Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War'

by Redmond Carolipio on Dec. 1, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

A direct sequel to the original, fan-favorite Black Ops, and set in the early 1980s, Black Ops Cold War, drops players into the depth of the Cold War’s volatile geopolitical universe in a gripping experience where nothing is as it seems.

Buy Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War

Once upon a time, I thought Ronald Reagan was the coolest president.

As a child growing up in the '80s, well before I learned about things like Reagonomics and modern conservatism, little-kid me knew him simply as the guy people called Ronnie Ray-Gun, the leader of the free world with a distinct voice who was both cool enough for local stations to imitate with rap parodies and badass enough to park an aircraft carrier near the shores of anyone who even looked at America the wrong way. In the era of Rambo, Delta Force and Hulkamania, Reagan was the president, placing him, in my young mind, at the head of some pop culture table with an American flag carved into it. My viewpoints, education and awareness of Reagan's real-life triumphs and failures have evolved since then, as many years have passed.

However, I'd be lying if I said that dumb-child version of me lurking in my psyche didn't stir a little when Reagan gave orders to my team and me during a cinematic sequence in Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War, another double-bacon, double-patty cheeseburger of a first-person shooter experience that gives players more than might ever want — or need — in their quest to feed bullets to enemies and each other.

To me, the most compelling of the Black Ops offerings was always the campaign, which used historical and futuristic time periods to serve as canvasses for lots of shooting and occasionally wacky storytelling. Cold War hearkens back to the first Black Ops, which took players into Vietnam as part of an out-of-left-field memory recall exercise for the game's then-protagonist, Alex Mason. That game's setting took place in the 1960s, with subsequent chapters bouncing between the 1980s and the far future, like 2065.

To open the Cold War campaign, you're back in the saddle as Mason. It's 1981, and you're sitting in a small, smoky bar in Amsterdam, Billy Squier's "The Stroke" reverberating in the background. With you is Adler, who comes off as a cross between young Robert Redford and maybe a little Kurt Russell … definitely some kind of avatar of an '80s spy hardass. Adler and Mason are there to track down and hunt a pair of Iranian terrorists, which is almost a little too on-brand with the kind of creative anti-terror pulp that permeated the era back then.

The opening scene felt like a tone-setting flex for the art and design teams of the game, even on the PS4. There are varying opinions on the Call of Duty franchise as a whole, but one can't say the games don't look good. The detail and atmosphere of this tiny bar made me think about coughing for a second or wondering if Mason had to unstick himself from the barstool once he got up and followed Adler out of the door.

The rest of this opener gives you what you'd expect: lots of bullets flying, and a reintroduction into how smooth and crisp the Black Ops action can be, specifically in close quarters, where you can use people as human shields or take them out viciously and quietly. You also get a taste of how the game tosses in diverse gameplay elements to break up the constant shooting. During a chase, Adler and company whipped out a small high-speed, explosive remote-controlled car that I had to pilot into a fleeing cargo plane to blow out the landing gear. It's as fun and ridiculous as it sounds, and I was here for it.

After this opening mission, Adler, Mason and the rest of this team get intel on the real problem: A Soviet super-spy codenamed Perseus, who has been haunting the world for decades and is a significant enough threat to require a meeting with digital Reagan himself, who basically tells Adler, the leader of this team, to he has the green light to go after him. The game then introduces you to Bell, a semi-creatable character brought into the team to help take down Perseus and ends up playing a very large role in the narrative, which has elements of paranoia, memory recall, mind-control, fears of nuclear Armageddon and some good old-fashioned spy work. Players can build Bell's file, and they're able to select gender, military background and personality traits, which can give you specific boosts, depending on what you go with. For instance, "violent tendencies" or "fearless" might give you more bullet damage, faster reloading or a higher tolerance to nearby explosions.

One aspect of the campaign I enjoyed was how it integrated a variety of gameplay perspectives and elements to serve as the yin to the typical FPS yang that one might expect in a CoD game. As you progress through the story, selectable missions become available on a big board. You can take a linear path, or you can replay certain missions in an effort to find pieces of evidence that can help with puzzles you encounter. Between all of the dramatic cinemas and the shooting, I also found myself trying to actually decode something using a newspaper, a scribbled grid on a piece of a paper and a recording of repeated numbers and cities, all to help stop a rogue agent in a side mission.

Another optional mission had me try and use my deductive powers to isolate the members of a spy ring before I went after a Russian colonel. I've gone third-person chopper flying to strafe the enemy, take pictures and used clandestine listening devices to gather intel, even infiltrated KGB headquarters as a double agent. My favorite moment in the game is probably Bell and Woods finding themselves in a Spetsnaz training area designed to look like "Anytown, USA," which led to a shootout against the Russians in a mock arcade, which then migrated to a mock burger joint and other fake small-town areas. In the arcade, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blared over the speakers. Come for the action, stay for the soundtrack.

The gripe I have with the campaign is the same as I had for most of the other CoD offerings, in that it feels too short. It doesn't have to be Wolfenstein, but the source material opens itself to many more possibilities and styles than we're allowed to experience here. There's room for that now, especially since the game's other three modes feel like filler to satisfy the rest of the CoD fanbase. Multiplayer actually had a bit of a slower, pared-down feel for me, when it came down to weapons and maps, and some of the maps only seemed to accentuate the worst habits of campers and their ilk online. Then again, you can probably say that about any multiplayer offering. I ended up having a lot more fun in the game's "zombies" mode, where the up-tempo fun of shooting hordes of zombies — which gave off some Doom vibes — was balanced by some critical thinking and puzzle work. If you were to ask me what I do when Cold War is still on my hard drive, I'd probably say it's mostly campaign mission replays and zombie killing.

Fans of the franchise and many gamers of a certain age, especially those who have a next-gen console in the hopper, will still find enough to like in Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War. I personally still replay the mission with the arcade shootout just to get a little '80s cheeseball energy going, but I think the strategy of overwhelming people with as much content and as many shooter modes as possible might be starting to wear thin. We're not there quite yet, but I'm hoping the next Black Ops might have just a bit more than poking at my childhood memories of a culturally iconic president.

Score: 7.5/10

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