CALL of Duty is back with a brand new entry to the franchise – Black Ops: Cold War.
We’ve spent hours playing the game, trying all the modes and the Campaign too. So is it any good?
Call of Duty Cold War Campaign review
By Harry Pettit, Senior Digital Technology and Science Reporter
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, the latest first person shooter from Activision, features a bombastic campaign mode that for all its gusto doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Set during the ’80s (with flashbacks to the Vietnam War era), the sixth instalment in the Black Ops series gets off to a white-knuckle start but quickly bogs players down in stealth missions that spoil the pacing.
You play as a CIA ally who tags along with a team of special operatives as they try to take down Russian spy Perseus, who’s apparently based on a real spy who infiltrated the Manhattan Project during World War II.
Mowing down Russians, Cubans, Vietnamese and frankly anyone with a whiff of communism about them, the group lurches from one far-flung location to the next on a quest to stop Perseus from blowing up Europe.
All the while you’re left trying to figure out whether the Bond-villain-esque Russian or your western allies are your biggest threat…
The campaign throws up some genuinely breath-taking moments – particularly when the action comes at you thick and fast – and the graphics on the next-gen consoles are astoundingly beautiful.
I played Black Ops Cold War (God, that’s a mouthful) on the Xbox Series S and found myself regularly stopping to admire the scenery in delicious 4K – something I can’t say I’ve done playing a Call of Duty in a long time.
However, for all it gets right, the game’s steadfast commitment to playing out like a Cold War spy thriller is ultimately what lets it down.
You have to stealth your way through some segments, and while this works in part – particularly during a Hitman-esque mission in which you infiltrate the KGB’s headquarters – it often ends up slowing the game to a crawl.
I play Call of Duty games for an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that’s over in a few hours, not to creep past enemies at a snail’s pace.
It’s a bit like going the cinema (remember those days?) expecting Rambo and instead getting a bad Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy remake.
It can be a little jarring to veer from a mission in which you gun down hundreds of soldiers to one in which you progress the pot by skimming through tinny audio files on a Russian computer.
As well as stealth, developers Raven and Treyarch introduced a handful of other new gameplay elements to give the series a bit of a shakeup.
These include dialogue choices to make as you speak to NPCs, though these don’t have much of an effect on the game’s final outcome.
Missions are accessed via an “evidence board” at your team’s Berlin headquarters, where you can access short side missions that you’re encouraged to engage in only after solving a short puzzle beforehand.
It’s definitely different, and it’ll work for some players, but most will see it as an annoying barrier to what they really want: To jump straight into the action.
Overall, I appreciate what the developers were trying to do with Black Ops Cold War (that never gets easier to read), but it feels a little disjointed.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that due to the coronavirus pandemic staff were forced to work from home at a critical point in development. The fact the game functions at all is a credit to all those who worked on it.
However, while Black Ops Cold War hits a few high notes, the move towards vanilla stealth gameplay and pointless dialogue choices grates in a game a mere five hours long.
I’m sure most Call of Duty fans will be perfectly happy playing it, but the shooter feels like a misfire that could have been so much more.
- Call of Duty Cold War – Xbox / PS5
Call of Duty Cold War Multiplayer review
By Sean Keach, Digital Technology and Science Editor
I’ve poured hours into Multiplayer, passed the first Prestige, and racked up thousands of kills.
So I feel like I’ve given it a good whack – and I’m impressed so far.
The initial Multiplayer map offering isn’t huge, but they’re largely great. And more will inevitably be added over time.
Checkmate is probably my favourite – it’s an aircraft hangar with long sightlines but plenty of close-quarters combat too.
The best bit is that it’s a fairly small map, so you’re never far from the action.
That’s in contrast to Miami, which looks incredible but feels bigger and more complex – which means more running.
Satellite is a great map if you’re into sniping, but it’s very open – which means aerial scorestreaks are particularly powerful.
But it’s got a great sand dune segment that adds a fun duck-and-dodge element to matches.
What all the maps share is their visual quality: textures, draw distances and ray-tracing all make for brilliant environments.
I’m using a high-spec Dell Alienware R10 gaming PC, and frame-rates are typically in the 70-90fps range at max settings in 4K.
In fact, I find it runs a little smoother than last year’s Modern Warfare, which may be linked to DLSS – a graphics feature that uses machine learning to boost quality more efficiently.
The usual modes are back: Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint.
This time there are some great additions, however.
Combined Arms modes are set up for 12v12, and take place on bigger maps – including the giant ship battle seen in the trailers.
It’s fun and action-packed, with each map perfectly sized to make sure you don’t go too long without conflict.
VIP Escort is another thrilling entry: it’s like Search & Destroy, but with a human bomb.
The VIP is randomly selected on your team each round, and you have to help them get to an exfil location.
There’s plenty of strategy, and a good thrill in abandoning your team as the VIP to sneak behind enemy lines and escape unnoticed.
It’s a bit like Warzone, with teams dropping in from an airplane, collecting loot and working in squads.
But it’s capped at 40 players, split into 10 four-person teams.
You have to work to collect uranium from around the map, fill up dirty bombs, and then detonate them.
The team that racks up the most points by doing this wins.
It’s loads of fun, and more fast-paced than Warzone – much more akin to typical Multiplayer.
But the strategy and the scale of the game is very Warzone-like, and it’s sure to be a smash-hit.
Guns, scorestreaks and attachments feel reasonably balanced right now.
As many players have pointed out, the MP5 does feel very strong.
But I’ve found that the M16 rifle largely counters it over any distance beyond close-quarters – which seems fair.
That said, I think the MP5 probably could do with bringing down a notch, at least over range. Maybe some more recoil or damage fall-off would be the best option.
Sniping is snappy and powerful, and the long nightlines make it tempting to keep a rifle on hand.
I said in my original beta review that many of the weapons feel quite weak without attachments, and I still think that’s fair.
But you earn attachments very quickly and they don’t reset upon prestige, so I don’t think this is a big issue at all.
Some of the movement mechanics have changed.
Sliding is fast and takes you straight into a crouch – and crouching itself is very fast.
There’s an aim-down-sight delay if you flop into prone, making drop-shotting more difficult.
Some might not like that, but I think it changes the Multiplayer in a positive way.
Who wants to play a game where everyone just falls to the floor every time they enter combat?
You can still drop-shot using an attachment if you’re desperate to anyway.
I’ve noticed a few early bugs, including chopper gunners taking long routes on the “mini” versions of larger maps, and issues with my real level appearing higher in “After Action” reports.
But these will likely be ironed out in the coming days, and they’re not game-breaking.
Overall, I’m impressed with Cold War.
The combat is fast, but not excessively so. The maps feel fitting with the genre, and keep a good pace of play.
There’s a great variety of modes on offer, with player counts that will suit everyone.
And once Warzone drops in early December, Cold War will become even more brilliant.
- Call of Duty Cold War – Xbox / PS5
OVERALL SCORE: 4/5