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Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War Review (Xbox Series X)

by on November 23, 2020
Details
 
Release Date

Nov. 13th, 2020

Developer

Treyarch; Beenox
Publisher: Activision

 

As another installment to the Call of Duty franchise arrives, I can’t help but think about how challenging it must be to work on this franchise.  It must be very challenging to keep things fresh while keeping mechanics and story the way fans expect them to be.  While I’m not a huge fan of having an installment every year, Activision will most likely keep it that way (and reap all the monetary benefits from it).  So how does this year’s entry stack up to other Black Ops games in the past?  It actually holds up pretty well thanks to a few new mechanics that are a welcome addition to the franchise.  Let’s look at the single-player campaign first.

Campaign

The tricky part with continuing the Black Ops saga is displacing a sense of reality when it comes to timelines.  As you recall, the story first starting back in the ’60s with Woods and Mason gunning down operatives and getting nose deep into nefarious plots and government conspiracies.  So seeing these guys run and gun in the early ’80s takes a little getting used to. After all, if we speculate about their age and the timeline, we have to assume they’re in their 40s or 50s, right?  Despite how long they have been in action (and they have the gray hair to show for it), it’s pretty awesome to see them back in action.

Except, you don’t spend a ton of time with them.  In fact, you play as a different operative code-named Bell.  At the start of the game, you have the chance to provide your name and gender for Bell’s classified document.  In essence, you get to provide the background for Bell.  Not only that, you can pick 2 perks that will predominately stay with you in the game.  This is a very welcome feature since you have the chance to pick perks that fit your style of play.  I immediately picked extra health and ammo because I can use all the help I can get.

The story centers around the search for a mysterious operative named Pegasus.  For the past 20 years, he has been at the center of terrorist activity, spanning from the Vietnam War to the early 80s.  He is once again a threat to the world as he gains access to nuclear weapons that will change the course of history.  Bell is a member of an elite task force that includes Woods and Mason, and your mission is to stop Pegasus once and for all.

As I mentioned in last year’s Modern Warfare review, Call of Duty is best when it provides missions that are outside the norm.  Sure, the high adrenaline missions are still there for you to tackle.  But anytime a mission allows you to do things differently is a welcome addition.  In this case, there are a few missions that really let you dive into the espionage side of things.  From infiltrating a potential meetup of targets to taking the reigns of a Russian officer in a high-security KGB facility, the espionage side of things is a massive highlight in the campaign.

Speaking of the operation in the KGB headquarters, this is by far the highlight of the campaign.  Not only is it a tense operation, but you have multiple pathways that you can choose in order to accomplish your mission.  You can choose to persuade specific individuals or do things a little more nefarious to get the job done.  It’s a ton of fun to replay and try different pathways to accomplish your mission.  And, of course, the end of this particular mission provides some excellent close-quarters combat and massive shootouts.

Another highlight is the link between collectibles and side quests.  There are 2 optional missions that you can tackle, but the only way to do them right is to find clues in the main campaign.  Not only do you have to find them, but you have to decipher them in order to find the correct information.  Doing these side missions correctly makes a difference in how the ending of the game plays out.  There are multiple endings, so it would be in your best interest to replay things and see the differences between them.  I, for one, loved that there was a purpose in finding collectibles.  And I’m curious to see if future DLC missions are possible that allow you to find clues and do more side quests with Woods and Mason.

I know that campaigns can be an afterthought in Call of Duty since the majority of fans love multiplayer and zombies.  But I really enjoyed this one.  It’s pretty quick to complete, and some of the twists are a little silly at the end, but it’s well worth it for the mix of high octane shoot outs and quiet espionage moments.

Multiplayer

This is it.  The bread and butter of Call of Duty.  No matter which entry, you have to get the multiplayer right.  And while some may not agree with me, I like the direction they went this year.  I find that overcomplicating things leads to disgruntled fans.  In many ways, Cold War’s multiplayer is simpler.  Simpler mechanics, maps, and modes are the name of the game here.  But I know that I’m a different type of player.  So will the majority of players like these changes?  Or will Treyarch need to return to the drawing board?

