After last year’s massive success with their Modern Warfare reboot, which featured a great single player campaign as well as a massively successful multiplayer portion, the bar was set high for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Would it live up to the high bar set by its predecessor? We checked it out on a PlayStation 4 Pro, but it’s also out for the Xbox One as well as the new next gen consoles and PCs.
Another reboot for an existing franchise within the whole Call of Duty ecosystem, the single player campaign in Black Ops Cold War doesn’t provide the step forward that last year’s campaign did. For one, it’s quite a bit shorter, evoking memories of some of the older single player campaigns. It doesn’t provide significant visual improvements, although there’s a chance we can see those when we play the PS5 version.
Having said that, Modern Warfare provided us with some of the most stunning visuals seen thus far for a PS4 shooter, and Black Ops Cold War is another audiovisual feast. And because the narrative and presentation are more cinematic in nature this time, rooted in some real-life history from the height of the cold war, it’s a rollercoaster experience to play through or even just watch.
The narrative is a bit more linear and streamlined this time around, but brings in iconic world leaders from that era – both Reagan and Gorbachev are featured and help emphasize that you’re dealing with high stakes here. Joined by a crew of familiar and new faces, you’re hoping to prevent a nuclear disaster through a series of spectacular missions that take place all across the globe, from urban environments like Amsterdam to the jungles of Vietnam.
Gameplay-wise this is exactly what you’d expect from a Call of Duty campaign, with a solid mix of stealth, all-out gunplay, chases and on-rails sections where you man a gun turret. I’ve always enjoyed these campaigns and Cold War is another reminder that we’ve had to miss out on big action movies in the theater this year – this one plays very much like one, but one that is about five hours long. It features two different endings, but the story doesn’t branch out a whole lot so expect some repetition if you go for a second playthrough.
The multiplayer portion of Cold War is familiar as well, with all the traditional multiplayer modes accounted for, and with more content coming once “Season One” launches in a few weeks. You can even jump back into Warzone, but it doesn’t feature anything new if you’ve already been playing it since the Modern Warfare days.
Cold War also features three modes that are brand new to the franchise: Fireteam, Combined Arms and VIP Escort. The latter will no doubt feel familiar as it’s a setup that we’ve seen in plenty of Call of Duty campaigns over the year, and it translates well to a multiplayer setting. Combined Arms is not too unlike Ground War in how it pits two teams that are trying to capture zones on the map, and Fireteam is all about setting off bombs with uranium you have to find – which kept feeling like a strange goal to aspire to for me.
The Zombie Mode is also back as a staple of the franchise as a whole, but this time it’s been enabled for cross-platform play, which also lets PS4 and PS5 players play together so you don’t have to leave your existing teammates behind if someone switches to next gen in the near future. There’s only one map to play on at launch, but Treyarch and Activision have already revealed that Cold War will follow a similar pattern to last year’s Modern Warfare. That means additional free content to keep the multiplayer portion alive for months to come, giving the community time to transition and grow into the new modes while giving the developer a chance to see what works and what doesn’t.
The single player campaign is already a blast and the multiplayer is solid though familiar fun, so Call of Duty fans will want to pick this up as it’s likely the best shooter of the season again this year, and once that pushes the PS4 to its limits again with gorgeous visuals.