It’s that time of the year again that we get a new Call of Duty game. That’s not a complaint… in fact, I eagerly anticipate each new release, with the stellar campaigns and engrossing multiplayer modes always a big treat to play through to close out the year. This year’s entry feels a bit more significant too, with the new generation of consoles bringing with it new innovations and more power.
Does Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War take advantage of those? Well, it certainly does on the PlayStation 5, where the increased graphical fidelity and clever DualSense features help establish the game as another impressive release in the series.
My personal highlight of any Call of Duty release has always been the single player campaign, so I’m happy to report that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s is a doozy. It takes place after the events of the original Black Ops too, meaning you’ll see some familiar faces and embrace similar themes as you delve deeper into the ongoing tension between the US and… well… anyone who looks to bring harm to the US, really. This time around it’s a Soviet operative known only as ‘Perseus’, and believe me, there’s one heck of an action-packed adventure to be had hunting them down.
The Call of Duty series has always embraced a sense of variety within its campaigns, with all sorts of different missions on offer that’ll have you going all-guns blazing, sneaking around with a sniper, or even controlling a vehicle to take out foes. The same applies here too, though it feels a bit more meaningful at times – especially when you consider that espionage was very much at the forefront of the Cold War. It means that there are plenty of moments throughout the game where being quiet, sneaky, and utilising information more than your weaponry can make more of a difference. Of course, it’s full to the brim with high-octane set pieces that are as chaotic as ever too, but there’s a balance here that feels befitting of the era.
There’s even room for the player to make decisions that can affect how events in the campaign play out as well as some side objectives to complete, which is pretty neat. It’s worth nothing that it shouldn’t take long to beat (I did it in under three hours on my first playthrough), so having these does bring a bit more replayability to the campaign and give you that extra bit of incentive to tackle it more than once. Of course, playing on the harder difficulties is always a motivation too, with the slick design of the game certainly catering for those who want to give themselves a bit more challenge. There are some absolutely fantastic levels to be found in the campaign that will prove memorable to players (especially during the intense Vietnam sections), so replaying the game is a treat in itself anyway.
Overall, it’s a great campaign and one I had a lot of fun playing through – both from a narrative and gameplay perspective. It’s a shame that it couldn’t be a little bit longer, though it’s hard to complain too much when you consider that the last Black Ops game didn’t even have a proper single player campaign…
Whilst single player is my preference in the series, I still find myself spending hours upon hours blasting away at online rivals in each game’s multiplayer mode. That was no different in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, where I’ve once again found myself addicted to free-for-alls (a traditional favourite of mine) as I hunt down other players.
It adopts a lot of the same mechanics seen in previous Call of Duty releases, with an abundance of game modes on offer, a ton of weaponry which can be fine-tuned in the Gunsmith, and a progression system that constantly rewards players with new options to utilise in further matches. The maps are all well-designed and capture the chaos of multiplayer perfectly too, with all eight offering varied battlegrounds for the action to take place.
That’s not to say that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War doesn’t bring some new modes to the fray though. Combined Arms sees a bigger focus on using vehicles to complete your objectives for example, whether that’s when simply traversing maps or blasting out some heavy artillery upon your foes. It’s satisfyingly destructive and feels fresh, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time with the more traditional ‘boots on the ground’ gameplay.
Fancy a bigger scale battle without having to dive into Warzone? Fireteams might be for you, with the forty-player mode putting players into four squads of ten and having them face off against each other in big battles where teamwork is vital to succeed. It’s mission-based so there’s a bit more to it than just killing foes, with the grander scale of the mode adding a real sense of tension to each battle. It’s a really addictive mode that’ll suit players who want a little bit more than just a quick and simple multiplayer romp.
There’s something for everyone across the multiplayer really, with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War offering pretty much everything you’d expect from the series. There’s not a whole lot of innovation, but why change what isn’t broken? I’m sure players will be happy with the offering this year and with additional content due to arrive over the next year, there’ll be plenty to keep them playing for some time.
Are you one of the many Call of Duty players who only cares about the series’ famed Zombies mode? Well, this year’s rendition of the undead slaying is as good as ever, with players able to take their own loadouts into the mode rather than rely solely on the weapons you can purchase. It’s a nice touch, especially since it allows players to cater the mode to their own tastes, whilst it also implements the multiplayer progression in a meaningful way. Much like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s other modes, there’s plenty of fun to be had from Zombies – albeit with a co-op twist, with up to three friends able to join you on your battle.
It’s a bit of a shame that there’s only one Zombies map available right now, but it’s pretty meaty with plenty to see. More maps are due to come in the future too, whilst all of the mechanics we’ve seen in previous entries of the mode are refined here to just make it feel satisfying to play. It’s definitely something that I’ll be coming back to in the future.
Oh, and Dead Ops Arcade makes a return too, allowing players to play in a top-down twin-stick shooting mode whilst utilising wacky power ups and occasionally partaking in some 2D platforming. It’s a weird mode that I admittedly didn’t love, but hey, it’s an interesting addition nonetheless.
I played through Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War on the PlayStation 5, so I got to play with all of the ‘next-gen’ goodness of improved visuals and the DualSense controller features. The controller gave each weapon their own different feel, which felt pretty wonderful in game – whether you’re unloading a whole magazine upon your foes or hitting them with a swift shotgun shot, you’ll FEEL the difference. You can expect a bunch of different sounds to come out of the controller too, which helps make for a more immersive experience overall. If games like Call of Duty continue to utilise the DualSense in such innovative and fun ways, it’s going to make it easy to decide which platform I’ll be getting my games on in the future…
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a lot of fun to play thanks to its exceptionally thrilling campaign and addictive multiplayer modes. Sure, I do wish the campaign was a little bit longer and I’m looking forward to seeing some new maps come to Zombies and multiplayer, but there’s still plenty here to keep Call of Duty fans running and gunning for some time.
Add to that some lovely looking visuals and an impressive implementation of the DualSense features and you’ll quickly find that Call of Duty’s debut on the PlayStation 5 is a mighty successful one.
Developer: Treyarch, Raven Software
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC