Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
| Nov 17, 2020

Like recent Call of Duty studios, Treyarch has gone back to doing what they do best – and damn does it feel good.

Black Ops Cold War follows a trend in returning to a fan-favourite setting, taking the best parts of its original game for something new. The latest annual release in the long-running first person shooter series doesn’t try to push any new boundaries. Instead, it focuses on delivering an all-rounded package that would make fans feel young again. Treyarch draws deep on their successes from 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, which took players by surprise with an uncharted setting. It was made more compelling during a historical era filled with conspiracy theories, spies and intrigue. These elements would spawn over 115 creative ways to deliver a surprisingly-faithful Call of Duty with a compelling story that took full advantage of its setting.

Like the original, Black Ops Cold War excels by going back to its roots. It also sets Treyarch’s own series back on track by chucking a toybox of futuristic gizmos and cybernetic terminators which oversaturated the genre more. Instead, Call of Duty does something it hasn’t in a while by pulling out a new chapter in one of history’s most clandestine eras. The Cold War was explored thoroughly in Black Ops, but the studio has creatively pushed the lore a bit further into 1981. This marked the beginning of rapid digital evolution, making espionage more dangerous than ever. Players are thrown head-first into familiar, welcome methods of warfare made more interesting with a neon-soaked blast from the past. As such, Black Ops Cold War‘s Blue Monday-looped setting feels nostalgic enough for a traditional experience, but futuristic enough for Modern Warfare veterans. It’s a welcome decision for Treyarch to fall back in line with what made the series so great, with boots on the ground and gravity keeping a believable story from going overboard.

Don’t You Forget About Me (Treyarch’s Campaign Return and Story Setting)

Its content also benefits around Cold War‘s unique 1980’s setting which looms over the campaign, multiplayer and zombies modes. The makeover is a refreshing change following 2019’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare reboot, which created a believable theme that reflected our world. Black Ops Cold War is actually a direct sequel of the original, 13 years after CIA agent Alex Mason kills Soviet general Nikita Dragovich and clears most of his brainwashing in the process. Players would be welcome to see Mason, Woods and Hudson still working with the CIA as they take on new threats at the height of the Cold War. Joined by new pencil-pushing badass Russell Adler, they embark on a hunt for mysterious Soviet agent “Perseus” before he reignites nuclear tensions between the United States and Russia. While it’s not as deeply serious as Mason’s code-cracking adventure, Treyarch gears the hunt as a serviceable Cold War-era action movie with huge Atomic Blonde and Metal Gear Solid V vibes.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Black Ops Cold War also features less mature themes and more Hollywood-type thrills this time around. It’s a refreshing direction when compared to last year’s Modern Warfare, which used shock factor and war crimes to tell a harrowing story. Infinity Ward’s campaign also delivered some of Treyarch’s brand of choices with a bit more tension than usual in certain parts. But this year’s campaign doesn’t take itself too seriously, using its 80’s setting to some fun degrees too. Catering to a nostalgia from Stranger Things, Rambo and even Miami Vice, Treyarch’s latest campaign takes a page from many shamelessly cheesy scripts for bombastic moments. Black Ops Cold War‘s writing even gets cheesy to a fault, with characters often saying predictable lines which parents would love more than players. When combined with some laughable new voice acting from Mason and Woods, Black Ops Cold War even borders on it being a B-movie that could evolve into a cult classic decades later. It’s just a shame that respective actors Sam Worthington and James C. Burns weren’t back to make this a true sequel from the 2010 hit.

Thankfully, Black Ops Cold War makes a graceful return to single player with its campaign since Black Ops III in 2015. This time, Treyarch has leaned harder into the espionage-driven nature of the CIA and puts players in the process of spying. This adds a new layer into each mission, through moments of sabotage and tactical-stealth-action apart from the traditional mindless shooting. Its opening level Nowhere Left to Run immediately sets the transition between meeting a secret CIA contact, then exercising that itchy trigger finger in a linear fashion. But what makes Black Ops Cold War a bit more special is how naturally it balances cinematic moments, plenty of gunfights and those opportunities to be a spy. Each piece of information in the story gives players a legitimate reason to put their guns away, choose to keep an informant alive or take a minute to gather evidence in their investigation. These mini acts of war suck players deep into the Black Ops universe closer than ever while giving the right amount of shooting.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

