- Fantastic (sic) single-player storyline campaign with multiple endings;
- Some completely new gameplay mechanics for CoD standards, which work surprisingly well;
- Variety of stages in which you do a lot more than just shooting;
- Great fan-service with references to the Black Ops and Modern Warfare series;
- 8-bit classics like River Raid available as part of the campaign;
- Challenging Zombie mode;
- Entertaining Dead Ops Arcade is back.
- Multi-player is significantly less thrilling than Modern Warfare;
- A little disappointing soundtrack;
- Still too dumb AI and difficulty level not suited to the mechanics.
A year ago, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, created on the new engine, dramatically raised the bar for quality for subsequent games in this series. The story campaign with a revamped Captain Price was great, and shooting was finally fun again, translating into a great experience of network games. How does the latest installment fare? What can we say about Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War apart from the title being a SEO nightmare? It depends...
The answer is not clear, because Black Ops is, as usual, three separate modules offering a slightly different experience. In my opinion, we get a phenomenal storyline campaign that's among the greatest in the entire CoD series, a slightly weaker multiplayer than in Modern Warfare and Zombie mode, as usual at a high level, but to the full satisfaction of a demanding team.
Online clashes are similar to those from last year's game, with many elements transferred directly, without any changes. We even have the same menu, operator selection, almost the same arsenal or 6vs6 modes, but in Cold War, I somehow couldn't get used to a new pace of movement, and the noticeably different "time-to-kill." The gunplay isn't as fluent and fun as the one in MW, which I suspect is due to the completely different engine the game was made in. However, the technical differences didn't interfere with the single-player campaign at all.
The new adventures of Hudson, Woods and Mason take us back to the days of yore, when the world was hanging on a thread, on the verge of a nuclear apocalypse. The shaky status quo was defended by politicians of both powers engaged in the Cold War, as well as secret intelligence agents, who were constantly playing cat and mouse with each other. The Black Ops – Cold War campaign puts us in the middle of such action and does it really well – both in terms of plot and gameplay mechanics. Especially in terms of the latter, the new CoD will really surprise you!
Black Ops + Modern Warfare = Call Of Duty
I went through the Cold War story campaign in a single sitting, not merely because it's possible with the standard campaign length of around five hours, but mostly because it's hellishly riveting. It's a cohesive, engaging story with an explosive ending, so it doesn't generally feel either long or short. It takes exactly as much time as the story needs, and it's neither boring nor unsatisfactory, just like a good movie. According to the developers, this is the direct sequel to Black Ops, but it's of course not mandatory to know the plot of that game to enjoy the new release.
The protagonist is a CIA agent, Russel Adler, who commands an operation in the field to track down a certain Perseus – a Soviet agent who seeks to destabilize the United States their allies, even at the cost of a nuclear attack. Woods and Mason are two guys doing the wet work, and Hudson coordinates the operations. You don't need to know the previous game, but believe me, it's worth it – not only Black Ops 1, but also the first two parts of Modern Warfare! First, you'll get to know some great games, and second, there's a ton of references that you'll otherwise miss!
Russel Adler's distinctive blond hair and face generally evoke the spirit of the movie stars of the 1970s and 80s, such as Robert Redford. The devs have told me that when creating Adler, they were inspired by several characters from spy movies, including Redford himself.
The actor performed a couple of roles in exactly such movies, and if your really want to immerse in that cold-war atmoshpere, it's definitely worth to check out such movies as 2001 Spy Game, and one of the most famous spy thrillers of all times Three Days of the Condor from 1975.
Me, a spy!
However, fan service is just the icing on the cake when it comes to Cold War campaign. New mechanics are very conspicuous from the first minutes with the game, and can be quite surprising if you got used to CoDs being rail shooters – even with the Black Ops experiments in mind. Choices, optional missions, an FOB were already featured in Cold War, but in a slightly more compact, thoughtful form, sometimes almost reminiscent of a role-playing game! But how about a Call of Duty with a character creator, conversations with NPCs using different dialog options, and time-limited dialog choices?
On top of that, here are also stealth sequences, there's moving and hiding of bodies, and even a lockpicking minigame! One mission gives us significant leeway in completing the goals, there are some optional activities, entire side missions, or details like the option to choose the starting weapon naturally interwoven with interactive cut-scenes. Like in Wolfenstein, the FOB, you can have conversations with team members, and they're much better than a similar solution recently featured in Star Wars: Squadrons; the entire story leads to one of two endings, which have smaller variants as well.