Black Ops Cold War is probably one of the more divisive games of the franchise, mostly because of what it signifies for the franchise. Advanced Warfare stood as a similar point with the addition of advanced movement, and I don’t think I really need to go into why that game was a dumpster fire. Cold War is shaping up to be the same thing, but for a totally different reason.
Modern Warfare (2019) was a drastically different Call of Duty game from anything we’ve ever had in the history of the franchise, being far more similar to Battlefield with the sheer number of improvements that game offered. Weapons looked and sounded real, the game’s graphics were lightyears ahead of anything that came before it, and as a whole the game made the sort of improvements and upgrades long-time fans had been asking for for years.
Black Ops Cold War does not of that.
The engine is the same one every previous Call of Duty has ever used. The weapons look and sound as fake as they actually are. Features that fans had grown accustomed to in Modern Warfare are missing. I can’t even count the sheer number of times I found myself sprinting and pressing in the stick again for a non-existent Tactical Sprint.
But that’s enough about that. What do I think about the game? I’m solidly “meh” about this title, and for the most part I’m not entirely happy with the fact that I spent the full $60 on a game that’s this dry on content.
The campaign is a lot of fun so far. I’m about five or six missions in, having completed the two side missions available to me as well as the main story itself. I’ll echo the sentiment I’m sure you’ve seen across the Internet, in that the campaign is at its absolute best when there’s no one actively shooting at you. The stealth missions are far more interesting. The shooting is more of the same we’ve all seen a dozen times before: run into an arena, kill everything in front of you, and run to the next arena. The stealth missions bring a tension that I wasn’t expecting. Don’t get me wrong, they’re by no means Metal Gear Solid levels of tension; but they’re a lot more enjoyable than the majority of the campaign, and I can’t believe I’m typing that about a Call of Duty game.
The side missions come with findable evidence scattered across the main campaign that help you successfully solve the puzzles that can unlock the side missions, or ensure that you can complete and actually get all of the bad guys.
What probably separates the campaign of Cold War from anything that comes before it is the CIA Safehouse that serves as your mission select within the campaign. I don’t know what all the purpose of it is, as it so far only really serves as the mission selector, but there’s a lot going on in there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing clips of people unlocking secret areas.
The campaign isn’t what you’re here for though; the multiplayer is more than likely the reason a large majority of people will be buying this game. I have to say, coming from Modern Warfare…I don’t really see myself playing much of Cold War’s multiplayer. We’re only a week out from launch, but with only eight maps to play on across the entirety of multiplayer, a really bad weapon balance, high skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) and slow weapon and account leveling, the allure of multiplayer is more or less dead for me.
I’ve never been great at Call of Duty multiplayer. I think the game I have the best record in was probably Ghosts from way back in 2013, and that game wasn’t widely enjoyed due to a wide variety of factors. That said, I can’t find a single redeeming factor about Cold War’s multiplayer that I actually enjoy. The MP5 and XM4 dominate most lobbies, to the point that not using either one is handicapping yourself. Some players are able to find success with the AK-47, but the vast majority of people will gravitate towards the easiest weapons to use, and both of these have few, if any, drawbacks.
I think, like everyone, I was also expecting there to be more maps than we saw in the beta, but it turns out that the beta basically had half of the maps that were going to launch with the game. Our best hope for more maps is the coming free expansions, but we’ll see how that goes with the coronavirus pandemic raging on and case numbers across the country climbing once again.
Zombies has so far been the only thing keeping me playing the game and not being drawn back into Destiny 2: Beyond Light. This is by far the most enjoyable iteration of zombies I’ve played since the original Black Ops. The ability to start with any weapon is a lot of fun and gives a lot of options, especially in the late game when you go down but respawn with your loadout leveled up.
The weapon rarity system, something I thought would be odd in zombies, but that I wasn’t expressly against, actually gives weapons like the knife and occasional pistol a reason to exist outside of the first two rounds. It does have a fairly significant impact on survivability, especially since upgrading the tier or pack-a-punching your weapon is fairly involved.
The original perk system returns, but the most confusing addition is the scrap system. Zombies will occasionally drop a box of scrap, which can be used to buy armor or upgrade your weapon’s tier. Using the pack-a-punch isn’t the only way to upgrade your weapon, and if you only pack-a-punch whatever gun you’re using, you’ll quickly find yourself with a useless weapon.
Perhaps my only issue with the zombies mode is how the game handles points. As any long-time fan can tell you, each shot into a zombie was ten points. A kill differed depending on how it happened, but was usually 60 points for a kill with a gun. In Cold War, you only get points for kills. While this sounds better on paper (I guess?) in practice, this means that the usual fight for points in the early rounds has been made even worse due to the fact that everyone needs points to buy a better weapon by round five or six, as well as perks while opening up the rest of the map.
Speaking of perks, an issue I have with them, minor though it is, is the ascending cost for perks. In the past, each perk had a set cost that you very quickly got ingrained in memory. Juggernog was 2500. Speedcola was 3000. Doubletap was 2000. Quick Revive was 1500. Now, that same order of perks is 2500, 3000, 4500, and 5000. I can understand why they did this: make your perk choice actually matter, and Treyarch can add another layer to the gameplay loop rather than just buying all your perks and then stockpiling points to pack-a-punch your guns and hit the mystery box a hundred times a round.
The one issue that wasn’t tied to any particular game mode (although I did run into a consistent bug in the zombies menu) was the god-awful stability and bugginess this game shipped with. The zombies game mode has upgrades for perks and your field upgrade, and going into this menu after a game would regularly freeze my game, necessitating a fresh relaunch. As a whole, frame drops are common, the sound design is shoddy and inconsistent, lighting can get weird, and the game’s stability is a joke considering the price tag.
At the end of the day, Black Ops Cold War is an enjoyable game, but only in two of the three game modes. I know that the coronavirus pandemic meant Treyarch spent a good chunk of the game’s development working from home, but as it stands, this game shouldn’t have retailed for its full $60 price tag. Just due to the amount of content, bugs, and other issues, the game either shouldn’t have been released when it was, or have cost less.
As we’ve seen with just about every title that’s come out in the last five years or so, in a year or even six months from now, odds are that we won’t much remember the issues this game had at launch, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. I’m just not sure this game is worth the $60 I paid for it.
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