Call of Duty reveals never happen this late, but 2020 is no ordinary year. Shrouded in mystery, leaks and the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic, Treyarch’s next entry in the Call of Duty series has remained a constant source of intrigue. Finally, Treyarch is ready to show it off. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is real, it’s coming this November and it’s taking players back to the Cold War. Can Treyarch and its development partner recapture the magic of the original Call of Duty: Black Ops? We had a chance to see some of the campaign in action and the results are promising.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a sequel to the original Black Ops. Taking place in 1981, Cold War fits snugly between the events of Black Ops and the Cold War segments of Black Ops II. As with all Black Ops games, Cold War’s campaign follows the fundamental pillars of a Black Ops title. Players will engage in deniable operations, experience conspiracy grounded in history and partake in plenty of mind-bending segments. The big difference with Cold War is that Treyarch is getting some massive help from a partner, Raven Software. Raven has been working hand-in-hand with Treyarch to create an authentically Black Ops campaign. Fan-favorite characters Woods, Hudson and Mason return (though Sam Worthington does not reprise his role), and the atmosphere shown to us mirrors the aesthetics of Black Ops. Raven Software also introduces its own characters, namely Russell Adler, whose presence looms large over the campaign.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s campaign follows the player and Adler as they attempt to unravel a plot by Codename: Perseus. Pulled from real-world history, the plot centers around the mysterious Perseus character who aims to destabilize the global balance of power. While the real-world may never know if Perseus was a real person or a fabrication, Black Ops Cold War puts them front and center as the main antagonist. The campaign takes players across East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, Soviet-era Moscow and more in pursuit of the truth. To help fit the narrative in with the rest of the series, Raven Software’s story team worked with screenwriter David S. Goyer, who also served as co-writer on Black Ops and Black Ops II. For those turned off by Black Ops III’s overly-convoluted plot and Black Ops 4’s lack of one, Cold War should be right up your alley.
Raven aims to build upon some of the more successful elements from Black Ops II and Black Ops III’s campaigns in terms of gameplay and design. In Cold War, players create their own characters and define their background. Missions provide variety and diverging narrative paths where players can choose their dialogue and even make plot choices that affect the ending. There aren’t too many endings, but there’s enough to where players feel like they had a hand in shaping the final outcome. Of course, that’s not to say the traditionally bombastic Call of Duty style missions and gameplay aren’t in Cold War. To drive these changes home, Treyarch and Raven showcased three missions running off PS5 hardware. Each highlighted different elements Raven is bringing to the campaign. They also showcased some of the tremendous graphical effects the next-gen versions are getting.
First up was a mid-game mission into Ukraine. You and Woods are dispatched to investigate a Soviet structure behind the Iron Curtain. Upon infiltration, you both discover it is a secret training facility to help prep Soviet soldiers for an invasion of the United States. There are fake shops, arcades and more adorned with several mannequins. The mission includes a shootout set to the tune “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” The Ukraine mission is your typical, bombastic Call of Duty mission, and it’s pretty, fun and playful. It also does a good job showcasing Raven’s authenticity towards the setting. Utilizing pink, purple and red neon lights, proper attire on the mannequins and actual music leads to a highly-immersive environment.
The next mission took us to Moscow to showcase some of the more open-ended missions. Here, you play as a KGB defector uncovering information within a KGB headquarters. Completing the mission involves exploring the building and discovering different ways to accomplish your goals, whether through stealing, poisoning, bribing or blackmailing. It’s similar to the Liberation mission from Call of Duty: WWII. It even ends similarly with a massive shootout. Finally, the last mission takes players back in time to 1968, Laos. As a former Vietnam War soldier, your memories are fractured and some missions require you to dig into your past. This specific mission was described as the most unique level ever created for a Call of Duty game and leans on the Black Ops franchise’s mind-bending elements. A fractured memory means that the story unfolds based on player’s choices, but that certain elements might reset as you discover your past. It’s a unique idea and the Laos content was extremely impressive visually. Speaking of visuals, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is the first Call of Duty game to release on PS5 and Xbox Series X. While we didn’t get too many details about next-gen features, Treyarch did confirm that the game supports ray-tracing, seamless load times and a 120fps mode. The studios are also making full use of the DualSense’s haptic controls. What we saw was brief, but Cold War is looking good visually so far.
Raven appears to fully understand what it takes to make a Black Ops title. From bringing in David S Goyer to the ’80s-inspired world, and to the time-period accurate undercover and civilian attire each character sports, Raven has captured the essence, all while putting their stamp on the franchise. Treyarch has played around with how they deliver the narrative for years now and Cold War is the next logical step. The Moscow and Laos missions were great showings for the new types of missions Raven is incorporating. Meanwhile, the Ukraine mission is that classic fun and bombastic missions the Black Ops series is known.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s reveal is coming much later than anyone anticipated, but what we’ve seen, though short, is promising. After Black Ops III’s campaign and Black Ops 4’s lack of one, it’s nice to see a classic Black Ops campaign return. It looks fun, inventive and intriguing. Hopefully all that rubs off on the multiplayer and Zombies experiences.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is out November 13 on PS4, Xbox One and PC. PS5 and Xbox Series X versions launch alongside the consoles this holiday season.