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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review (PS5) – Classic Call Of Duty Gameplay Is A Throwback To The Series’ Heyday

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War PS5 Review – If you know video games, you know the name Call of Duty. Millions of players have taken up digital firearms and engaged in combat during the franchise’s ongoing seventeen-year run. Every year, the latest release tops sales charts across the world. So without fail, this year has its own new release with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and on a special occasion, its launching with a new generation of consoles.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War PS5 Review

A Standard Campaign With Bold Moments Of Player Choice

Black Ops Cold War continues the trend in most recent Call of Duty entries to return to more contemporary, boots-on-the-ground settings and gameplay. We saw this in 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII and last year’s Modern Warfare reboot. The Black Ops series has chosen futuristic and sci-fi settings and aesthetics since Black Ops 2.

Each entry travelled farther into the future, and each more outlandish and less grounded than the last. It reached the point of being practically cartoony, a far cry from the first Black Ops, which was set in the 1960s during very real events, including the Vietnam War.

This time around, Black Ops travels back to an era closer to our own, the 1980s, and thus serves as a direct sequel to the original 2010 game. In the campaign, familiar faces like Alex Mason and fan-favourite Frank Woods return for another bout of espionage, bombastic action set pieces, and doing whatever it takes to defend America and the rest of the free world.

Classic characters make a return which helps build the nostalgia in Black Ops Cold War.

There’s a lot in Cold War’s campaign that is standard for a Call of Duty adventure but also harkens back to those good ol’ days of the previous decade when the franchise was breaking new entertainment records every year. If last year’s Modern Warfare was akin to a more serious, grounded drama film, then Cold War is a big summer blockbuster, for better and for worse. It’s filled with improbable but exciting sequences with a just interesting enough story featuring twists and turns you won’t find shocking yet will keep you intrigued.

I’ve found a number of past Call of Duty campaigns to be exhausting as they relentlessly keep the action explosive and cranked up to eleven. This leads to a problem where any thrills plateaus and you become numb to everything happening on screen.

Ah, another exploding thing, okay. More military jargon being shouted at me, sure, fine, whatever. Despite what the trailers and franchise’s reputation may lead you to believe, Cold War has moments for the player to explore facets of the world and actually breathe before the next crescendo.

Often between missions, you return to the safe house base where Woods, Mason, and the rest of the team regroup. Here’s where a lot of the quieter character and world-building can be experienced. There’s the evidence board filled with pictures and small objects related to the story. Examining each presents small text excerpts the player can read to understand the story unfolding. Additionally, you can go to each of the other characters and trigger conversations, which may reveal more about him or her.

Outside of missions where you are lone-wolfing it or teaming up with a crew, you can interact with your teammates in new ways for the franchise.

Sometimes other characters will have dialogue between each other which you can observe and pick up on the dynamics between your teammates. While I wish there was even more of these sorts of interactions, they help make the cast of Cold War feel a little more human and interesting (though they are still pretty one-dimensional). All of these ultimately are condiments and garnishes to an otherwise standard Call of Duty dish. I appreciate them nonetheless for adding the bits of flavour that they do.

Continuing Cold War’s ability to inject much-needed dynamism to its campaign is its variety in mission activities. Yes, the majority of the time is spent ducking behind cover and shooting enemies with not the brightest A.I, though other types of activities break up the firefights. Some sequences will require you to play stealthily to sneak through an area. Other times you may have to search through a building for an item or a little reconnaissance work in the field.

There are even dialogue choices and written action choices throughout Cold War’s campaign. Some missions have side objectives, and there are even whole optional side missions. All of these change the ending in small or big ways. It’s a welcome surprise in a franchise that’s been criticized for its strict linearity (e.g. the famous “FOLLOW” being displayed constantly above a comrade or commanding officer character). This level of agency is rarely seen in a Call of Duty game, and the last one to have player-influenced multiple endings was Black Ops 2.

The Classic Call Of Duty Feel With Excellent DualSense Use

I’ve talked plenty about how Cold War’s narrative plays out, but how does that core gameplay – specifically the shooting – feel and shake out? The gunplay feels as good as it ever has been – particularly for fans of the Call of Duty games of the 2000s and early 2010s.

If you are partial to the weighty and more realistic take on CoD in the recent Modern Warfare and Warzone, you may be disappointed here. Cold War’s gameplay is light-footed, running and gunning. How guns handle, character movement, animations, speed, and more evokes the spirit of the series’ past. I had a smile on my face during sessions of the multiplayer, even found myself hooting and hollering, playing a Call of Duty that felt like those from my days as a teenager.

Black Ops Cold War brings back the classic gameplay that made the franchise the talk of the town in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Not everything is exactly like 2010 though. There are a number of more modern gameplay actions and quality-of-life improvements implemented. Power sliding is present, but thankfully doesn’t allow players to just rapidly pop down into prone position.

Killstreaks have been replaced with scorestreaks, so accomplishments other than kills can earn those sweet bonuses. Scorestreaks rewards players who actually play the objective and those less skilled as a marksman. Multiplayer loadouts have just enough customization and flexibility to customize to your play style, without losing a sense of structure or balance.

Visually speaking, Black Ops Cold War is a disappointment. It curiously doesn’t use Modern Warfare’s tremendous engine and instead runs on a modified version of the engine used for 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. While it’s been tweaked and updated with some flourishes, the engine certainly shows its age, especially in stark comparison to how stunning Modern Warfare’s looks.

Even the usage of several extra processing features and effects, including this new generation’s much-hyped ray tracing, fails to mask the creaks and seams. Cold War’s audio design is fine – it gets the job done. The PlayStation 5’s Tempest 3D AudioTech does help bring more spatial awareness and positioning, a very important element in multiplayer.

