Black Ops: Cold War (2020) Review

13 Nov

What makes a game or piece of art interesting is the subtle ways a game can provide a level of detail that only few can give with fast paced action but also tense moments. Like the Metro Trilogy relying on tension, Black Ops: Cold War (2020), developed by Raven software and published by Activision studio, released on November 13th, 2020 (Friday the 13th, by the way) is the sixth installment of the Black Ops Series, but also the seventeenth game in the series, serving as a story in between Black Ops (2010) and Black Ops II (2012). Running on the IW 8.0 system, it’s hard to watch the cutscenes on a regular series S, as it’s trying to push all the detail, but with a XBOX Series X/S or PlayStation 5, this issue will not be a problem. The campaign is a good five hours, depending on the level of difficulty.

The story follows an agent named Bell, as you are on the hunt for a sleeper agent named Perseus, through Cold War infested areas of modern day life during the Cold War of the 1980’s. Ronald Regan makes an appearance. 

As “Bell,” you can fill out personal details at the beginning of the game, and give yourself a background, which is new for a Call of Duty game, that affects the story line as you play. David Goyer, writer of Batman Begins (2005) and Dark City (1998), returns as a co-writer of Cold War, and the dark gritty atmosphere is where David Goyer’s talents serve the series best, as he penned Black Ops II (2012). You can play the game four times and get a different result with each background you make. You can be from North America, or an ex-KGB agent. What the game offers is something that the Black Ops series delivers. Secret missions that put you in harms way during period piece of the 80’s. If you love the 80’s, being in occupied Germany, during the Cold War, is a real treat. 

            What is interesting is that the game doesn’t focus on Bell, but let’s you play as Mason in some missions, but the theme of identity does play a major role throughout the game, as you question what may happen at any given moment. Adler, who resembles Robert Redford, seems to fit right in, as it seems to mirror Robert Ludlum’s Three Days of the Condor (book and move share the same name, as the film version stars Robert Redford too). What is special about Black Ops, as a whole, is that it allows you to replay the missions, if need be, but it’s more important to learn from your mistakes, and then pursue it in a new game. 

            It’s sad to hear that nobody from the franchise, not even Ed Harris who voiced Hudson, from the first black Ops game in 2010, doesn’t make a return. But it’s weird to see a COD game go into a subtle direction, which is good for new players, but also for the experienced COD player to play a subtly driven story that most would see in a Metro game. What is important is that it does share a through line with the first Black Ops (2010) as this seems like it’s from a different perspective, rather than through Mason’s eyes. 

            What positives can be said is the graphics, attention to detail in character animation, and the story, as subtle as it is, remains the strong suit of Cold War, as this would have What is important in the world of Cold War is that it’s willing to delve further into Black Ops as a direct sequel. But what Raven software does is willing to tread old ground without replaying some of the greatest hits of the series. It’s allowing the player to make choices in the game that hasn’t been done in a COD game. The human meat shield option, as in other games, feels immediate and fun in a first person shooter. While this was done in Gears of War, COD can add themselves to the fray as helping boost the game play, but also the animations of using it, is so fun. 

            I expected there to be a larger level system, but that’s unfair to put that expectation on COD, because the game works in a linear fashion but the extra levels serve as your own choice to make. As Cold War carries through on the themes of identify, it makes the will of the player far more trusting of the surroundings, as the level break on through, remains an interesting idea of how mind control is pursued to its very fatal execution in the storyline. Making decisions in the middle of a COD game is the breath of fresh air the series needed, and it will surely help players enjoy the four separate story lines. The only caveat in the gameplay is the lack of a lean system that revolutionized the Modern Warfare reboot, which should be the staple of the series at this point.

And it will give you a fresh perspective each time. With Modern Warfare (2019) being such a massive hit, Cold War seems like a positive step as it does fill the holes between Black Ops (2010) and Black Ops II (2012), by adding in some ideas that take place along the way. To call it a direct sequel, makes sense, but without the voice actors from the original games, such as Ed Harris, makes the game a weird entry, since the theme of identity plays a key role in the Black Ops series. Overall, it’s the strongest entry in the Black Ops series since Black Ops II (2012). 

            Final Review: 8 out of 10. 

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