When Treyarch set out to make a sequel to Black Ops, they weren’t joking. Black Ops Cold War is surprisingly faithful enough to make the 2010 game worth a revisit beforehand. The time jump to the 1980’s gives it a new opportunity to introduce new characters, but it actually doesn’t retcon the events of Black Ops 2. This is because Treyarch has played it a bit too safe with telling a brand new story beyond the shadow of older games. Players will definitely get some references surging back from the 2010 campaign, though there could have been a bigger effort to connect Black Ops 2 which actually starts in the 1980’s as well. Where the campaign is filled with missed opportunities comes a few welcome tie-ins, particularly an entire level dedicated to something from the first game. But Treyarch has pulled too many punches and set the vintage campaign back from becoming more memorable than Black Ops.

Take On Me (Character Customization & Choices)

Choice is the key word for Black Ops Cold War‘s campaign and Treyarch draws on the RPG elements of previous games for immersion. Players will spend most of their time as Bell, a custom character who is silent and given two selectable perks at the start. Called “psychological profiles,” the game creatively grants players some familiar perks from multiplayer. But they also permanently affect the rest of the campaign experience while players can be particular about what to mix for enjoyability. I was taken back by how differently each shootout unfolded with faster reloading, or zero flinching as enemies hurled unrelenting bullets at me. Some can also boost their sprint times or start levels with extra ammo according to their playstyle. Without becoming too overpowered, Black Ops Cold War makes a considerable effort for players to have more fun and keep it challenging. Bell’s custom name is also a nice touch to the words that show up on-screen before a mission starts.

But once the action starts, players have even more options in soldiering. In the 1980’s, Bell is somehow a deadlier character to control than past counterparts. Getting too close to enemies presents an option to execute a Killzone or Doom-style takedown. Holding down melee now lets players take goons hostage and mow down his friends with a human shield (before returning him with a live grenade). Each of these new methods feel like a step-up in combat for Call of Duty, but players can still continue to keep their distances and shoot enemies the old-fashioned way if they want to. It’s worth noting that these mechanics are campaign-exclusive, giving players a reason to come back to the unique single player for offline breaks. I especially loved these new additions, giving me tons of space to experiment with non-repetitive combat. The campaign especially delivers on enemy count, with players sometimes feeling overwhelmed in sections where survival matters. In each set piece, there are actually less scripted moments and more engagement time when compared to the cutscene-frequent breaks in Modern Warfare. This effectively calls back to the action-driven shootouts of Black Ops. Treyarch has put the campaign back to its gameplay-driven formula while adding enough of those cinematic moments for excitement.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Combat is just the tip of the iceberg in the campaign and players can even feel better without killing anyone in certain parts. There are some influences taken by the stealth segments in Call of Duty WW2, where Sledgehammer would give players a chance to sneak in an open area. Treyarch has done the same, sticking closer to the nature of being a Cold War-era spy. I couldn’t help but feel gratified with quietly sneaking past Soviet troops across a base without a hitch (as a real clandestine operative would). More exciting moments come from silently taking out an enemy to keep the flow. Another segment goes all-in on this, giving off major Snake Eater vibes as players infiltrate Soviet bases by themselves. Players can even pick up bodies and hide them in a few opportunities. Players can go full-Arnold from Commando if they’re detected and continue mowing troops down without failing the mission. As a fan of infiltrating an enemy HQ in WW2, the same kind of level returns in Black Ops Cold War with multiple objectives for a deeper twist. This change in pacing only serves to deepen the experience and Treyarch improves on a familiar formula by creative execution.

The campaign becomes more interesting by including side missions. But players shouldn’t expect the Strike Force missions, which were a highlight of Black Ops 2. Sadly, Treyarch didn’t make an effort to make a parallel storyline from the main one. The side missions, strangely enough, feel like shorter bite-sized levels from the ill-fated Black Ops Declassified game on the PS Vita. Black Ops Cold War‘s two side missions don’t have the same polish as the main levels while players become Alex Mason in some unforgettable goose chase. But Perseus, based on a possible real-life spy, becomes a scene-stealer, as an unseen threat whose identity becomes more curious to players with every mention.

