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

The Cold War has arrived. Much as last year’s Call of Duty reinvigorated Modern Warfare, this year’s brings Black Ops’ label back with a vengeance.

Deep black

If you’re a Call of Duty fan, then you know that there are 2 sub-series’ to pay attention to. Funnily enough, neither one has anything to do with the series’ original setting, WWII. Despite the wide array of unrelated games released across the years, Activision’s Call of Duty has moved into an era of Modern Warfare… and Black Ops.

While 2019 saw Modern Warfare get a terrific new release that rebirthed the line, 2020 has received a return for the other fan-favorite title. And much like the former, the latter is a long-awaited return to a line that had been somewhat forgotten.

Yeah, I know all about Black Ops IIII, but let’s be honest and say that doesn’t count. And I mean that in every way. The multiplayer-only BlOps4 was a massive letdown for anyone who prefers a nice scripted campaign over twitchy, multiplayer that you have to play like it’s your job to have any kind of fun.

Well get ready for the exact opposite of part 4, as Cold War is a return to form in every way.

A different kind of warfare

For a fan of 1980s nostalgia, this couldn’t get much better. Maybe keep that in mind as you read, since I’m battling bias here. But even so, the setting and premise is gold… gold.

It’s the early 80s, and the cast from the Black Ops universe is square in the middle of the Cold War. A conflict that had no flashpoint, the Cold War simmered between the USA and USSR, thankfully never turning into a full-on global conflict. That’s not to say though, that there wasn’t tension.

And that’s just what Black Ops Cold War plays off of. CIA officer Russel Adler is the focal point of the game’s plot, as he leads a team to capture a Russian agent known only as Perseus. This guy goes way back, and is linked to events from just after WWII on. But at the start of Cold War, and after years of silence, he’s back on the scene.

If you’re a fan of the original Black Ops game, you’ll recognize some of Adler’s team. Frank Woods and Alex Mason are both present, though there are new members as well, and a player-created character to play as codenamed Bell. Yes, you make your own character, and he/she plays a big part in the narrative.

Players can fill in the blanks on professional background as well as looks, gender, and real name. Little of that affects gameplay however, other than a few things that you will give you in-game bonuses.

In addition to the campaign, there are also the series’ signature multiplayer options, as well as the Zombies mode. That makes a big time return, with a plot and setting that plays off of the main game’s. Kind of.

I’m not that big into multiplayer, and couldn’t care less for Zombies modes, so I’m definitely not the target audience here. But if you like both or either, then presumably you’ll dig what else Cold War has to offer.

Tried and true gameplay

Have you played a triple-A, first-person shooter before? How about a Call of Duty title? If you have, then you know what to expect. I’ll expand on that of course, but you get the drift. More or less, Cold War doesn’t reinvent anything here in this latest release, so if an FPS-evolution is what you’re looking for, then you’re going to be disappointed.

The gameplay style carries over from other titles in the set, though I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing by any stretch. The game offers flat-out fun, terrifically sculpted gunplay. Call of Duty has been around for a long time at this point, and developer Treyarch has been in these familiar trenches for a while. All of that experience shows, as Cold War has a tremendous feel to it. Expect tense, snappy firefights galore.

The game’s arsenal is your conduit to this action, with something for every occasion. No doubt you’ve seen the R/C exploding-car in trailers, and yes it’s here and contributes to what’s a great set piece overall. But keep in mind that outlandish hardware is not the norm in this game.

It’s the 80s (for the most part) remember, and down and dirty gunfighting is exactly what Cold War delivers. And again, in that way it’s really well done. If you ever wanted to feel like you were in a classic action flick, blasting bad guys across every corner of the globe, this is as close as you’re going to get.

Top notch looks and sound

Black Ops Cold War both looks and sounds great on the Xbox Series X hardware. The characters all look about as good as any have from across the series, and that even extends beyond the main heroes and villains. The cannon fodder that you carve into throughout the campaign both looks great and is animated well.

Those main characters though, are the standouts they should be with tons of detail. Everything from Adler’s distinctive scars to the wrinkles on President Ronald Reagan’s face look terrific. Yes, Reagan is not only in the game, but he looks shockingly close to the real man. Actually, he sounds pretty spot-on too, which is kind of remarkable. He’s kind of easy to see devolve into a caricature after all, but Cold War doesn’t get anywhere near that.

As with the characters, the maps in Cold War look awesome across the board. Outside fo the zombies mode, these are not anything fantastical, but are grounded and real world(ish) locations. Cold War gets its tone right, with lots and lots of great detailing, highlighted by some excellent special effects.

Gunfire, explosions, and everything else is as good-looking as it should be. If you want a realistic looking playable 80s action flick, this is it. Oh and of course it goes without saying that the load times are super fast to boot. That’s a nice, and very welcome, little bonus that the next-gen has brought with it.

Overall

Welcome back Black Ops. The series returns with phenomenal action, and a presentation that looks and sounds as good as a Call of Duty has. More importantly, the CoD gameplay is there once again. Developer Treyarch is firing on all cylinders with this one.

If you like classic action/thrillers, or Cold War fiction in any way, I can pretty easily recommend Call of Duty’s latest outing.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Release date:
November 13th, 2020
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher: Activision
Developers: Treyarch, Raven Software
MSRP: $59.99 USD

Cold War goes hot

Premise - 90%
Gameplay - 85%
Presentation - 95%

90%

Chilly

A terrific shooter, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War brings back the label with style. Expect top notch FPS gameplay and excellent graphics on the Xbox Series X, cast against one of the best stories in franchise history. Add on some multi and a returning zombies mode, and you have a game that almost any FPS fan should check out.

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About Jason

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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