Did Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War Deliver This Year?
One of the inevitable things in the gaming world is that an annual Call of Duty title will be coming out this year. With Black Ops Cold War just starting Season 3, it feels like only yesterday that Cold War had been released. But since it has been almost a year, one question remains. Did the 2021 CoD Cold War game deliver this year?
The campaign plays a crucial part of the Call of Duty franchise, with every game (except Black Ops 4) having one for players to experience. This year, the campaign features some revisions on innovations from previous titles and some lore changes to the game that changed the whole franchise as we know it.
During the Cold War, the campaign follows Russel Adler and his Black Ops agents looking for a Russian spy named Perseus. Taking some notes from Black Ops 1, the player character is brought in close to Adler as they work together to find Perseus. Missions will occur in the mountains, jungles during Vietnam flashbacks, and even in German cities to find any clues that lead you to the game’s mysterious antagonist.
The game also features a character creator, in the most barebones sense. The character has a codename: Bell, and whatever name the player enters will appear on the title cards for each mission featuring that character. The player can also pick a gender, either male, female, or neither, which will change how the game refers to the player, using either “he,” “she,” or “they.” The game also includes some choices in the game that affect the outcome of the story. However, the story’s outcome is mostly inconsequential to the overall plot. It changes one or two cutscenes and the ending cinematic, but most of the side missions (if the player completes them) will change an ending monologue that plays during the game’s credits.
The story takes place between Black Ops and Black Ops 2, which means that some familiar faces will appear, mostly Alex Mason, Frank Woods, and Hudson from the first Black Ops campaign. However, these characters feel relegated to the sidelines. The main cast consists of Adler and his team, which includes the player character Bell. It also includes characters from the Modern Warfare series, such as the antagonist Zahkehv. This brought confusion as the previous Call of Duty games have been their properties. However, they’re seemingly connected in a Call of Duty universe now.
The campaign is also short, around four hours to finish if you wanted to see all the endings and complete all the side missions, including cracking the floppy disk code required to unlock the best ending in the game. While relatively short, the campaign manages to stick to the Call of Duty blockbuster feel many titles have. However, its short yet sweet campaign seems to be a slight disappointment. Issues with the minimal use of the characters from the previous Black Ops games make it feel like a story that wasn’t made for the Black Ops universe but somehow managed to get involved.
Multiplayer has continued the trend that Modern Warfare started by giving out free content through season drops every half month. Multiplayer has remained relatively unchanged from Modern Warfare. Operators and custom classes follow the same mechanics as the previous entry in the series.
With the change in era, some guns that players are familiar with have been made to fit the era. Black Ops Cold War 2021 also has provided the community with classic CoD game modes such as Sticks and Stones, Gun Game, and Prop Hunt. The introduction of League Play in Cold War is a new addition to the game, allowing players to team up in esports rules matches with similar skill levels. However, players who wish to play with their friends are unable to join as a team.
This brings about the same issues that the community has faced with previous Call of Duty titles: skill-based matchmaking. Players who play well will be matched with players who play well, making causal play frustrating as winning a game or two will place the player in matches where all the teams are trying their hardest.
The leveling system of multiplayer is the same as the leveling system in modern warfare, with the reintroduction of the Prestige shop allowing players to use their prestige keys to unlock special calling cards and icons for their character from the previous Call of Duty titles. However, players who want to gain more prestige keys must be sure to prestige before the season ends, as with each turn of the season, any levels held, be it level 1 or level 55, will be reverted to zero for the new season. Meaning that players who have prestige once and are at the cusp of doing it again will lose all their progress if they don’t go over the threshold before the season ends.
With the removal of a Zombies mode from Modern Warfare, fans were happy to see the ability to slay the returned ones. The mode’s return featured several new mechanics and ways to upgrade abilities and weapons, as well as the return of Perk-a-Colas, which were absent from the previous Zombies mode in Black Ops 4.
Fans who played Zombies were treated to a new story, a soft reboot of the Aether story from the previous game, set after the universe’s reset by the end of Black Ops 4. It saw a group of special agents called “Requiem” traveling around the world in an attempt to stop the Omega Corporation from opening dimensional gateways to what is known as “The Dark Aether.”
Only one character from the previous story found their way into CoD Cold War 2021: Samantha Maxis, a young adult rather than a child with supernatural powers like in the previous games. Another major change to the story is the fact that the multiplayer operators play Requiem. This was something that many fans weren’t on board with since the previous game had a cast of fleshed out fully voiced characters that brought a lot of charm to the game mode.
Another change is removing a perk limit, allowing players to equip as many perks as possible. While some players say that this is degrading the game’s challenge, one could say it’s a compromise comparing the previous titles perk mechanic to the current one. Perks were heavily changed in Black Ops 4 because many players would spend two to three perk slots on Juggernog, Speed Cola, and Double Tap. Treyarch attempted to fix this by implementing those boosts into the game mechanics themselves, but players weren’t happy with the new perks provided. By removing the limit on perks, players could instead pick those perks and use whatever other perks they wanted to.
The weapon a player starts with can be chosen as any weapon from the create a class; however, it’s made to be the weakest rarity when the player starts a game. This tier mechanic is the same as Warzone. The player can upgrade their tier or pick a new weapon from the box, which will drop higher-tiered weapons as the game progresses. This brings a better flow as the ability to increase your firepower is constant throughout the whole game.
