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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War – Final Verdict

By: Leonid Melikhov

PLATFORMS: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC

RELEASE DATE: November 13th, 2020


PUBLISHER: Activision Blizzard

MSRP: $69.99

ESRB: M for Mature

NOTE - A digital copy of this product was provided by Activision Blizzard for the PlayStation 5 for Review purposes. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon affiliate and does get financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.

Got a Job to Do

While not all titles in the Call of Duty franchise may have been as great as others, it's still arguably one of the most fun and arcade-like multiplayer shooters with an addition of a cinematic and heavily scripted single-player campaigns. This year, the Call of Duty: Black Ops series gets another game, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and it's packed with a ton of content, including a strong single-player narrative, varied amount of multiplayer content, and a new storyline for zombies fans. Call of Duty: Black Ops is a big game and there is a ton to discuss here including everything from its narrative, multiplayer, zombies, visuals, audio and new additions on the PlayStation 5.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - The Narrative Experience

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a direct sequel to the original Black Ops released in 2010. Without spoiling too much of the story, the whole game's plot line is to find a man named Perseus. If the player fails to find and kill Perseus then something horrible will happen to the world.

During the campaign players will come across their favorite dream team cast from the previous Black Ops entries. Characters such as Woods, Hudson, and Mason make a big return and play an important role throughout the different parts of the campaign. Gamers already know what to expect out of a Call of Duty single-player experience: intense blood-pumping action, tons of explosions, and fun scripted sequences.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War also brings back a feature that was missing for quite a few years now and that is the ability to choose different endings. Fans will be able to once again choose what ending they want by making different choices near the end of the campaign, which adds a bit of replay value and more appreciation for the story-telling. The last time a feature like this was available was from Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which was released in 2012 and it's nice to have it back.

The most exciting part of the campaign is the twists and turns throughout the  five-hour or so experience. While the experience may be short, it is filled with solid missions, a lot of excitement, suspense, a great soundtrack, voice acting, and good pacing throughout. As the player goes through the game, he or she will always be curious to see what happens next and how everything will conclude. By the time fans get to the final mission, they will be sitting on the edge of their seat, and that's how single-player campaigns should be done. Despite the game's short length, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has one of the best, if not the best, campaigns.

Multiplayer Addiction

The multiplayer is where fans will spend majority of their time. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer packs in all the old school modes everyone knows, loves, and expects, such as Kill Confirmed, Search & Destroy, Hardpoint, Team Deathmatch, and many more. As always, players can create custom loadouts with whatever guns, attachments, scorestreaks, and equipment they prefer. Leveling will unlock more attachments and scorestreaks to use for customization and preferred play styles.

The game only features eight maps: Checkmate, Moscow, Satellite, Cartel, Miami, Garrison Crossroads, and Armada. Each of these maps take place in different parts of the world. Satellite is located in South Africa, Miami and Moscow are self-explanatory, and Checkmate is located in East Berlin, Germany.  While it's nice to have a variety of maps, the majority of these are not that great in terms of their layout and structure. It's also a bit strange to see only eight maps for the six-versus-six modes. Some maps, such as the Garrison and Crossroads, are also playable in the 12v12 modes, while the others are only limited to six-versus-six.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

There are two other maps - Alpine and Ruka, but they are large-scale maps that are reserved for a new game mode called Fireteam. Fireteam features a gameplay mode called Dirty Bomb. Dirty Bomb is an interesting new mode that mixes in multiple gameplay mechanics, such as collecting uranium and depositing it at nuke sites. Once a nuke site has been filled with enough uranium, the player's squad can then try to detonate it to score points. This mode features up to 40 players across ten different squads that are filled with four players each.

Killing members of other squads will cause the enemy to drop uranium. The maps are large and feature a variety of vehicles, such as motorcycles in Ruka or the snowmobiles in Alpine. Fireteam is an interesting addition to the game. However, most players will prefer to keep playing what Call of Duty is mostly known for: close quarter combat.

While Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War may be light on the multiplayer content, there are a ton of challenges to collect and keep the fans playing. Challenges are like in-game achievements that let players unlock new animated calling cards. These challenges are not only tied specifically to the multiplayer portion of the game but also single player and zombies. Some fans just buy Call of Duty strictly for Zombies and that's all they play, others only for multiplayer, and some don't mind playing only the campaign. In a nutshell, Treyarch made sure that whatever kind of a player might be engaging with their product that they have something to do and goals to obtain.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - New Generation of Zombies

The next chapter in the Zombies mode is finally here. Treyarch went deep into bettering the Zombies experience in Black Ops Cold War. Zombies now blurs the line with the multiplayer portion of the game; players are now able to take their loadouts and operators from multiplayer and bring them into Zombies mode. Fans can even play as Woods, Adler, Park, and other characters by doing specific challenges to unlock them, which is a nice addition.

The loadouts only allow players to bring their customized gun, and the weapons can be leveled both in multiplayer and Zombies and the progression will always carry over. This gives great freedom to how the players want to play and they do not have to worry about any loss of time or extra unnecessary grinding. Perks, equipment, and scorestreaks do not carry over, however. Instead, Treyarch has implemented something completely new to the Zombies mode in the form of upgradeable skills, which are also divided into four categories including Weapon Classes, Field Upgrades, Perks, and Ammo Mods.

When fans play Zombies and they progress through rounds successfully, they will earn something called "Aetherium" crystals that allow them to upgrade their skills and then bring them into future Zombie matches permanently. This is the new progression system that has never been done in Zombies' history. Weapon Classes upgrades let players spend the crystals and upgrade them up to tier III. For example, if a player's friends prefer to use shotguns in their loadouts they can upgrade the Shotgun Weapon Class to tier I, tier II and then tier III. Tier I requires a single crystal. Meanwhile, tiers II and III require two and three crystals, respectively, which means the player needs a total of six crystals to max out a weapon class.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

This leveling system also works same way with Field Upgrades and Perks. Perks are the most interesting, because fans who are familiar with something like the Jugger-Nog will now have a beefier version of it at tier III. The strongest player will be the one who has spent a ton of time playing Zombies or multiplayer and has maxed out all of their Skills via "Aetherium" crystals.

Treyarch has also added a whole new loot system that many players today are familiar with: weapon and item rarities. Zombie killers will now be able to collect not only power-up items off dead zombie corpses, but also loot such as grenades, flashbangs, tomahawks, and salvage currency that lets players upgrade their armor slots. The armor itself may also drop from the zombies themselves, but it is considered rare. Scorestreaks are also now part of the Zombie experience. If the team needs extra help to get out of a sticky situation, they may activate a Scorestreak, assuming they have reached a specific high score or lucked out with the Mystery Box.

Last but not least, players may now choose to leave or end the Zombies match if they feel there is too much pressure. Thanks to the new "Exfil" option, the team can make an earlier escape and have a chance to earn rewards if they exfiltrate successfully. Initiating an Exfil will cause an extremely difficult wave of Zombies to spawn, which means the team needs to make sure they are prepared for the final showdown.

A Fresh Look

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is the first major third-party cross-gen shooter title to hit the the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which means it's one of the first games to show off what the brand new machines can do. Unfortunately, as this is a cross-generation title, it is still hard to say or predict exactly how future games may look, perform, and feel a year or two from now. What is 100% positive, though, is that for a cross-generation title it does indeed show a small glimpse of what it's like to play a game running at native 4K with 60FPS, HDR, and ray-tracing without any stutters or weird graphical performance issues. The PlayStation 5 version (as well as the Xbox Series X) lets fans also experience the game at a buttery smooth 120FPS but at 1080p resolution, assuming they have a TV or monitor that can handle 120 hertz refresh rate.


Like most cross-generation games, the game won't blow fans away. However, it does deliver when it comes to performance and smooth gameplay. The addition of ray-tracing definitely adds a new layer of realism, especially in night levels where reflections are much more apparent. This is the cleanest and best-looking Call of Duty the fans will get to experience yet.

