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Another year, another Call of Duty campaign. The latest installment, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, released on November 13, 2020 with high expectations, as it launched alongside the new generation of consoles. It launched on several platforms including the long-running PS4 and Xbox One, and the brand new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles. Cold War was developed by two studios, Treyarch and Raven Software, and was published by Activision.
I typically do not purchase Call of Duty games upon launch. Typically, I would rather wait until there’s a sale and I can purchase the game at a discount. However, I enjoyed the multiplayer beta so much that I pre-ordered the game immediately. I purchased the Cross-Gen Bundle so that I could experience the game on my new Xbox Series X. As you might expect, the Cold War campaign is a pretty standard, linear first-person shooter. There’s nothing overly groundbreaking with the campaign this year, but two new features I appreciated were the ability to make choices in conversations, and the story’s alternate endings. Despite the new replayability value the alternate endings offer, and the variety in the missions offered, the game ended up being a massive disappointment.
This entry is set during the Cold War in the early 1980s. United States President, Ronald Reagan, has tasked CIA agent, Russell Adler (who is basically Robert Redford’s twin), with locating Perseus, who is described as “the single largest threat to the free world.” He is a Soviet operative who threatens not only all of western Europe with nuclear weapons, but also the reputation of the United States. You’ll play alongside familiar faces: CIA Agent Jason Hudson, Master Sergeant Frank Woods, and Captain Alex Mason. Your character is known by the pseudonym “Bell” and described as “the one we need to keep our eyes on.” I was immediately intrigued by not knowing if I could trust my own character.
Shortly after the game’s opening, you’re introduced to a thrilling airplane chase scene with a range of gameplay mechanics. The entire scene was exciting, and felt inspired by the Uncharted series. As a lover of those games, I appreciated the familiarity. Even some of the music was reminiscent of Uncharted.
Despite being unable to see your main character in first-person games, you are given the option to choose your character in a rather creative fashion. You’ll choose your first and last name, gender (which includes a non-binary gender choice), place of birth, and two personality traits on a confidential CIA psychological profile. The personality traits you choose act similar to multiplayer perks in the campaign. I chose “Professional” offering me quick movement while aiming down sights, and “Aggressive Behavior” which increased reloading speed by 50%. As I chronically reload, this helped tremendously.
The campaign is organized via an evidence board where you select and replay missions, and examine evidence. New evidence is marked as a gray pushpin inside a yellow circle on the board. I loved how collectibles are disguised as evidence you’ll find in the missions. The board updates consistently throughout the story as you complete missions and find additional evidence, and you’re able to revisit the board after each mission.
The missions are a mixture of stealth, gunplay, and a variety of other tasks such as operating a helicopter to take down enemies with missiles. In some missions you’ll need to avoid being discovered while searching for clues. In others, you’ll have the option to use humans as shields. Throughout the game, if you kill an enemy, you can hide the bodies to prevent other enemies from finding them. For the record, I played the game on normal, and I felt it was a tad too easy as I didn’t die often. I like to play like Rambo with guns blazing, rather than the typical stealthy mode of taking each one out quietly. If I were to play again, I’d definitely go at least one step up on the difficulty meter.
As with all recent Call of Duty games, the graphics are realistic, the scenery is gorgeous, and the character models are stellar. The only complaint I have about the graphics is that Ronald Reagan looks like a man wearing a Ronald Reagan mask but I digress. Cold War has you travel to many places from Berlin, to the Ural Mountains in Russia, with each location providing a beautiful backdrop. The game is exceedingly linear but familiar, and the attention to detail was extraordinary. Throughout the game you’ll find references to 80’s pop culture and music, which I think is one of the more charming aspects of the game. There’s even a scene in “Redlight, Greenlight” where there’s an arcade with old Atari games. In fact, a couple of the arcade games found in this mission are playable. I admit I enjoyed this blast to the past and was rather distracted by the Enduro Atari game for some time.
My absolute favorite part of Cold War was a mission titled “Desperate Measures” as it had many steps, and could be completed in a variety of ways. From hiding bodies and navigating restricted areas, it took a lot of strategy to figure out which tasks needed to be completed first, and the best way to finish it. It was my favorite mission by far, and I’d love to see more of this in future Black Ops games.
Now, to the nitty and gritty. Despite the beautiful graphics and engaging story, the campaign consistently crashed my Series X, and is unable to be completed at this point. I kept a tally of all the problems I had with the game, and the reality is that my Series X completely shut all the way off four times whilst playing Cold War, and this is not including numerous game crashes. The game will not let me progress further than the sniping scene in the start of the “End of the Line” mission. I tried repeatedly, and it either freezes and shuts the game down, or completely shuts down my system. A quick Google search tells you that game crashing has been a rather large issue on the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles which I’ve definitely experienced. I realize of course, that many players have had zero issues with the game, and I take that into consideration. I was very immersed in the story, and am quite frustrated that I have not been able to complete it.
Unfortunately I feel this game was not worth the price of entry. It was a good reminder for me to not purchase Call of Duty games at launch. To be fair, I have yet to begin multiplayer or the zombies mode as I was focused on finishing the campaign first. But, regardless of the major issues I had with the game, and the inability to finish the game, I still enjoyed what I played immensely. And I am absolutely looking forward to revisiting it after a fix has been provided. My best recommendation is to wait on Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
So, how do I rate a game I’m not able to complete? Well, here’s my attempt.