Initial release date: November 13th, 2020 Director(s): Dan Vondrak Engine: IW Engine 5 Composer: Jack Wall Developers: Treyarch, Raven Software, Beenox Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
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"Review Copy Provided by Activision"
Every year we get a new entry in the Call of Duty franchise and often there’s little change between releases other than some game mechanics and the pacing. I often just pick up the game every year for the story campaign and often never touch it once I’m done. When Black Ops Cold War had it’s multiplayer beta release late in 2020, I took the chance and hopped on it and decided I’d give the multiplayer mode a chance for once and when I did that I got HOOKED. The maps were fun and the weapon customization was epic to me so I figured “ok, We need to give this game a chance for once” and so this game became on the horizon of my radar. Fast forward a couple months and I was provided a review copy of the game for Xbox Series X and I decided to dive in and see if it lives up to the hype and in this review I hope to let you know if it does indeed live up to that hype or if it needs another year in the oven.
Black Ops Cold War is set between the events of Call of Duty Black Ops (2010) and Call of Duty Black Ops II (2012) with the focus being on the pursuit of Perseus a soviet spy who’s goal is to take down the United States and shift the power over to the Soviet Union. To prevent this; Alex Mason, Frank Woods, and James Hudson all return to bring in Perseus. They are joined by “Bell” who was recruited by CIA officer Russell Adler and his multination task force.
Black Ops Cold War plays like your standard Call of Duty game and that is not a bad thing as it makes it easy to pick up the controller and dive right into the action.
You have 3 different modes by default for this entry: campaign, multiplayer, and the series staple of zombies.
The campaign has 16 missions that you can run through in roughly 4 and a half hours. You will need to create dossier for your character “Bell” with you needing to give the character a first and last name as well as decide on their skin color and gender of which you have the option to select between Classified, Male, Female, and Non-Binary. After selecting those you will have to select what Bell’s psychological profile which will determine what your stat bonuses will be such as increase ADS (Aim Down Sights) speed, Quick reloading, Extra clips, and more. You will need to select 2 profiles and won’t be able to change them out once you finalize your character profile.
Each mission runs the gambit of being a typical run from point A to B to initiate this or that scripted events that unfold. The missions will have several optional side objectives that you can partake in from finding informants to finding keys and snapping shots of maps and more that unlock more evidence that can be used to dive into the optional missions. Some missions where you have to go after certain targets will give you the option of how you want to interrogate or question them with you often having the option of either letting them live or executing them.
After the intro mission, you will be dropped into the CIA base of operations which will allow to select where you want to go to next by selecting either main missions or side missions which give more details on the story as well as allowing you to replay earlier missions to gain more of the items needed for evidence.
The few things that set this games campaign apart from the other is the ability to grab enemies and use them as hostages with you being able to kill them immediately or strap a grenade to them and push them into enemies to take them all out. If you decide to do neither then there will be a bar that will deplete itself over time and if you don’t do anything then the enemy will free themselves. There will also be instances where you will need to unlock doors by rotating the right analog stick to a specific area in order to pick each section of the locks.
Moving over to Multiplayer, you have TONS of options to choose from such as the standard death match, team death match, Kill Confirmed, free-for-all, and more with these standard modes have 8-10 players in these matches.
The modes with anywhere 24 to 40 players in the lobby are Fireteam: Dirty Bomb, Combined Arms: Domination, and Combined Arms: Assault. You can customize your loadouts, customize each individual weapon that you have to alter each of its stats, and even change out your operator which is essentially a character skin.
The last mode to speak of is Zombies mode which has become one of the staples of the franchise. You’ll find some of the maps from previous entries Zombie mode that are revamped to give them an updated look and feel. You’ll also find a new addition added to this mode is the ability to bring in the custom loadouts that you have in multiplayer mode over to the Zombies mode. Another new addition is the weapon rarity system that gives you a sense of progression similar to what you would expect in a MMO.
You can also access at the main menu the free-to-play Warzone game and Modern Warfare (2019) if you own that game already.
Hot take: This game doesn’t look that impressive graphically and even less so on next gen consoles even with the Ray Tracing and higher framerate options. The game’s in game graphics for the campaign are either hit or miss with there being times when the environments look good if not decent and then there are times when the game loads low quality textures and after a bit you’ll see the higher quality textures loading in and this is especially noticeable with facial detail and character model hair.
Aside from those issues the games’ ambiance and horizons look stunning especially if you are able to look at this game in 1440p or 4K with HDR turned on. The models for the characters are well detailed and look good for last gen models, not necessarily current generation as nothing in this game honestly takes advantage of the power of the Xbox Series X or PS5. Yes you have the option for Ray Tracing and higher frame rates on the new generation consoles and they do make the game a lot better, however, there aren’t any graphical updates that make this feel like a true next generation title and honestly the game looks like a noticeable step down from Modern Warfare.
Environments and weapons look good so there’s that right?
The games audio is good with superb voice acting making every character seem believable and every weapon sounding like their real-life counterparts. What about the game’s music? Well its fine, it just sounds like a Hollywood summer blockbuster popcorn action flick music. Nothing stands out or is remarkable as it is all very serviceable. There are times when you want to stealth around or use the audio cues if you have got some really good pair of headphones and you’ll be thrown off when the game goes from just the ambience of the environments to out of no where loud action movie music. It’s just abrupt and annoying when it happens.
Nothing really much to say here.
I already touched on earlier about the graphic; I still think it could be a lot better especially for the new generation of consoles as I am reviewing this on the Xbox Series X and aside from the Ray Tracing and higher refresh rate the game honestly doesn’t look much if at all different than the Xbox One X version.
The texture issues with character models definitely is something that needs to be patched because it’s really something to see when you see face and hair textures look rough and then good. There are even some issues with effects like smoke and fog that look unnatural at times with terrible dithering effects.
I just wish the game felt like it was doing more than the phenomenal Modern Warfare instead of feeling like a yearly rehash.
Call of Duty is a yearly series with often times little to no difference between the releases save for a campaign that follows up a previous entry or, as in the case of Black Ops IV, forgoes the campaign altogether. Gameplay is tweaked here and there between entries and with many games having forgettable storylines, you’ll often find yourself coming back to the multiplayer mode because that is honestly the main reason people pick up COD for and in that area it usually always delivers. In the case of Black Ops Cold War, Activision seriously nailed it with a ton of different modes for you to dive into and enjoy and play with the community, so you’ll never have a lack of something to do in this game giving infinite replayability. While I cannot say the story is remarkable by any means; the gameplay of Black Ops Cold War along with the enumerable multiplayer modes and more all make this one of the best shooters and games out there for you to dive into no matter what you play it on.