warfare, yet at the same time applaud their next generation efforts. That includes a subtle inclusion of ray tracing support and a very smooth 120fps option as well if your TV can support it.
That’s really neat to check out, and definitely worth your time to see if you have the ability to get 120hz. Just note that you’ll lose ray tracing if you switch over, but the multiplayer advantage is most certainly worth that. These are some impressive options, yet at the same time the core design just doesn’t really hit the mark.
They have some really cool set pieces and aesthetics, but it just doesn’t look as realistic. More stylistic I suppose, matched with some nostalgia music during certain campaign set pieces. When it comes to the guns this is very on brand with older entries in terms of what’s available. You get the gunsmith to use as well which is nice.
I did find that some movement systems were a bit of a step back. That mainly being doors, extra all out sprinting and contextual leaning. I’ve also already mentioned that I wasn’t too impressed with the maps outside of Miami. In general, the environments just don’t scream next gen to me and that’s disappointing yet almost expected since this is the first of likely a few cross generational releases for the series.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War feels like a bit of a step back for the series, it has some special next generation features while presenting minimal content that hits below the expectations of the series. It just doesn’t feel as expansive as it should at this point in time.
I know expectations are high, but there are a number of technical issues that flair up while playing and some network ones too that I’ve seen (believe to be fixed as of writing) for people I’ve played with. The campaign felt somewhat like a satire of the Black Ops franchise, hitting those big moments while not truly offering something of substance and being short in length at that. I did like the creativity displayed with side objectives, or even the undercover mission though that could have been more engaging.
I think the story had some good ideas, that just weren’t fully executed. Then there’s the multiplayer which feels limited and not as good as what Modern Warfare provided last year. It’s decent, and with content over time it’ll feel full yet at the moment it just comes across as the minimal effort. Finally, there’s the zombies which I thought was the best part of this and even that feels small in scope.
I could go on I suppose, but I think this generally summarizes the key points I had in regards to this release in the series. It has some good moments to it, and I’ll definitely say I had fun while playing. At the same time I look at the amount of content and how it’s presented here, with that being some of my main issues. I’m guessing everything will be smoothed out as content is dripped out, but at launch I do expect more from the series. That’s especially the case after what I thought was an incredible effort last year.
Read our Modern Warfare Review
View our Call of Duty Hub
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review on Xbox Series X
Review Code Provided by Activision