Just Can’t Get Enough (Length & Scope)

But it’s unlocking the side missions that make this interesting. Players should take some extra time to explore for collectibles (called Evidence) across main levels. It’s deceptively hard to miss if you’re keeping an eye out. Each piece is also an interactive puzzle which can be accessed in the story hub’s mission board. These puzzles are some of Treyarch’s coolest additions to Black Ops Cold War‘s campaign, which make players actually feel like a CIA pencil pusher. Answers from one evidence also connect to another, forcing players to really play a game of Clue to help them along catching Perseus. One had me pull out a real notepad to solve an anagram. Another clue had me read bank records and pick out the right suspects to eliminate. The side missions are already unlocked, but solving the evidence ensures players aren’t chasing the wrong objective. But later on, I noticed these side missions do little for multiple endings. Unlike Black Ops 2, there aren’t fully-animated endings which detail these outcomes. Making the side missions unforgettable are how few there are. Black Ops Cold War could have had an even more engaging campaign with a handful of puzzles and side missions to increase the already-short length.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Ultimately, only a few player choices in the narrative would affect Black Ops Cold War‘s multiple endings. Like Black Ops 2, Treyarch brought back some of the branching options that can affect characters. But since the studio had played it safe, Black Ops Cold War doesn’t put much consequences for each decision. Black Ops 2 set itself apart by making every decision/indecision a big impact for the campaign. This time around, there isn’t a permadeath on the main cast or some trick-questions that unfold with a twist. Most of the narrative choices open up some relatively interesting dialogue, but that’s as far as it can go. Its ultimate choice at the climax is what decides an ending, but the outcomes are fairly disappointing. Treyarch didn’t exactly capture the same risky magic as it did with Black Ops 2 in favour of preserving a cliched narrative. It even lacks the scope of Black Ops 3, which included customizable loadouts players could take with them in missions. At least Black Ops Cold War features some branching level design which lets player take high or low paths seamlessly.

Setting the campaign back from memorable is how quickly it ends. Compared to last year’s Modern Warfare and Black Ops 2010, Treyarch’s newest story can be finished in four-and-a-half to less than six hours with the side missions done. It’s a surprise considering how the campaign packs about ten missions (while six are cutscenes or hubs). Most also vary from standard-length to incredibly short, prompting players including myself to think “that’s it” by the end of it. The overall experience bloats with a second playthrough, making it interesting to see how different choices can piss certain characters off or change a mission. But on your best day, the campaign will definitely feel closer to an extended-cut movie and leave a craving for more. Its 80’s synth era deserved a few more missions for players to truly enjoy before Treyarch rolled the credits.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This (Visuals & Next-Gen Optimizations)

Of course, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is one of the first next generation games to look as good as it feels. Its set pieces, multiplayer locations and undead dimensions are stunning with a photorealistic fidelity. Each texture feels like an 80’s artifact which is given a new life over interactive objects. This especially looks like a dream in the campaign’s first level, where a dark bar is illuminated with pink neon letters and a blue glow. A silver 1981 banner glimmers in a fog of cigarette smoke. Both PC and next-gen PS5/Xbox Series X versions of Cold War share nearly identical graphics with believable worlds. The gritty, inner machinations of a Soviet bunker are given a soft light from dim light sources. Fire bounces off characters as they monologue in a destroyed runway. Searchlights bean across streets in lockdown as Adler is soaked under the cover of a rainy night. Many of these graphical enhancements come with next-gen advancements, including RTX/Ray Tracing which uses light sources for realistic visibility. Moonlight penetrates blinds on windows with subsurface scattering, drawing shadows over characters peeking through. Motion blue simulates the tension from fast firefights as bullets chip off pieces of cover. A list of examples could go on for how Black Ops Cold War becomes one of the best-looking Call of Duty games to date.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

