Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Another year, and another installment into the Call of Duty series. With Raven Studios and Treyarch Shanghai at the helm, we dive back into espionage and deceit for a new chapter in the Black Ops sub-series. The change with Black Ops Cold War though, is the fact that it has essentially rendered most of the Black Ops games non-canonical, being a direct follow up to the original Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Black Ops Cold War started with some bumps and hiccups, and by no means is the perfect game. For a bit, I was hitting a weird glitch that would turn off my controller and not be able to sync until I did a full reboot of the console. This appears to have since been fixed, so no harm, no foul, right? The campaign mode in Black Ops Cold War is one of the shorter ones in the series, but for good reason. While it may just be a nice quick completion for anyone who just wants to get it out of the way, it will see various playthroughs for others. The campaign sees the return of fan-favourite characters, such as Mason, Woods, and Huddson. It also sees two new main characters in Adler, and your primary playable character, Bell.

At least it didn’t ask me to blacklight his bedroom.

Throughout the campaign, you’ll be faced with decisions that will affect the outcome of the story. You’ll decide who lives and dies in some cases, and whether or not the bad guy, codename Perseus, even gets challenged. On top of this, you’ll have side missions you can face to take out those closest to Perseus. All missions can be chosen while in game as well, so no more needing to back out and re-pick any missions if you want to tackle one again.

One major thing to Black Ops Cold War is mission variety. There is a massive change in pace as you progress through the story. Missions with lime limits, controlling a gunship, and even a mission where your goal is only to frame someone for being a mole. While most/all missions will see you fighting your way through groups of enemies, everything that surrounds the missions is handled rather smart.

Take a load off and play some arcade games that you can find through the campaign.

The use of music in Black Ops Cold War is another big step up. Gone are the days of constantly using Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” to depict the Vietnam War. This time around during car and helicopter rides, you’ll hear songs like Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In the Sky”, Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, and Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”, alongside a few others. All of these songs are relevant to their timeframe, and were popular in America at the time. A smaller detail that any music fan should appreciate.

Next up is multiplayer. Now, the first thing to note is quality over quantity will always make sense in video games. The campaign is already proof of that. Shorter, but one of the best in the series. Black Ops Cold War Multiplayer features the least number of maps at launch in a modern Call of Duty title. That being said, do the maps feature a high enough quality to justify the lack of quantity? Most the maps in Black Ops Cold War are built for the smaller modes such hardpoint, team deathmatch, search and destroy, and so on. A couple maps were made for the big team battles, these being Crossroads and Armada. Then two more for Fire Team, which features ten teams of four players: Alpine and Ruka. Two of the smaller, and one being the smallest at launch, multiplayer maps are simply cut down versions of Crossroads and Armada.

The return of Nuketown, means the return of the two bedrooms.

While there are a couple maps that are quite fun to play, and the maps do feel generally balanced towards multiple guntypes, this is overall the weakest batch of launch maps in a Call of Duty title. That being said, good ol’ Nuketown had made yet another return, but this time it appears it is only for Multiplayer, so sorry zombies fans, no Nuketown this time around.

The guns and attachments have already started to see some re-calibration as well. On launch, the only gun being used was the MP5, but thanks to some tweaks, it seems like there is much more variety coming out now. I mentioned in our First Impressions post for the multiplayer that the M16 was looking overpowered as well. That has also seen a bit of a balancing between the beta and launch.

For the most part, no gun in Black Ops Cold War feels brutally overpowered, but some, like the shotguns, launchers, and light machine guns, feel mostly useless. My one biggest issue in last year’s Modern Warfare was constantly being killed by the RPG. In Black Ops Cold War, I’ll be surprised if you ever get a kill with either of the launchers. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if some of the camo challenges didn’t require it. Now that they’re a secondary weapon, shotguns feel like they’ve been hit the hardest, needing to be touching the person to be a one shot kill. Then light machine guns are just too clunky to be used on any of the maps.

My character looks much more pained to be doing this than the person with a knife in their throat.

The scorestreaks and perks again, all feel like they’ve been balanced mostly between the beta and launch, and between launch and the first couple of weeks. All except Flak Jacket, which makes all explosives deal less, except it feels like all explosives deal next to nothing. This in turn makes the perk a necessity, and diminishes any point in having any explosives in your class.

Last, but certainly not least is Zombies. This time around, there is only one map at launch, a few different zombie-themed game modes, and a whole new story. First up, is the currently PlayStation only mode, Onslaught. Thanks to Sony and Activision’s deal, PlayStation owners will have sole access to Onslaught until November 2021. This means around the time the next Call of Duty installment comes out, players on other systems will finally be able to jump in as well.

Pack-a-punch makes everything better.