It’s kind of silly to review multiplayer at launch because changes over time will undoubtedly occur.  You need to continue to add maps and modes to keep players engaged.  Currently, the modes are fine.  Most of the popular ones, like Team Deathmatch, benefit from the simpler and smaller maps.  The matches are fast-paced, especially if play on a next-gen console or high-end PC which benefits from high frame rates and quick load times.

There are some larger maps that are ideal for Domination.  But even these maps feel smaller and simpler compared to maps in Modern Warfare.  Again, I’m fine with that as Multiplayer has and always will be an area that I personally struggle in.  I’m more prone to run and gun style of play, so these maps are great for me.  However, I can see others being pretty frustrated with it.

Other modes for the larger maps are Assault (like Dominion, but you fight over 1 control point), VIP Escort (where you have to try and work together to protect the VIP through extraction zones), and Fireteam: Dirty Bomb (10 teams of 4 place uranium in bomb locations).  These modes can be fun if you play with a group with headphones and are willing to talk.  Which, of course, can be hard to find.

Multiplayer can be very fun and very frustrating, which is what Call of Duty is all about.  As of right now, I appreciate the direction it is going when it comes to simplifying maps and modes.  But it won’t be for everyone, and the development team will need to add maps that will appeal to both sides.

Zombies

Zombie mode has always been hit or miss with me.  As I get older, I find it harder and harder to find groups to consistently run through Zombies.  It’s a shame because playing with friends can be super rewarding in Zombies.  That being said, there are a few subtle changes that have improved the experience.

The main change involves bringing your multiplayer loadouts into Zombie mode.  This is a huge gamechanger in my opinion.  Finally, the days of starting with a pistol and knife are gone.  You can pick a loadout that you’re comfortable with and really deal some damage in the early stages.  I find this change especially important if you are interested in hunting for easter eggs or if you want to enjoy the story aspects of Zombie mode.  Besides the loadouts, there are nice little changes with the field upgrades weapon classes and other perks that can drastically change how you play.

So far, the main downside is the lack of Zombie maps.  Die Maschine is the only map so far.  Granted, there will be future updates.  But if you are a huge zombie fan, then you are stuck with this lone map until the foreseeable future.  It’s a large map with lots of things to explore, so that’s a plus.  However, I wish there was at least another map to explore at launch.

Conclusion

With any Call of Duty, there are pros and cons.  Black Ops: Cold War has a lot of subtle changes that I really enjoyed in Campaign, Multiplayer, and Zombies.  However, it might now be enough to satisfy rabid fans of the franchise.  If you are disappointed, just remember that future updates will hopefully change things that you don’t agree with.  As for me, I found a lot to like in Black Ops Cold War, even though these changes may not be groundbreaking.  And even if you don’t enjoy the changes, I must say that playing on next-gen consoles is an incredible experience.  Fast frame rates, load times, and graphics are massive pluses for this franchise.  I can’t wait to see what they can pull off with the next iteration on next-gen consoles.

Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.

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Positives

Interesting story
Adrenaline pumping action
Simple Multiplayer Maps
Loadouts for Zombies mode
Fantastic graphics and framerates on console

Negatives

Mechanic changes few and far between
Small Multiplayer Maps
Only 1 launch Zombie map

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
B+

 
Graphics
A

 
Story
B-

 
Replay Value
B

Total Score
B+

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Bottom Line
 

With any Call of Duty, there are pros and cons.  Black Ops Cold War has a lot of subtle changes that I really enjoyed in Campaign, Multiplayer, and Zombies.  However, it might now be enough to satisfy rabid fans of the franchise.  If you are disappointed, just remember that future updates will hopefully change things that you don't agree with.  As for me, I found a lot to like in Black Ops Cold War, even though these changes may not be groundbreaking.  And even if you don't enjoy the changes, I must say that playing on next-gen consoles is an incredible experience.  Fast frame rates, load times, and graphics are massive pluses for this franchise.  I can't wait to see what they can pull off with the next iteration on next-gen consoles.

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