It’s worth noting that Treyarch’s game uses a different engine than Modern Warfare, giving Black Ops Cold War the benefit of improving on it. This is apparent as players can maintain a stable 60 frames per second on PS5/Xbox Series X with some glitches in their dynamic resolution. The added next-gen hardware even has enough padding for 4K resolutions, effectively giving Black Ops Cold War the crispiest details without sacrificing performance. Frame rate can significantly tank of bigger stresses in multiplayer, though it’s also dependent on player bandwidth. But the game definitely improves on Modern Warfare and offers way less choppy moments compared to current generation systems. Its biggest next-gen perk comes from detailed fog particles and screen space reflections which create shimmer off weapons and metal objects. For new PS5/Series X owners, it’s nothing short of an awesome first impression for future cutting-edge games.

But in a rare case, PC users come at a rare disadvantage as frame rates constantly stutter below 60 fps. Working with a respectable i9-9900K and RTX 2060 8GB combo, I was able to maintain 60fps on maximum Ultra settings with Ray Tracing at medium. But poor optimizations on PC make performance the worst in the multiplayer and zombies. This forced me to boost performance by turning down shadows and volumetric lighting – things console players don’t have to waste time dealing with. In my quest for 60fps, turning off Ray Tracing would ultimately bring me 120 fps and potentially higher with a 144Hz monitor. In sun-bathed areas including Satellite, RTX lighting would bring the biggest hits and cause noticeable stutters from GPU stress. This can be helped with Nvidia’s DLSS which slightly blurs image quality for a performance boost. But Treyarch could have done way better to serve PC users, who were able to enjoy less problems in Modern Warfare and Warzone. It’s poor optimization which can bring a jarring visual experience during the most intense moments where FPS matters most. In a next-gen age, PC users shouldn’t have to make graphical compromises for efficient performance. Streamers beware: going live with the game can cut FPS down by 30 so adjust accordingly.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Multiplayer)

Multiplayer becomes a real highlight of Black Ops Cold War for how it blends older games for a new online experience. Fans of the original game’s multiplayer mode will feel right at home, while veterans of Modern Warfare can quickly adjust to an identical movement system. For Treyarch, they’ve successfully went back to basics following a streak of games which relied too heavily on jet packs and gadgets. The result is a straightforward reinvention of Modern Warfare which uses its setting to evoke nostalgia. But fans might be surprised at just how identically Treyarch’s interpretation is to Infinity Ward’s.

Both use a modified graphics engine to create a seamless transition between both games, while they share the same progression systems. Players will even be able to use their Black Ops weapons over in Modern Warfare as both games are being integrated. I can’t help but notice that the connections did plenty to make Black Ops Cold War‘s multiplayer feel less unique in that sense. But Modern Warfare‘s fleshed-out systems also come with perks for a definitive Black Ops experience. A major feature includes Gunsmith, which lets players customize their guns with attachments. These also offer pros and cons which are more clearly stated in Black Ops Cold War. Players can rapidly dress their guns up for plenty of improvements in aspects like velocity, aim speed and hip fire accuracy. Green and red percentages are specific in telling players what they’re getting out of their attachments for serious differences. I especially liked Treyarch’s refined Gunsmith for its clean interface, encouraging me to always revisit my weapons and experiment early on for what works. This created a highly-enjoyable experience tailored to my own soldier.

