IIn the brave new era of Battle Royale, where games are free and timeless, the concept of paying £ 60 for an annual first-person shooter release has started to feel a bit outdated. Yet here is Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the sixth title in the series of historical blasters powered by developer Treyarch’s conspiracy, this time taking us to the dawn of the Reagan era and channeling movies like Apocalypse Now, Jacob’s Ladder and The Parallax View.
As always for CoD, you won’t get one game, but several: a single-player action movie story, a variety of competitive multiplayer options, and the cooperative horde mode, Zombies, where four players fight together to survive as long as possible against the incoming undead.
The campaign, which follows a group of top-secret government agents tracking down a Soviet agent named Perseus who wants to blow up Europe, is short, sharp, and somewhat superficial. There are exciting sequences, like a raid on the KGB headquarters that is set up as a Hitman level, and some moments where the story branches out based on the player’s choices, giving you some agency for once. There are also some engaging references to previous Black Ops characters and plots, which will be devoured by fans.
But we don’t get anything really cool or daring, and the mind-blowing, surreal pyrotechnics the series is known for doesn’t start until the very end. It is mostly made up of basic elements of the Call of Duty campaign: helicopter crashes; escape to the rooftops and wait for evacuation; Summon air strikes and gain temporary control of aircraft machine guns. Along the way, war crimes are committed, moral dilemmas are diverted, and macho platitudes like grenades are thrown (“we don’t expect the best, we make the best happen!”). It’s militarized murder by numbers.
What’s really disappointing is that the soundtrack and ambient design make little effort to capitalize on the early 1980s setting. Black Ops titles have always been excellent at cultural references, blending pop music with their bombastic action. in very nice ways, but aside from some grainy news footage of Reagan’s speeches and a certainly wonderful scene set in a game room, there’s little nostalgic revelry in the era. How can there be a scene set in Berlin in 1981 without Bowie or Kraftwerk?
Clearly multiplayer is the focus, and all the usual modes are here, along with the newcomers, including VIP Escort, where you must protect one player until you can take them out through the air while the other team attacks, and Fireteam: Dirty Bomb, where teams of four players compete to collect uranium and detonate bombs in an alpine environment. These are acceptable albeit rather chaotic diversions, but old favorites like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Search and Destroy are still paramount, offering incredibly fast and super-intense combat with a variety of simulated real-world weapons that feel deadly and sensitive. . Maps like Checkmate, set in an airplane hangar, and Moscow, winding through the big, rainy streets of the Russian capital, are old CoD: narrow, with excellent verticality, and plenty of open bottlenecks for those fascinating multi-kill encounters. It’s a shame there aren’t some more experimental locations and some lesser-known weapons, but it’s a solid offering for fans of CoD’s virtual weapon gameplay style.
Zombies is the game’s self-aware comedy horror channel. Set in an abandoned Nazi scientific research base in Poland, it’s typically nerve-racking and exciting stuff as you wander through dilapidated hallways and rubble-strewn exteriors, trying to find better weapons while being chased by plutonium-spitting evil bosses. This time you can choose to take your team out of a level alive, earning bonuses as you progress; it’s a nice addition, allowing your teammates to enjoy the thrill of a close escape.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War does everything it takes with polish and zeal, and those planning to spend the next year leveling up their multiplayer ranks won’t be disappointed if they get this for Christmas (although they may have liked it. some more maps than the eight currently available). But given how disruptive Warzone, March’s Call of Duty Battle Royale game, has been as a competitor to Fortnite and Apex Legends and as a new gathering place for CoD fans, Cold War could definitely have used a little more innovation. . The campaign hints at it, and the 1981 scenario offered a lot of promise, but sadly, this isn’t the subversive goth-punk krautrock shooter you’ve been waiting for.
• Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S / X.
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