Black Ops Cold War: How to Bring a Fallen Era of Gaming Back to Life


Image from the official Call of Duty website

It has been about a little over two months since the release of Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (BOCW), and gamers and critics alike are leaving their own varying thoughts on the game. Reviews of the game have been decently positive from the game’s launch, so how does the game hold up after these few months? Well, it can be said for certain that while the game does have its slight flaws, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is one of the best Call of Duty (COD) games of the modern generation, and is a fantastic end to a generation of gaming that has far outstayed its welcome, and an even more astounding reemergence of one of gaming’s Golden Ages.

BOCW was released for Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows. Unsurprisingly, Activision is the publisher of this new entry to the Call of Duty series, as per usual, and was developed by Treyarch (as all of the BO subseries have been developed by thus far), with the new addition of Raven Software to the developing team, an unusual, but very welcome addition to the Black Ops (BO) subseries.

It can go unsaid that Activision has had a mostly great track record as a publisher, with some bumps along the way, with their infamous COD games, with marvelous First Person Shooters such as Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010), Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012), and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007 and 2019), or rather less-acclaimed titles such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016) and Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013). 

BOCW, however, has so far fit quite well in the hall of COD greats, with every aspect of the game to boot being extremely enjoyable, offering up something for all who wish to play it, ranging from the gritty, action-packed Campaign mode, the fast-paced, run-n-gun style Multiplayer mode, and the extremely in-depth, but very simple Zombies mode.

The Campaign of BOCW is one of the most interesting and dark we have seen to date. The Campaign acts as a direct continuation of the BO game that started it all’s story, shifting the time period from the mid to late 1960s and 1970s, to mostly the mid 1980s, where the world is plunged into an eternal state of uncertainty over the silent, but terrifying war between the well-established Western powers of NATO and the up-and-burgeoning U.S.S.R (Soviet Union) known as the Cold War. 

The player takes control of multiple characters throughout the story, such as fan-favorite protagonist Alex Mason, and new character KGB Head of Security turned defector Dimitri Belikov, but the character the player will become most familiar with is their very own. For the first time in this new generation of COD, players can customise who they play as, albeit in a limited sense. Your character will simply be known as, and referred to by the codename “Bell”, and can have their real name changed to whatever the player pleases, can choose their background history, and what kind of advantages they may have for combative situations, known as their “Psychological Profile.”

The story itself, while dark, gritty, and satisfyingly structured with elements of brutality displaying what really happened beyond the Cold War’s facade of lack of military fighting, misses the mark little in the narrative department. There are moments of uncertainty, and moments that don’t make much sense when considering that you play as elite soldiers, whose very job is to keep the world from collapsing into a dark state of war.. The plot twist at the near end of the story is quite intriguing, and rather unforseen for a COD game especially, with multiple endings making multiple playthroughs worthwhile. Overall, it is a fantastic addition to the COD Campaign family, and stands functionally on its own as a piece of this COD universe.

Following the same style as the Campaign, the Multiplayer mode is one of the best we have seen in recent years, with an extremely fast take on COD combat, with satisfying and effective weapons, and a plethora of game modes to choose from.

BOCW will feel somewhat similar to players of the previous game in the series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) (MW), with some of the same features appearing such as the ability to play as certain Operators, some of which are characters from the campaign and other COD games (it is important to note that Operator choice is purely aesthetic, and provides no benefit or detriment to gameplay whatsoever), and the ability to use Finishing Moves when meleeing an enemy from behind, which are a fresh take on the simple melee eliminations most to all COD games had before this.

When compared to other COD games, the roster of weapons to choose from is rather small, but is very sweet, with weapons accurate to the era of the Cold War being prevalently used. The attachments system is plucked straight out of MW again, with specific categories designated to specific attachments for weapons, such as Grips, or Stocks.

The combat, though, is where this game truly shines through as an epic First Person Shooter game. Unlike MW, which was rather slow-paced and tactically focused, BOCW takes an old but gold approach, and creates a fast-paced, hectic shooting experience that reminisces upon older COD games, but adds a new flair of chaos. Real-life physics in this game are unmatched, allowing you to feel as if you were directly in the game yourself, with realistic weapon sway, sound effects, and movement.

To place the metaphorical “cherry on top”, so to speak, there is a plethora of game modes to choose from, fitting the playstyles of all gamers. There are a number of classic modes, such as Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, and Search and Destroy, but also newer modes, such as Combined Arms which allows players to partake in classic game modes on much larger maps and with vehicles, and Face Off, which is a 3v3 moshpit of game modes in very small, close quarters maps for even faster, more insane gameplay. 

In combination, all of these aspects work to create an unforgettable COD experience, an experience that anyone from all walks of the video-gaming lifestyle can appreciate, and provides an interesting dynamic between combat and historical accuracy that is truly on point with the time period.

The last, but most definitely not least game mode for BOCW is its Zombies Mode. Zombies game modes have been a part of every single BO game, and has even expanded into other titles, such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016) and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014). Zombies fans play a significant role in keeping the COD community alive and functioning, and the gameplay experiences crafted by those who develop this mode are experiences truly deserving of their own game all together.

In this latest installment of COD Zombies, we are presented with a map that goes back to the roots of COD Zombies itself with a traditionally German title: Die Maschine (The Machine). This map not only borrows from its predecessors in naming style, but also in design. This design is better left unsaid and is better to be experienced by the Zombies fans themselves, so as to not spoil the game mode or the shocking revelation of the map’s foundational pieces.

This is one of the most truly accessible Zombies maps in recent years, with quest markers to show the player what they must do to open up the main necessities of the map itself. This is quite a far cry from old Zombies formulas, in which the player is left to their own devices to figure out for themselves, which proved overwhelming more often than not. The development team also took another leap in innovation by introducing new systems of upgrades for the game mode, allowing players to make upgrades to weapons and advantages in the map from outside of gameplay, allowing for a great deal of variation in how each match can turn out.

As is the case with Die Maschine’s design, much of the other surprises for BOCW Zombies are better left to be discovered by the players themselves, rather than explained in a review. 

Aside from these new innovations and secrets, the game mode will be all too familiar to previous players of the Zombies franchise in the sense that the things that make the game mode so great are present, such as the appearance of a map specific “Wonder Weapon” (a specialty weapon that is extremely powerful against the zombie hordes and is exclusive to this game mode) and advantages obtainable to the player via the form of “Perk-a-Colas” (Sodas and drinks available for the player to buy in game to boost their stats to survive for longer).

This new and improved version of Zombies is almost flawless, but is held back by some bugs, glitches, and exploits that keep it from perfection, as all game modes face during their early life. Despite these things, however, this is one of the greatest Zombies experiences to date, and much like the Multiplayer, it is open for all players to try and have fun with due to its simple concept and its simple, but not redundant execution.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is one of the best COD games to come out in recent years, and has proven that simple concepts and throwbacks to an old style of gaming lost years ago in the race for complexity, and as a result convolution, in the gaming industry can not just be simply revived, but rather reborn into a new era, a new period of gaming in which those for nostalgia of their old gaming experiences can relive their happiest memories, and those who are new to the circuit can have a basic, but exhilarating experience in the First Person Shooter genre.

This game is an absolute gem of modern game design, and honestly stands as a testament to what gaming is as a whole. BOCW is not only the fun shooting game that COD usually performs as, but is moreover a return to form of what gaming should always be. Much like the destruction of the Berlin wall ended an era of uncertainty and terror during the Cold War, and introduced a new age of reunification for Germany, BOCW lays to rest the generation of modern archetypal game design, and introduces a new period of video games, one that unites gamers of a past era into those of this new and phenomenal one.