There are only a few certainties in life. Things like death and taxes are inevitable, as is the fact that there will be a new Call of Duty game every fall. It's like clockwork. There will always be a new Call of Duty release ahead of the holiday season, no matter what the circumstances. Usually, it's not a big deal, because the previous edition grows stale as it approaches the one-year mark, and folks get excited about the new installment. However, in 2020, that wasn't the case. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and the free-to-play Warzone, reinvented the franchise for the better, and they have both managed to avoid becoming stale. People are still excited to play Modern Warfare, making Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War feel like an unnecessary release driven by a new console generation.
The thing is, though, Black Ops Cold War is actually good in its own right. It's a stark departure from Modern Warfare in regards to gameplay, which was to be expected given the faster pace of previous games. It has a solid, albeit short campaign, some innovative ideas and modes in multiplayer, and a new Zombies map that is both new territory and a throwback for old fans. The biggest crime Black Ops Cold War is guilty of is the fact that it came so soon after Modern Warfare.
Most people get Call of Duty games strictly for the multiplayer aspect, since the campaign has never really been something to call home about. Cold War makes some moves to flip that script, incorporating a few elements of decision-making and side missions that haven't been present in previous editions. Basing the narrative around spies and hidden information was a great idea that works throughout the campaign, especially in the collecting of hidden data. At no point is the campaign difficult, and it's much shorter than anyone would like it to be, but it's a great ride nonetheless. And the fact that there are multiple endings based on certain decisions in the game allows for a replay factor that is extremely rare in Call of Duty campaigns.
As far as multiplayer is concerned, the change from Modern Warfare to Black Ops Cold War is a bit jarring, but it's one that longtime Call of Duty players are used to. Every aspect of the game is faster and more erratic, similar to other Black Ops installments. However, the multiplayer gameplay doesn't ever feel wonky or broken, as it has in the past, it's just a different style compared to Modern Warfare. It leads to some frustrating moments early on, but it also helps to level the playing field.
Where the multiplayer of Black Ops Cold War really shines is in its innovation. There isn't anything groundbreaking in this game that we haven't seen in previous iterations, but there are a lot of little things that make a huge difference as you really dig into the game. The Armada map is a wholly unique experience that allows you to hide in the water and zipline between warships. The "VIP Escort" game mode takes the popular "Search & Destroy" formula and enhances it with a player-controlled objective.
It's these little things that make Black Ops Cold War easy to appreciate as you continue to play. When you first jump in, it may seem chaotic or frustrating, especially if you've been playing a lot of Modern Warfare, but when you give it some time and give yourself a minute to adjust to the gameplay, you'll see that there's plenty to love. The return of Zombies is really just the icing on the cake.
We didn't need a new Call of Duty game in 2020. Modern Warfare and Warzone could have sustained the franchise for another year until the next-gen systems are more widely available, but that was never going to happen. Fortunately, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War isn't the rushed placeholder that many feared it would be, and it might just turn out to be one of the more enjoyable Black Ops games when all is said and done.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is now available. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PS4.