Review: Black Ops Cold War well made but frustrating

The Call of Duty series is known by several key identifiers - spectacular action set pieces,...
The Call of Duty series is known by several key identifiers - spectacular action set pieces, global campaigns, near perfect shooting action and timeless multiplayer experiences. Photo: Supplied
The Call of Duty series cops a lot of stick from both the media, and people on social media, yet continues to sell millions every year. This year's edition, Black Ops: Cold War, is an excellent demonstration of both of these trends.

The Call of Duty series is known by several key identifiers - spectacular action set pieces, global campaigns, near perfect shooting action and timeless multiplayer experiences. As you’d expect, Cold War ticks all of these boxes.

Lets start with the campaign. Now, I might be in the minority here, but I play Call of Duty predominantly for the campaign. They’re almost all fantastic. They might not be the most taxing brain wise, they may be mostly nonsense on the most part, but you know what they all are? Fun. (Except for that one level in Call of Duty: World at War, that still keeps me up at night.)

This time around it's the Cold War (funnily enough), and you’re chasing down a Russian bloke named Perseus, who’s once again threatening the Western World's way of life, and its down to you and your band of gruff commandos to put a stop to it.

On the new consoles, this game looks absolutely incredible. The levels are uniformly brilliant from a design perspective, as well as graphically, but you come to expect this.

There’s a couple of memorable parts to the campaign; the mission where you’re undercover in the Russian embassy and you have to sabotage from within in a non-linear level, and also the missions where you have to actually decipher and decode messages to correctly figure out the way forwards. Both represent a change from the norm, and both are excellent.

Cold War is another technically well made game, with lots of depth, beautiful levels and replayability. Photo: Supplied
Cold War is another technically well made game, with lots of depth, beautiful levels and replayability. Photo: Supplied

Now what is also memorable, but in a less good way, is the ending. Spoilers ahead here obviously, but the game will more than likely end on a level that ends so abruptly, and so confusingly shortly, that you’ll wonder “was that it?”. I couldn’t believe a series known for massive explosive finales ended this way, and the villain in the game makes a grand total of zero appearances. It’s bonkers.

Lets move onto the multiplayer. Now COD multiplayer is known as being ruthless, full of people who will "no-scope" you from across the map and little kids keen to yell at you as they kill you for the 20th time, and once again this is no exception. Perhaps I’m getting old and my reaction times are slowly waning away, but this year's COD multiplayer experience left me pretty cold.

Jumping into matchmaking, they use a skill based matchmaking (SBMM) system. That sounds great on the face of it - the hardcore guys should all end up against each other, and the hopeless people should all end up in their own lobby. In reality however, what will happen is, you’ll have one good game, and immediately find yourself in the big boys lobby, get demolished, and end up back in the hopeless lobby. There’s little sense of progression, having 20 kills in one game, and then alternating to 20 deaths in the next one. I hated it but hey, maybe I’m just old.

That leaves the zombies component! It's always a crowd-pleaser, and once again this year it does the trick. Fun by yourself, or with a group, it's fun to just try last as long as possible, or to try complete the objectives within the map and complete the complex Easter eggs hidden within. Its easily the best part of the game, and as time goes on is a feature that gains extra maps and extra experiences so that gives it some legs.

So going back to the initial remark - Cold War is another technically well made game, with lots of depth, beautiful levels and replayability. But its also an intensely frustrating game in some parts, that builds on some things its predecessors did, but simultaneously undoes some of their good work. I guess we will all just wait for next year's one and hope that it ticks more of the boxes.

 

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War

  • For : PS5, XSX, PS4, XB1
  • From Activision
  • Rating 3.5/ 5 stars

 - by Simon Bishop

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