You know you are playing Call of Duty when everything is exploding. In the very first level, a few seconds after the first time you fire your gun, a car explodes. I tried to count the number of cars that exploded in the very first level, but after ten of them turning into pretty fireballs, a transport aircraft blew up and it felt pointless to track car explosions after that. But besides this very showy start, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War has some very different beats from normal.
Ring a bell
You play as Bell, a character whose backstory you decide. Bell has been recruited to a task force that gets things done. The kind of task force that the government would never own up to using or even existing. The reason for this? A soviet super-spy codenamed Perseus seems to be active again, and his previous actions have always been big, masterful plays. So with a bogieman in place, it will take the likes of you and several intelligence experts to try crack down on Perseus and his network. And so a game of cat and mouse begins, two secret networks doing a deadly dance around the world.
Pulling L2 to aim down sights feels like you are doing something heavy with certain firearms
What I noticed at first was the amount of downtime here. There are big sections of the game where you aren’t shooting things, instead you are deciphering codes, listening to transcriptions and talking to the rest of the team, making choices in a conversation tree that wouldn’t look out of place in an RPG.
If you enjoy spy movies and books, this is a pretty fun place to see Call of Duty. Sure, there are the big shooty missions still, including flashbacks to Nam (it is ALWAYS Nam) and the missions you play as Mason with Woods at your side are almost always explosive setpieces, like a mission where you steal an entire mainframe from an abandoned base in the snowy mountains by attaching it to a helicopter winch.
For whom the bell tolls
But between the big shooting missions, there are missions where stealth is important, where you need to make choices or blend in. One level has you play the first half as a double agent working inside the KGB, making it possible to sneak Bell and Adler inside the KGB to access files. Get ready to pick locks, hide bodies and feeling like you are playing a completely different game before shooting your way out and blowing things up again.
It is pretty refreshing to not be in a Michael Bay movie all the time, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It also opens up a lot of room for replayability as you choose to kill or capture, to free or kill captives and agents. There are even two side missions that you need to solve a puzzle for the one, and you need to pick three targets from a list based on the intel you find in the field, and there is no replaying the mission to pick the correct targets later.
With bells on
After running into the annoying issue with the console downloading the PS4 version instead of the PS5 version to play, I played most of the game on PS5 without all the fancy stuff. I eventually got the PS5 version downloaded and the biggest thing you notice is the adaptive triggers. Pulling L2 to aim down sights feels like you are doing something heavy with certain firearms, like the LMG and the sniper rifles, while SMGs flick up quickly without the same heft. Similarly, you can feel the bullets as you pull R2, with a satisfying report for a sniper rifle, or your finger feeling the recoil as you hose enemies with an LMG. It’s… strange to write about it because putting it in words seems like a lot of text dedicated to so small a thing, but the difference in feeling like you are aiming down sights or feeling the recoil really changed the way it felt to play the game. To borrow from PC parlance, I was no longer trying to just click on heads. I was firing a gun.
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War almost runs the risk of giving you too much game.
Besides the controller, playing on next-gen means another thing that has caused many players to move over to PC has been addressed. You can play Cold War at 120 fps, which is a big factor for the more competitive players out there. It also means having all the graphics options that the PC version would show off with, from sexy reflections to people that look so good I sometimes thought I was watching a cinematic before I realised I could move around the people that were talking in front of me.
The kitchen sink too
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War almost runs the risk of giving you too much game. That might sound odd in a world where most people associate game length with value for money, but Cold War has four separate modes: the campaign, multiplayer, Warzone and Zombies. Knowing what you want to play, and then finding people to play with can be a bit of a struggle. For example, if I wanted to play one of the new multiplayer modes: dirty bomb, I need to be prepared to wait a while to find a game, a lot longer than it takes to just hit quick play. I say long, but it is just that it isn’t instant, and the new consoles have made me appreciate most things being instant.
If you have a busy gaming schedule, Cold War can be intimidating in its sheer scope. But if you like to play a lot of COD, there is so much COD here that you will have something to do and things to shoot for a long, long time. Also, you might just completely skip a mode. Don’t like co-op zombies? Uninstall that mode and free up some precious SSD space. Sometimes you need to realise that just because it is there, doesn’t mean it is going to take up all of your time. Sure there is a battle royale mode, but I prefer domination and kill confirmed a lot more, and there is almost no chance of someone randomly arriving in a tank and wiping me out.
Just, play the campaign mode okay? We always complain COD doesn’t try new things and here they did. I just wish that Bell spoke. They missed something by having you only speak via text.