Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Xbox Series X Review

November 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox, Xbox Series X

Publisher: Activision  Developer: Treyarch, Raven Software Genre: FPS

Players: 1-40  Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, PS5, PS4

While the multiplayer of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is business as usual, more changes have been made in the game’s campaign mode, and they are generally changes that are most welcome. This is obviously great news for those who enjoy the bombastic campaigns that are often featured in a Call of Duty game. Not only that, but it’s also the return of the single player campaign in a Black Ops game, with the previous game being released completely without one. 

It’s soon apparent that Black Ops Cold War has a few interesting changes in its campaign mode. For the majority of the campaign you fill the shoes of Bell, whom you are able to select the gender, skin tone and ethnic background of. Moreover, you can select a couple of character traits, and these cleverly give you different perks as you play the campaign. You are also able to choose how you respond or what questions to ask at certain points throughout the story, including whether to take a character prisoner or to toss him off a roof to give one early example. These are all rather slight changes, but they are most welcome all the same and add some additional colour to the campaign. 

As the title suggests, Black Ops Cold War largely takes place in the Cold War era. Set in the early 1980s, the time and place are well represented with period music and fashion, and the threat of Nuclear war is also hanging over the world. The story sees a team of Black Ops agents hunting down a Soviet spy who is considered a threat to the US. The narrative does the job, mixing real life events with the fictional, but characters are still rather flimsy and don’t really feel like real people outside of their motivations. 

Visually, the game looks superb on Series X. There’s ray tracing shadows, sharp environments and weapons, and a 60fps frame-rate that barely falters, making for the smooth gunplay that Call of Duty has long been known for. For those with suitable displays, there’s also an option for 120fps gameplay.

The campaign features 18 missions, and a couple of these are actually optional. You are able to gather intelligence in missions, and some of this intelligence can be put to good use before you undertake any of these side missions. One mission has you marking who you think are members of a spy network before beginning it for example, while the other has you decrypting a floppy disk. Yes, it’s a Call of Duty game with some light puzzle solving, which is definitely novel and also surprisingly engaging. It does enough to make me want to see such puzzle elements expanded on in future Call of Duty games.  

If you love the loud and explosive Call of Duty campaigns however, then there really is no need to worry as Black Ops Cold War still offers plenty of this. There’s still some heart pumping and over the top set pieces, which I just never seem to be able to tire of, but there’s also some stealthy sections, with a standout sneaky mission taking place in the KGB headquarters, which also allows you to complete your tasks in a number of ways. 

It’s a great campaign that offers memorable moments as well as great pacing, although at five hours or so in length, it does feel like it is over all too soon, and a beefier campaign with more variation would definitely be welcome. AI could also do with an overhaul, as enemies only pose a real challenge on the tougher difficulty levels and display little intelligence, although if you are a long time Call of Duty player, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

When it comes to the multiplayer, Black Ops Cold War may prove to be rather disappointing for some. There are only eight maps available at launch, and some of these are a little lacklustre in their designs, although there’s some really decent ones included as well. The paltry number of battlegrounds does soon reveal itself as a major issue, and there’s very little in terms of new modes either, but they are present all the same. 

On this map you can make your way around in vehicles and via ziplines.

Fireteam: Dirty Bomb is one of the new modes, and while it is decent enough, it’s definitely not Call of Duty at its best. The mode has up to 40 players in teams of four collecting and using Uranium to arm dirty bombs, and has you parachuting into the battlefield each time you respawn, although the mode feels overly long and drawn out at times. As for other new modes, the 16-24 Combined Arms mode throws in vehicles and involves Domination and Assault based modes over a trio of large maps. Finally, VIP escort has two teams taking it in turn to protect and escort a VIP to an extraction, while the other team tries to assassinate the VIP of course. It’s a decent enough mode and is tense due to each player only having a single life per round. 

Then of course we have the Zombies multiplayer options, which is rightfully one of the most popular multiplayer portions in the Call of Duty series, and has you and three other players doing your best to survive against ever more powerful waves of the undead. While it might come across as rather complicated to those who haven’t played Zombies before, it’s still a mode that is worth getting stuck into. Here, the mode feels more connected to the other multiplayer modes in a way that it has never felt in a Black Ops game before. You play as the same characters, you are able to use loadouts from the multiplayer, and weapon progression also carries over between modes. There’s only one Zombies map available at launch though, which does make things feel a little limited after a while. 

With everything said and done, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has a brief and memorable campaign as well as a well-tuned multiplayer component, although the lack of content may be reason to hold off from purchasing the game for the time being for some. For everyone else (read: the big Call of Duty fan), they’ll learn the ins and outs of what is already there, and will welcome the arrival of the inevitable new content when it is made available, hopefully sooner rather than later.