Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War

A naked flame introduces me to January 12, 1981. I’m in a bar, somewhere in the Netherlands, I have been tipped off about a target in the area. He needs to be caught and interrogated for information. I am ready. Although the cold war is technically at an end, the complicated and diverse world of espionage is still thriving under the two superpowers of the world. This is Black Ops: Cold War.

As with her sister title, Modern Warfare, Black Ops has been taken to the cleaners, then to the tailors and then nicely put back in front of our faces as a fresh take on the hit series. When the original Black Ops released in 2010, it was met with huge acclaim. Rebooting the series required exceptional talent and guts; get this wrong and you have ruined the reboot before it has even begun. However, between Treyarch and Raven Software, they have done a very impressive job of immersing you into the world of undercover ops and taking on the Communist regime of Soviet Russia.

Joining an elite team of operatives from around the world to take down those who set out to destroy the world.

Embedded into a hardened team of CIA operatives, you are chucked into the thick of the action tracking down key assets that will aid you in finding a Pegasus, a Soviet agent who plans on doing some very naughty things to Western Europe and the United States. You are tasked with getting down and dirty to find out what you need to know and stop Pegasus in whatever way you can before he unleashes hell.

I found the story to be really interesting in uncovering secret agents who live double lives, living across multiple locations, including West/East Berlin and back home in America. The variation in the missions is vast. Giving you a glimpse of the Vietnam war, the streets of Amsterdam, and the hallways of the KGB headquarters. With some familiar faces from the Call of Duty franchise emerging, you can only imagine what the Call of Duty studios have in store for us with these multiple crossovers.

Going undercover to disrupt the Soviets and coming across some old (younger) faces.

The characters are somewhat interesting, with a mixed bag of CIA, MI6 and Ex-KGB all working in this ace squad of operatives. Some of these characters I found more likeable than others, some I felt weren’t included as much as I would have liked. While the campaign feels short, these characters had a small window to fill us in on who they are and what their roles were. You get a basic understanding of who they are, but without interacting with them, you just see them as your typical NPC’s.

What’s different you ask? Character creation is now a thing. With an information pack given to you at the start of your recruitment, you will need to provide your name, gender, race, place of birth and intelligence background, which gives you an actual identity to the game as well as the codename ‘Bell’. You can also choose perks to take with you through the game. For example, out of the dozen or so it gives you, I decided to take the ‘violent tendencies’ and the ‘aggressive behaviour’ perks, as I was playing on Veteran difficulty (got to get dem trophies) and these gave me 25% more damage and increased reload speed by 50%, making my experience a much easier one. There are new dialogue options are present, giving you the opportunity to decide on how the story plays out and maybe deciding the fate of an individual in questioning. These RPG elements are brilliant and in my eyes a very much welcome inclusion into the game.

Work on decoding the secrets that will uncover spy rings.

They have also added side-missions but with a challenge; you can’t pretend to be a spy and not get to do some sort of spy work in the process. You have to crack codes and decipher secret messages with the intel you find during missions. Ultimately, cracking the code and disrupting the Soviet spy ring will change the way your game ends. And, on that subject, there are multiple endings. Where does your loyalty lie? With NATO and the US or with Mother Russia herself?. I leave that to you guys to explore and decide. Enjoy.

In terms of the visuals, Black Ops – Cold War is a good looking game with fragments of dissatisfaction. I have played both the PlayStation 4 version and the PlayStation 5 version, and there is a notable improvement in the latter. However, I have noticed instances of broken textures or environments popping in and out when moving in both versions. Now if this was something in the distant background, I can totally understand the relaxed design of these incidents, but when these occurrences happen they are often in view of your target building/person on-screen. Even with multiple playthroughs, I was able to see these and once I saw one I went on to see a few more. 

West/East Berlin. A beautifully designed mission with plenty going on. What will you find walking amongst the enemy?

Black Ops – Cold War is an asset-heavy kind of game, with hundreds upon hundreds of assets used across all missions, but these small occurrences of textures not loading make you feel as if the game was rushed out to meet the annual November deadline. Maybe with an extra few months, these issues could have been ironed out, and the world could have got a more detailed layout.

If I am to continue on the slight knocks I am dishing out, I did find one or two audio issues. In one example, you are dropped off by helicopter on the wintry mountain Yamantau. All is fine, and you are on your way to your first point of interest. However, as I turned to check on the status of the helicopter, it was taking off no more than 50 meters away, yet not making a sound. Unless this is some kind of high tech stealth chopper, it was another one of those ouch moments. The audio isn’t terrible, it does a good job of keeping you gripped in suspense and getting your heart racing a few extra beats.

KGB headquarters where there is plenty to do and interact with. One of my favorite missions in the whole game.

What gives this title an extra kick in gear is the DualSense controller. The developers were kind enough to incorporate the haptic feedback and make use of the adaptive triggers. Now, when firing a rifle, a pistol or even an RPG, there is tension in the trigger pulls that makes firing more immersive. This definitely improved my experience ten-fold and gave me that urge to keep trying out different weapons in my playthroughs. The haptic feedback was good, sometimes I felt it was slightly out of sync, but I am not taking anything away from their inclusion. If anything, it sold me on Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War for the use of this feature, and I recommend you try it out if you haven’t already.

Dan Phillips

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

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