Shaking the customizations up are the characters wielding each weapon. Operators are delivered in the exact same way as Modern Warfare. But instead of rebooted fan favourites, players can directly become Woods, Adler, Park or other familiar characters from the Black Ops universe. It’s a welcome sight for sore eyes. Confidently, Treyarch’s future content updates will only add more Operators and give players more to do in progression. Players who are keen enough to play the heck out of Black Ops Cold War‘s campaign can also unlock Operators by completing in-game challenges and other achievements. This adds more value to the single player, which often gets overshadowed by Call of Duty‘s bigger online experience. Apart from some customizable Operators at launch, we have yet to see any premium cosmetics to land. Inevitably, more skins can come for Woods and Adler in ways where players can’t grind around a paywall. This is where Modern Warfare‘s Battle Pass will be making a return when the first seasonal content drops months after launch. There, players can pay a fee to start unlocking rarer weapons, operators and name tags with a grind. I can’t help but imagine how much more restrictive the Battle Pass would be, while Black Ops Cold War‘s multiplayer is in dire need of it due to a lighter amount of content at launch. This doesn’t help with a lack of other Modern Warfare goodies, including PvE, Coop and Survival which would have been stellar additions to see in Black Ops Cold War.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Each weapon in Black Ops Cold War is a remake of the arsenal from 2010’s Black Ops. All-rounded assault rifles like the Commando are back as the XM4. The MP5 returns as a fan favourite gun with high velocity and upgradeable distance. The iconic SPAS-12 can help out in narrow tunnels and sliding up for tight close-quarters. Snipers received a noticeably slower use, making quickscoping much harder without a maxed-out ADS speed. One of Treyarch’s biggest additions was expanding secondary weapons to Shotguns and other small arms without a perk. Another grants players the ability to use every attachment on their guns for maximum stats. Each gun doesn’t pack as much of a beefy punch as their modern counterparts, but this encourages players to exercise skill and speed. This time around, factors including horizontal and vertical aiming are crucial for landing tighter hit boxes. Players should also find themselves facing moving targets who can quickly disappear out of sight.

Playing with Treyarch’s multiplayer marks the return of some pretty fun, vintage scorestreaks. The iconic RC-XD is an obtainable one early in a match and now marks on-screen enemies for easier tracking. The artillery strike has its own anachronistic Windows-inspired laptop for marking targets. The signature care package actually delivers some pretty heavy-hitting scorestreaks including a gunship and VTOL which make this a must-equip. Treyarch’s scorestreaks return to their former glory and become increasingly accessible for players of all difficulties to try out. But even without them, players online still have an array of equipment at their disposal. Black Ops Cold War takes another page from Modern Warfare for its refined Field Equipment system. Returning ones like the field mic look bulkier when deployed to detect enemies with a radius. A trophy system disables nearby enemy equipment for a worry-free infiltration to the opposite spawn. Treyarch’s SAM Turret returns as an adorable death dispenser for Spy Planes and Attack Choppers.

It’s cool to see some scorestreaks being repurposed for field equipment (while working better as timed rechargeable). The same can go for a select number of Lethal and Non-Lethal equipment. One of multiplayer’s biggest additions is the Stimshot that comes from Modern Warfare. It’s an instant classic which fully heals players and recharges quick. Players have to be more strategic about using frag grenades and stuns, now taking longer to throw by biting on the pin first. Unlike past games, they also feel much worse as players are vulnerable to gunfire from the equipment. Player draw distance is also improved with enemies being easier to spot. They also feature a useful health bar to show how much damage you’re inflicting on each enemy. But I quickly found myself relying on the enemy health bar to help determine the damage coming from a gun.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Black Ops Cold War‘s multiplayer also offers a somewhat lighter selection of maps at launch. Inspired directly from the campaign, players have eight maps which randomly load in matchmaking. But the menu can grow stale by the first few sessions as players can quickly find themselves in the same map too many times. In fast modes like Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint and Kill Confirmed, maps like Cartel can be a headache. Details like bushes can suddenly send bullets flying from hidden enemies. Others can camp from a watchtower and be given way too much cover for vantage point. In Checkmate, players can be jam-packed in a mock-airplane and shoot straight down for easy eliminations. Miami becomes an open playground for hiding behind bars and hotel rooms for a fun laser-tag style skirmish. But some of Black Ops Cold War‘s hard-hitting maps include Moscow, which feature a bombastic mix of unsuspecting enemies in every corner. Open lobbies and courtyard can spark some exciting exchanges in gunfire with enough distance for cover. Teams can benefit from long range engagements on Satellite and scope enemies out from sand dunes.

But the same intricate 80’s level design is something to admire in its multiplayer modes. Miami takes the cake as one of Black Ops Cold War‘s most detailed scenes, with a luxurious metropolitan-style hotel featuring a swimmable pool and fully furnished room for sniping. Streets are barren with a sea of cop cars acting as barely feasible cover. It’s no secret that Treyarch has added more cover and detail for most of their maps, making players much harder to eliminate. This results in drawn-out matches that often come with close ties for exciting sessions. Between a party of friends, modes like VIP and Hardpoint are incredibly fun in Miami and Garrison. VIP is a new mode which tasks players with escorting a teammate to a chopper for safe extraction. An opposing team tries to prevent the VIP from escaping in a strangely addicting blend of Tag and Manhunt. This playground-style mode is a welcome addition to multiplayer and becomes hilarious when friends have to protect each other. Some more absurd moments came from simply strolling to the chopper for an extraction while enemies stayed hidden.

Treyarch has expanded the scope of massive online battles with Combined Arms: Assault, which is a long tug-o-war between 40 players. Like Star Wars Battlefront‘s conquest mode, teams need to capture random spots to gain momentum and reach closer to victory. Opponents can do the same and push the momentum back. Assault can run from 15 to 45 minutes in a typical match, giving players a less fast-paced mode. A Domination variant shrinks the players to 24 and removes a halftime. With a buddy, I had some incredible fun playing Assault in Armada, which was specifically designed with two massive warships that players can zip across like pirates. The open-ended design also allows for swimming, using gunships and jet skis for maximum fun. I especially liked the teeter-totter score system, which can tip at any moment and encourage teams to push back by playing the objective. Beyond the familiar team deathmatch, players can progress much further in a single Assault match and practice their attention to objectives.

Black Ops Cold War‘s Combined Arms includes an even bigger Dirty Bomb mode which uses Treyarch’s own Warzone-sized map for a 40-player bonanza. Squads team up to collect uranium for powering nukes. Activating them scores points and irradiates a part of the map. This makes it harder for squads to survive and can be eliminated like Warzone. Surviving teams with the most activated dirty bomb sites win with large rewards. Players spawning/respawning also drop into the large map via parachuting. For the Cold War setting, the mode is a creative way to engage players in a unique twist for battle royale. I’m excited to see how Treyarch grows their open world map for other modes and where the Dirty Bomb mode could go next.

Thriller (Zombies)

Zombies is an iconic staple for Treyarch’s Call of Duty games since the mode was a hidden bonus in 2008’s World at War. Since then, it’s evolved into a more complex game with a deeply-connected universe and superhuman abilities. Black Ops Cold War Zombies‘ first map, Die Maschine, is a fresh start after the mainline series concluded with Tank, Nikolai, Richtofen and Takeo ending the zombie threat. Treyarch’s new universe harnesses the CIA’s intelligence to unearth a new horde at an abandoned research facility. Players are sent by Black Ops character Grigori Weaver to investigate. Veterans might feel taken back by the prospect of a brand new universe as attempted by other studios. But Treyarch’s bigger experience with Zombies comes into play here, and Die Maschine feels like an incredibly polished map with plenty to do.

A welcome change comes from no longer spawning in with the pistol. Treyarch has made players more powerful by starting off with a custom loadout. Through cross-progression, the same unlocked guns and attachments can be used prior to dropping in. It’s a change of pace beyond the humble beginnings of buying your way through survival. I never felt too overpowered, though spawning in with an XM4 or heavier LMG can do plenty of wonders when upgraded. But the ultimate perk comes from playing a long-time mode in a way players want at the start, while still having to use the map’s resources to overcome waves of undead. It’s worth mentioning that as players become more powerful, so do Treyarch’s signature zombies. They’ve been given a terrifying new makeover with tons of unsettling details, giving the mode more of a horror-edge as it first did in 2008. Zombies are also harder to take down with the addition of new guns, as their health has been slightly buffed. Treyarch has the benefit of ten years with their past DLCs, throwing in new and familiar enemy types with a twist. A familiar “fetch me their souls” will spawn hellhounds, now imbued with toxic Nova 6 goop when killed. A large boss occasionally appears and can deliver one-hit kill if players get too close. Those who do manage to take this behemoth down won’t be happy to see it split in half as two smaller mini-bosses.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Of course, the zombies will also be progressively worse in numbers (as they should be). Treyarch has made of the most challenging maps yet, with the difficulty really ramping up by round 11. This is where zombies can come in mobs and players start to weave past zombies before clobbering them from a distance. Treyarch has clearly tweaked how players can heal and made it even harder to get breathing room in later rounds. It heightens the tension of being boxed-in by a mob, especially as open areas start to get too packed. But players are also gifted with Modern Warfare‘s own sliding and nimble climbing mechanics for a chance to parkour past zombies. Die Maschine’s intricate level design starts off at an even more open-ended remake of Nacht Der Untoten, which is now the spawn point. Players can explore the entire map in a welcome blast to the past, while it teases an even bigger map to follow. In a nod to Ascension, Treyarch has given this mysterious location an underground lab. Powered by next-generation hardware, it’s incredibly unsettling to head down a dark cave and see zombies appear in your flashlight. But as players are left to explore the desolate lab, players are in touch with Weaver and other CIA contacts who give players a radar and objectives. It’s another slight, welcome change which gives newcomers a clear step-by-step direction on opening up Die Maschine and completing a series of easter eggs. This gives teams an even bigger reason to cooperate with turning on the station’s power to unlock more benefits.

