The Cold War was never this much fun
The Bottom Line
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War eschews gritty realism for arcade-like action. Fans of the long-running FPS franchise will dig the new, thrilling multiplayer modes when the game drops in a few weeks.
Many fun multiplayer modes
Intriguing Cold War setting
Confusing when multiple people use the same character in the multiplayer modes
The holiday season is right around the corner, which means that it’s time for a new Call of Duty. Last year’s Modern Warfare returned the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise to its boots-to-the-ground roots by focusing on gritty combat and twitch-based, multiplayer gunplay. The upcoming Black Ops Cold War takes that game’s basics and amps the battles by placing an even greater focus on minute-to-minute action.
Black Ops Cold War’s recently concluded public beta focused on several multiplayer modes. Some are Call of Duty staples, such as Warzone, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, and Domination. The brand new modes include VIP Escort and Fireteam (more on those in a bit). Zombies was not part of the beta. The final game will have more modes and maps, but for the beta had a lot to explore.
VIP Escort is a different take on Search and Destroy mode. In it, you and your team of six soldiers escort a player-controlled “VIP” to different extraction points. The opposing team’s goal is to assassinate the VIP. This mode requires a great deal of strategizing from both teams. Escorts can either stick with their VIP and lead the team to extraction points or hunt down the opposing team while the VIP makes its escape. Those hunting the VIP can attack as a group or spread their units across the various extraction points to wait for their prey. This mode is a blast if your team knows how to communicate. Teams not using mics will have a harder time coordinating. VIP Escort provides a unique diversion from the other multiplayer modes, because it requires more than quick trigger fingers. You’ll need to use your head to win.
Fireteam is the other new mode. Here, 10 teams of four fight across an enormous map as they attempt to complete objectives. In the beta, Dirty Bomb was Fireteam’s lone mission. The objective? Collect and deposit uranium at specific map locations. You then need to detonate a dirty bomb once you bring enough uranium to the location. The action truly gets hectic with so many players on a map. Aerial drops and usable vehicles also add to the chaos. Teamwork is essential if you’re trying to score the required 500 points to win. In some ways, Fireteam feels like a condensed battle royale mode—only faster paced.
Cold War Heat
The beta had a handful of diverse maps that emphasized the game’s 1980s, Cold War setting. Cartel takes place in a drug lord’s stronghold, a location centered within a thick jungle. This map is a camper’s paradise, since it’s easy to hide inside of jungle foliage and pick off opponents. The Moscow map is a large urban center filled with buildings that facilitate ambushes. Satellite is a sprawling desert that is perfect for large-scale battles. It also has plenty of caves and narrow ravines for close-quarters combat. The most distinct map is Miami. Exchanging bullets on a beach and neon-lit streets is a huge departure from Call of Duty’s usual bombed-out villages and deserts. Though the map isn’t conducive to large-scale battles because of its density, the Vice City-like vibe is enough to make it stand out.
Gunplay is as responsive as ever. Whether it’s an assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, or rocket launcher, every weapon delivers satisfying impact. Like in Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War lets you continuously use a single weapon to level it up. This opens up new attachments (extra ammo, improved grip, and sights) that make your weapon of choice more efficient. You’re also free to use weapons strewn across the battlefield if you want to spice things up. In addition to weapon handling, your character feels a bit more limber than in Modern Warfare. The characters run faster and slide across the ground longer. It’s not a drastic change, but it’s enough to give Black Ops Cold War more of an arcade-like feel.
We didn’t find much to complain about during the open beta period. It was easy to find multiplayer matches, and we faced no connectivity issues. The only major problem was telling players apart. The beta only featured a handful of selectable characters. When everyone was running around the map as Frank Woods, it was hard discerning friend from foe (even with color-coded gamer tags).
Call of Duty games are some of the most graphically impressive titles, and Black Ops Cold War is no exception. Moscow, Nicaragua, and Miami contain a great level of detail that draws you into the action. Lighting effects are especially impressive, especially in the neon-drenched Miami stage. The Satellite mode does a great job of making you feel like you’re in a scorching desert, thanks to its bright sun and rippling sands.
To play Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War on PC, your rig needs at least an Intel Core i5 2500K CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 GPU (2GB), 8GB of RAM, 45GB of storage space, and the Windows 10 operating system. On my rig, with its Intel Core i7-4790 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, the game ran at a brisk 100-120 frames per second (on Ultra settings). Considering the moderate system requirements, you’ll be able to enjoy the game on any decent gaming PC.
Modern Warfare focused on grit and realism in both its campaign and multiplayer modes, but Black Ops Cold War is all about frenetic action. Though only a sliver of what you’ll get in the final product, the Black Ops Cold War beta featured numerous modes filled with multiplayer battles that take advantage of the game’s new setting. As the first “next-gen” Call of Duty, Black Ops Cold War will no doubt receive more attention than even last year’s entry. We’re looking forward to seeing the final game’s maps and modes when Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War arrives on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series S/X, and Xbox One on November 13, 2020.