The DualSense is where Black Ops Cold War really stands out and each weapon offers its own unique experience with the controller.

Hands-down the most significant difference with playing Cold War on the PlayStation 5 is owed to the console’s amazing DualSense controller. Praise is highly deserved for Treyarch and the company’s implementation of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. For example, when you powerslide, the vibrations accurately match the feeling of your legs riding across a bumpy dirt floor. Rumble has never felt so detailed.

When pulling down on the L2 left trigger to aim down the sights, there is tension resistance pressing against your finger. Meanwhile, on the other side, the R2 right trigger has a defined click or snap, like a real gun trigger. Both of these, and the haptic feedback rumble, very noticeably differ based on the gun you are wielding. Playing with the PS5 DualSense controller genuinely makes an otherwise mostly standard Call of Duty special. The amount of thought and care the developers put into programming these features is apparent and Cold War is all the better for it.

A Traditional Multiplayer Experience With A Few Twists

On the multiplayer front, the staple modes you know and love are present. Cold War includes Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Domination, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Hardcore, with Control from Black Ops 4 returning. Joining those are three new, large-scale multiplayer game types: Combined Arms: Domination, Combined Arms: Assault, and Fireteam: Dirty Bomb.

The Combined Arms modes are reminiscent of Halo’s Big Team Battle. Both pit two large teams, 12 players versus 12 players, on a large map complete with vehicles like tanks, snowmobiles, speedboats, and motorcycles. If that sounds like a recipe for mayhem and shenanigans, you’re absolutely right.

Multiplayer is your standard Call of Duty fare, although with some bigger, more open modes.

Got a hankering to ride around with your buddies and tear things up? One of the Combined Arms modes can scratch that itch. Combined Arms: Domination is simply the classic mode of capturing and then defending acquired zones for points, just on a grander scale. Combined Arms: Assault takes that zone-capturing gameplay and puts it in a tug-of-war like structure where a team has to capture zones in sequence to eventually take over the enemy base (think Star Wars Battlefront II’s Galactic Assault). The action of Call of Duty scales up well, and what a thrill it was to ride around in vehicles, blasting.

The final new multiplayer mode, Fireteam: Dirty Bomb, was designed very much in the spirit of the popular battle royale style. 40 players, in 10 teams of 4 players each, parachute down into a massive map. There’s no time limit and the first team to 500 points win. Points are scored by executing kills, collecting Uranium deposits, and setting off dirty bombs.

Radioactive debris flies through the air after a dirty bomb’s been set off, damaging players in the area. Once your health drops all the way, you’re first downed, able to crawl on the ground and wait for teammates to possibly revive you. Upon dying, you do respawn, but not as quickly as in other game modes. If you’ve ever played any battle royale game, all of this should sound familiar, and you’ll be right at home in Fireteam: Dirty Bomb.

There is an ample assortment of maps for you and your crew to shoot up. The maps come in all shapes, sizes, and settings. One round you may find yourself in the building-filled nightlife district of balmy Miami, and in the next, the snowy tundra in Soviet territory. The maps are sufficiently different enough to cater to different strengths and play styles. You’ll find varied nooks and crannies with paths to travel on maps of a medley of sizes. I’m content with the array of maps on hand at launch and look forward to future (free) DLC mixing things up.

Zombies Returns With Excellent Unified Progression

Last but not least is the much-loved Call of Duty Zombies. I’m pleased to say fighting off increasing waves of zombies with the gunplay of CoD has stayed enjoyable. Cold War’s Zombies map, Die Maschine, is an expanded remake of Call of Duty: World at War’s Nacht der Untoten, the very first Zombies map. It’s filled with a large assortment of different small locations that keeps the action moving – you likely won’t find yourself staying in one place for too long.

Zombies once again returns, complete with its own story, set of characters, quirks, and skills to learn.

Cold War carries on Zombies tradition of having mysterious and intricate stories. I don’t personally ever find myself very invested in the Zombies lore, though I know a lot of people are and I appreciate its continued inclusion.

For the first time in Call of Duty, your progression is the same between standard Multiplayer and Zombies. This combined system means you can level up your guns (thus unlocking attachments) by playing Zombies and use them in multiplayer. Additionally, custom loadouts are available in Zombies, allowing you to play more to your style and develop the guns you want to.

The unification of multiplayer and zombies progression is one of the biggest quality-of-life improvements here. Perks are purchased during the game in the form of soda drinks from various vending machines. These buffs offer quite a leg up when the situation gets frantic. Increasing your max health, movement speed, or reload speed can really be the boost to keep you away from dying at the hands of those pesky zombies. Speaking of them, the A.I. of the zombies isn’t great and sometimes seemed glitchy, getting stuck endlessly walking into walls or corners. Maybe you could think of it as how zombies would act in real life.

A Throwback Call Of Duty Harkening Back To The Best Of The Black Ops Series

In many ways, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War feels like a spiritual remake of the original Black Ops. There is a lot of game offered here with dozens of potential hours of fun. Cold War doesn’t make as many changes or leaps as last year’s Modern Warfare. And maybe that’s okay.

This is classic Call of Duty at its core. It’s a return to form for Treyarch’s adored CoD sub-series. It’s good to be back in black.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available now on PS5.

Review copy provided by Activision.



The Final Word

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes you back to the past, not only in setting and theme, but in its gameplay style and more. It all feels so classic. Between multiplayer, Zombies, and the return of a proper (and surprisingly less-linear) campaign, there is plenty of value for the soldier in all of us.