In true zombies fashion, elements like Perk-A-Colas, jingling Mystery box and power-ups are back. Without reservations, these work exactly as they did in every Treyarch Zombies experience. Players have an easier time finding Juggernog and Stamin-Up at the start, making these essential before getting a mystery gun for $950. Weapons now come with info on power and rareness like Modern Warfare, while wonder weapons like the Ray Gun can be upgraded to powerful degrees. The Pack-A-Punch machine also returns, while players can upgrade a gun more than twice. This adds an extra layer for players, who have to exponentially earn cash to pay for bigger and badder upgrades. But I feel as if Treyarch has attempted to bloat the game’s sole map with too many shortchanges. Dying without cash also gives players little to no chance of surviving since most perks have to be reobtained after a full death.

Taking a direct note from Stranger Things, players can head into the Aether and access a parallel version of Die Maschine. Here, they can access hidden areas of maps to obtain multiple parts for building the Pack-A-Punch. More components are key items which are needed to generate a large core to progress the bigger story. As cool as the mechanic is, the Aether is also highly accessible for players. Some players might feel annoyed with seeing the transition of tunneling back into the dimension way too frequently by other teammates and disrupts the flow. A new exfiltration system now lets players escape with their lives every 11 rounds, adding a new thrill from running away and holding off until the chopper arrives.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – Treyarch

Die Maschine has plenty of variations in its story and the way players can experiment with magical field equipment and loadouts. Treyarch has masterfully crafted a big experience in its first map with all of the elements which revolutionized the overall Zombies mode with every new update. I’m more excited to see how content will add new maps to the library, bolstered by solid matchmaking and cross-progression for good measure. Players looking for a change of pace can play the Dead Ops Arcade 3 mode, which boils the experience down into a hilarious top-down shooter. It’s fun mowing down zombies with friends as a giant silverback returns for revenge following the comical events of Dead Ops 2.

Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is a wonderful return to form for Treyarch, who have adopted some of the best gameplay mechanics from Modern Warfare and blended it with a fan-favourite theme which delivers. The campaign gives players a short, but sweet spy movie which can often feel too by-the-numbers. Treyarch’s refined multiplayer comes with a rewarding progression across new and classic modes. Traditional team deathmatch, hardpoint and domination feel like a refreshing update from the 2010 game’s core experience. There’s just enough modern flair to give the ambitious Dirty Bomb and Combined Arms modes a try with friends, offering a slower but strategic way to compete. The content will only improve with content updates, which also translate to a highly replayable Zombies experience. Die Maschine is an engaging crash course, with loads of added information to guide players along the way. In an annual release, Treyarch has managed to pull one of the series’ most compelling settings back and find a new and creative chapter to tell using history and neon-soaked synthwaves.

It’s good to have you back, Black Ops.

Final Thoughts

More From CGMagazine

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review 6
Developer: Treyarch Publisher: Activision Played On: PC Platform(s): PC (Microsoft Windows) , Xbox Series X/S , Xbox One , PlayStation 5 , PlayStation 4 Genre: Shooter ESRB Rating: M (Mature) MSRP: $79.99 Release Date: 13/11/2020
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