Some extra additions to the game include rewards being given during round milestones, which give the player either XP or material used to upgrade their perks and weapon loadouts between matches permanently. It also gives them the ability to end the game without the death of the characters you play as. Certain rounds will see the characters call for an exfil helicopter and will have to face off a massive horde of the undead before getting on and leaving for a larger XP bonus applied to the player. The game also includes the ability to craft primary and secondary equipment and multiplayer killstreaks that can be used during engagements with the enemy. This brings a new way to play Zombies and constantly had the player looking for more than one way to stick it to the undead.
As of now, Cold War Zombies has two traditional Zombies maps. The first is Die Maschine, a remake of the first Zombies map Nacht Der Untoten, and the second is Firebase Z, a wholly new Zombies map. Both of these maps follow the same mechanics and flow of maps in the previous titles. However, the lull between Firebase Z and the next upcoming Zombies map, which players call “Berlin,” is having players worried. The map won’t be launched until the end of the season. This puts a four-month gap between Firebase Z and Berlin. If this trend continues, the next Call of Duty will be a month away by the time the third Zombies map releases, making Cold War have the least number of maps in any Treyarch Call of Duty game. For example, Black Ops 3 had three maps on launch, whereas players who purchased the Black Ops pass at the launch of Black Ops 4 were treated to four maps.
The new Zombies modes, Outbreak and Onslaught, seem to be filling the void that the maps once held during the downtime between maps. While these maps don’t feature the same mechanics as the mainline survival maps, there is some merit in the separate modes. Outbreak sees players doing odd jobs for the faces at Requiem. The players run around and explore the large-scale maps via vehicles or by the sky with launch pads that throw the player in the air, reaching the objective location has players facing down a holdout sequence or carrying items to a rocket. All maps from Fireteam are playable in Outbreak, as finishing a map’s objective will lead through a portal to the second one.
Onslaught has the players running around a multiplayer map guided by an energy ball that only holds a small area of the map habitable. Players will fight for upgrades and attempt to survive for as long as possible. However, Onslaught and its gunfight variant Containment is only available on PlayStation until right before the next Call of Duty launches. The same treatment was brought upon the survival mode of Modern Warfare as well. Dead Ops Arcade has also made a comeback, being included in the game with a permanent first-person mode.
Season 3 seems to be Cold War’s time to shine in Warzone. The game was revealed in Warzone through televisions around the area and having characters and weapons added. Even the Gulag was changed from the previous iteration to a Nuketown variant during the beginning of Cold War’s lifecycle in Warzone. Eventually, during Season 2 of Cold War, with the reveal of Outbreak, the final moments of Verdansk were seen, with a ship crashing near the prison. Zombies then slowly took over the map and Warzone was lost, with Activision nuking the map and reverting it to 1984. Now, Cold War reigns supreme as the focus of Warzone, with the story of our characters from the campaign being integrated into the world, the same as the stories from Spec Ops and then Warzone in Modern Warfare.
Warzone is the current hotspot for Call of Duty lore, as a previous event had players running around the map searching for the campaign’s main character, Adler. As in Season 1, he was kidnapped by an operative known as Stitch. Now, held captive somewhere in Verdansk, the players must find a way to rescue him. Doing the missions during the event had the players unlock a special skin of Adler, showing him battered and bruised after being held captive. However, this is only the beginning of the integration with Warzone.
Modern Warfare saw the players unlocking secret bunkers and stopping nuclear warheads from stopping the destruction of the map, continuing the story of Modern Warfare outside of the campaign and Spec Ops. This more hands-on storytelling hasn’t been done yet with the current events of Warzone’s integration of Cold War. Hopefully, within the coming months, the players of Cold War will have their version of the bunkers to solve during the Verdansk 84 era.
Warzone seems to want to keep this integration going between games, as the next release of Call of Duty will be announced through the game. Many wonder if the game will follow suit and continue to change given its massive overhaul of the map for Cold War.
Cold War seems to be leaning more and more into the bundles than last year’s Modern Warfare. A major point of contention for the game is the Zombies character Samantha Maxis, locked behind a 2400 Call of Duty Point bundle. Many claim this is a problem since the character was a major plot point in the most recent map Firebase Z and the campaign characters being unlocked through challenges done in multiplayer. Some suggest that Maxis could be a unlock for completing the main quest of Firebase Z; if not that, then doing some other challenge in the game. At the same time, other characters have skins to be purchased through bundles. Multiplayer also got a character hidden behind a bundle as well. Some also complained about the cost of bundles, with some of them costing $25 for three or four weapon blueprints.
It appears that Activision is using the blueprints, characters, and bundles to make up for the losses caused by the release of free maps and content during the life cycle of Modern Warfare and Cold War. As for if CoD Cold War delivered a better experience for 2021, the game certainly had its strong suits, with a solid campaign and a well-crafted story. Although a good amount shorter than Modern Warfare’s, the game also brought back some of the multiplayer aspects that made the original Black Ops even more fun to play with friends. It tried to find a way to satisfy more competitive players in the multiplayer space. However, it ended up falling flat by still incorporating skill-based matchmaking into the mix of casual players.
The game also boasted many new ways to play Zombies, whether it’s playing on the normal survival maps, through open expanses of Outbreak, or fighting through the multiplayer maps with Onslaught. While it seems like Zombies was given a lot more love this time around, the surprising lack of content to play is holding it back. If new content doesn’t arrive soon, it could start to bore players before the time comes to test out the new maps. Warzone integration has been stellar for Cold War as well, but there’s still more to be done, as the game’s story hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
CoD Cold War seems to have delivered in some parts in 2021, but it’s still lacking. With only a few months left before releasing the next Call of Duty game, Cold War will have to step it up and start pulling itself together to stand a chance against the next title in the series.