Onslaught sees two players fight against zombies in a small area of a multiplayer map. As you kill zombies you feed an anomaly, a small glowing orb thing, until it’s full and then it moves. Moving outside of the anomaly’s area will deal damage to you, so you’ll need to keep up with it. Every so often, a boss/elite zombie will show up, called a Megaton, which you’ll need to defeat to move on. Megatons are strong, have an AoE attack, and when defeated split into two and each needs to be defeated again.

Onslaught overall is pretty easy if you have two decent players, and seeing as the zombies are incredibly slow to spawn in, it’s not a very good mode to grind levels or anything in. Since the mode is played on the basic multiplayer maps as well, it doesn’t add too much of a new experience and definitely isn’t a great selling point for someone to get Black Ops Cold War on PlayStation instead of Xbox or PC.

Next up is the return of Dead Ops Arcade, the top down twin stick shooter mode. Dead Ops Arcade has been one of the weirder successful side games for the Black Ops series, originally being an unlockable Easter egg in the original Black Ops. Dead Ops Arcade sees a fully fleshed out mini-story about a pissed off mama silverback who’s out to ruin your day. Each area sees zombies flooding in from each side until you and your friends reach the end and fight off the damn dirty ape.

Fighting your way up a volcano in a twin stick shouldn’t be this hard

While definitely not taking itself seriously, Dead Ops Arcade can be quite a bit of a challenge, and certainly has the dedication put into it by the developers. With friends it’s a ton of fun. With pickups like the ray gun, rocket launcher, death and war machines, plus the ability to go first-first person, it’s hard to not enjoy yourself.

Finally, the return of Zombies, and the turn of them being Nazi Zombies. Again, originally a side, just for fun, mode back in Call of Duty: World At War, this new map feels like a full reset of the Zombies storyline. For fans of the previous games, who paid attention to the Easter Eggs and trying to complete the stories, this means no more Aether or Chaos storylines.

The “new” Zombies mode, entitled Die Maschine, is a full reimagining of the very first Zombies map, Nacht Der Untoten. Although, it may not seem this way right from the get go. Spawning in the year that is visible from the window, you would never guess this was the same map until you get inside the building and start looking around. It was a very neat experience as someone who’s been following the Zombies games since the beginning.

You guys look a little chilly

Zombies once again allows you to use a created class, which for the original fans, no more starting with just a pistol. This time around, Zombies also features its own challenges and camos for guns, meaning if you want everything unlocked for your favourites, you can’t ignore this mode. In your create-a-class, you’ll also pick an ability to use, this included an ice blast to freeze zombies, an energy mine to blow anything in proximity sky high, and various others. This iteration also sees the return of perks Speed Cola and Juggernog.

This knife is cool, but it’s time to hit the box.

One more new change is the ability to upgrade your perks, gun types, and abilities. Playing the game will unlock Aetherium crystals, which are spent to make perks, guns, and abilities even more reliable. Then there’s weapon rarities, for those familiar with Warzone, you’ll be used to having rarities attached to all your weapons. This now comes to Zombies and dictated how many attachments it has. It’s not a huge thing to worry too much about. The last major change from older games is the ability to hold two of the same weapon. Really like the Tundra sniper rifle? Why not buy two!

The new map itself features a rather large above ground area, a twisting and turning underground section, new armoured zombies, and the aforementioned Megaton elite zombie. On top of this, players can enter the aether, which is a pallet swapped version of the map with a few new shortcuts, and some other secrets, floating around. The map, as always, features an unlockable Easter egg song, and has two seperate ways to end the map without dying. Every five rounds, starting at round eleven, players can exfil, a chopper will pick them up from an area and all you need to do is survive. The other is to beat the final boss, which is easier said than done because getting to the final boss isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

The Aether just feels like a Beatles fever dream.

Another year, another Call of Duty entry, and while at this point in time Black Ops Cold War doesn’t stand out from the crowd, the roadmap Activision has laid out certainly looks interesting. With loads of free content coming soon, including new maps for Multiplayer and Zombies, the full potential of the game feels like it’s yet to be unveiled.


Graphics: 8.0

While the in-game graphics seem pretty well on par with the previous installments, the attention to detail in the maps, and the cutscenes are nothing to turn your nose up to.

Gameplay: 8.5

Tried and true FPS style with some fixes from the previous game. Sliding no longer seems to be the meta when facing an opponent.

Sound: 9.0

The guns sound nice and your character sounds heavy, as he should given what soldiers need to carry. The use of music in the campaign is great.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Some obvious things are missing for instance a variety or maps or maybe a few more campaign missions. Even one additional Zombies map could have made a world of difference for anyone who isn’t overly keen on multiplayer.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was provided by the publisher.