Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review

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Another year, another Call of Duty game. And as usual, it’s a package that will be a compelling purchase for many.

After last year’s reboot of Modern Warfare, this time it’s Black Ops that’s getting a shot in the arm. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War‘s campaign takes players back to the 80s, and is a direct sequel to the original Call of Duty: Black Ops. So, once again you’ll get to rub shoulders with the likes of Frank Woods, Alex Mason and Jason Hudson. That alone is probably enough to get some eager to jump into it.

The 80s setting really helps Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War find a unique visual style; doing battle upon streets drenched in neon makes a refreshing change. It helps with the gameplay, too, as there’s more emphasis on the subterfuge that you’d associate with the Cold War. You’ll not only be fighting with guns, but you’ll also find yourself sneaking around, vying to find information that’s much more useful, and dangerous, than a bullet could ever be.

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And then there’s the grandiosity of it all. There are always over-the-top set-pieces in Call of Duty, but here, they’re really cranked up to eleven. You won’t mind that believability has been thrown out of the window, as you’ll be having too much fun chasing down a plane with a remote-controlled car equipped with explosives, all the while picking your jaw off the floor because of how beautiful everything looks.

More notably, however, some experimentation has happened with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. There are dialogue choices to make, with some towards the end of the game really having an effect on its outcome. There are a duo of optional missions, too, with evidence to find in other missions if you want to truly complete them. Add in the occasional optional objective within missions and some puzzles to solve, and you have one of the most engaging and inventive Call of Duty campaigns yet.

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It’s just a shame that it’s all over so fast. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War‘s campaign moves at such a breakneck pace that you don’t get any time to grow attached to any of its characters. Most players will be done with it in just a handful of hours unless they play on one of the harder difficulties. Though some might return to its final couple of missions to eke out at least one or two of its additional endings.

While the campaign is a strictly single-player affair, co-op action is catered for by Zombies. Only one map is available at launch, Die Maschine, but there’s surprising variety to be found as you move from one of its areas to the next. As usual, it’s rather challenging when you start out, but as you rank up your profile and level up your weapons, you’re able to steadily increase your combat abilities to make taking on the hordes more manageable. You’ll need Aetherium as well though, which isn’t all that easy to come by. All in all it’s a very fun experience, and is only likely to get better when more maps are added into the mix.

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For those who want a break from the first-person action, Zombies also includes Dead Ops Arcade, a top-down twin-stick shooter experience that takes place on its own map. It has power-ups and treasure to collect, as well as bonus areas where the action goes side-scrolling. Spectacular it is not, but it makes for an entertaining diversion. It’s something you might return to now and again when you want immediate, silly fun. And for that reason, I’m glad it exists.

Of course, the majority of those keen to pick up Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War will be diving into its competitive multiplayer modes in the long-term, and I imagine most will be pleased by what’s on offer. There are many match types; most are team-based such as Team Deathmatch and Domination, though there are some that force you to go solo, like Free-For-All. With a low time-to-kill, the action is fast-paced and rewards those who can outmanoeuvre and get the drop on their enemies. Though some might not like that too much.

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With eight varied maps at launch, it’ll be a while before most players grow tired of seeing the same old scenery. Besides, the pace of the action means it mostly just becomes a blur, anyway. And thanks to crossplay, there should never be any trouble finding a match, regardless of which platform you’re playing on. The icing on the cake is a new progression system which ties your progress in Multiplayer and Zombies. It’s just a shame that if all you want to do is play Zombies, you’ll be limited in your choice of Operators; nearly all are unlocked by completing Multiplayer challenges.

There’s nothing revolutionary in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Nothing that screams “this is a must-buy”. But once again it’s a solid all-round package that has a little something for everybody – providing they like shooting in first-person. Its campaign is a nice little diversion with some exciting set-pieces and moments of thrilling stealth, while Zombies provides some solid fun when getting together with friends. And then there’s Multiplayer, which some will prefer over Modern Warfare‘s offerings and others will be less impressed with. Each element is far from extraordinary, but when all put together, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. We reviewed it on Xbox Series X with a code provided by the game’s publisher.

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