The gun and character models look far better than anything players have seen in previous Call of Duty titles. It's a joy to look at the guns and the environments. The reload animations are also fantastic and satisfying to watch. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was an impressive-looking title, but this game looks and feels even better thanks to the addition of the new next-gen bells and whistles. This isn't truly the next-generation Call of Duty when it comes to visuals, but it is a beast when it comes to performance.

The reality is fans will most likely not see a true next-generation Call of Duty until 2022 or 2023, because Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops III were still cross-generational games. Black Ops III's single-player campaign was only available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and was released in 2015, two years after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launch. The multiplayer portion of Black Ops III was still playable on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox One. Advanced Warfare was released in 2014 and was a cross-generational game with both the single-player campaign and multiplayer. It was not until 2016 when Treyarch released Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which was the first true next-gen Call of Duty at the time and was not available on the previous generation's systems.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - Explosions, Bullets, and Music

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has great audio design. Everything from massive explosions in the single-player campaign and bullets whizzing by the player's ears has a strong kick and impact to it that is satisfying to listen to and adds a lot to the overall gameplay. As previously mentioned, the game has great animations and combing that, with fantastic audio effects, make the overall experience feel immersive and fun. Shooting one of the shotguns at an enemy player as they charge at crazy speeds during an intense multiplayer match has never felt so gratifying, because it never gets old to hear the shotgun blast's sound effect.

Another reason why the single-player campaign is a great roller coaster ride is because of its soundtrack. Jack Wall, the man responsible for the fantastic Mass Effect soundtrack, has absolutely killed it in his musical craft when it comes to Black Ops Cold War. Not only is the soundtrack is great to listen to, it also fits the tone of the game and gives it a unique and atmospheric identity.

The new narration voice-over for Zombies mode also adds a new layer of fun and arcade feel. When picking up a power-up, such as Max Ammo, players will be introduced to a deeper voice that sounds satisfying to hear. Also, blasting Zombies with awesome gunfire audio effects has made this game mode even more addicting to play.

The new dog rounds have new enemies called Plaguehounds. Fighting theses outlandish doggies adds a whole new level of awesome thanks to sounds they produce when they spawn, run, and explode into bits and pieces after they get hit in the face with a shotgun slug. Fans of Zombies will appreciate many of their favorite creepy groans at a higher fidelity. The musical queues that every Zombie player knows and loves will also add an extra kick of nostalgia, which is great fan-service. Overall, the audio team has done a fantastic job and deserve a raise.

Final Verdict

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War delivers on many fronts, but most importantly it is a lot of fun. It is a fantastic game to pick up for a brand new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. The game has something for everyone and it does not matter what the players might prefer. Whether they just like the single-player campaign, multiplayer, or Zombies - Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has them covered. Every game mode had a lot of love put into it, particularly the stellar campaign and the refreshed take on Zombies. The multiplayer is most likely the weakest of them all, but it's not horrible by any means. The biggest issue with multiplayer is the lack of well-designed maps, but everything else is as fun as fans would expect.

As previously mentioned, the game looks and performs great on the PlayStation 5. While it won't blow anyone away, for a cross-generational title it looks and feels excellent. The audio design is also stellar and is satisfying to hear during gameplay. Overall, the game is an impressive package that features one of the best single-player story campaigns in the history of the franchise and promises a bright future for Zombies fans. Most importantly, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a great sign of what a true next-generation Call of Duty title could be like as the gaming community enters a new era.

Fun and intense single player campaign, much improved Zombies mode with addition of great online multiplayer gameplay that's fun and addicting.
Super clean image quality, crystal clear 4K Native with beautiful HDR, at 60FPS, fantastic animations and the addition of Ray-tracing make this the best Call of Duty yet.
One of the best Call of Duty soundtracks composed by the legendary Jack Wall the man behind Mass Effect series Great audio design, weapons are satisfying to shoot and feel like they pack a punch.
Campaign has multiple endings to go through, new Zombies are addicting and fun to play with your buddies, multiplayer is great as well with the exception of some bad map designs