The 17th entry into the Call of Duty franchise landed recently with Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War. This is the sequel to Call of Duty: Black Ops which released in 2010.
I’m back in the USSR
The setting for Black Ops is the early 1980’s during the Reaganite years of America and during the Cold War. The threat to America is looming with an alleged spy from Soviet Union attempting to subvert the United States and tilt the balance of power towards the Motherland.
The player controls Bell, the main protagonist of the story, who is completely customisable for the campaign. You get to choose Bells “real” names (or leave them as classified) as well as gender, skin tone and military background. It is rather a strange feature as you only ever see hands and a gun, and the military background is merely a way of selecting perks for the campaign.
Throughout the game you will be investigating the plans and location of the Soviet Spy Perseus and making decisions based on evidence that you have collected along with way. Some evidence is timed, and cannot be used after a certain criteria has been passed. There are also missions that are optional, and some where you have to select targets based on evidence collected. All in all the campaign mode starts to feel like LA Noire and in some respects takes away from the first-person shooter aspect.
The game has multiple endings based on the options that you have chosen throughout the game too, possibly in an attempt to create more longevity for the single player mode.
Quality control failures
The graphics throughout the game are nothing short of amazing, but not without their flaws. Firstly I have to point out that the graphical style seems almost dated compared to recent titles, but I presume this is in an attempt to make it appear more like a sequel to the decade-old prequel Black Ops. Secondly, there are some serious issues around the cutscenes.
Whilst recording video footage for Fing’rs & Thu’ums YouTube channel it was found that most cutscenes were lagging horrendously. Some cutscenes were seen to have audio finishing a good 20 seconds before the video. Reloading the individual mission helped, but there was still a buggy output.
This occurred whilst playing on an Xbox One X, a seriously powerful console. After looking around it became apparent that it is not an isolated case, as there are articles and Reddit threads regarding many people having the same issues. It is not a game breaker, but it looks like I am playing a new release on an old Windows XP machine with limited power.
How does it feel?
Overall the political nature of the games seems to make the game actually belong in the 1980’s. The concept of patriotism for both sides of the Cold War literally gives the sense of the sensibilities that you would have felt 40 years ago. This could be looked on as a negative element to the game, but in some respects it bolsters the games tagline “Know Your History.”
Gameplay-wise, there is not too much to mention that wouldn’t already be known. Call of Duty once again rinses and repeats the same model of game-style, run-and-gun shooting tactics and gap-filling cinematic chaos that looks stunning but probably hides a lack of originality.
The missions show an arrangement of different gaming styles, from flying helicopters, to riding on the back of a pickup truck and more. However, sometimes the interruptions prompting you to “get to the choppaaaah!” and jump off a roof seem to to make the game lose that sense of freedom. First-person shooters should be about making your own choices and movement decisions, rather than feeling like you are on a linear path controlling a character in what is almost purely a cinematic treat.
Overall the game’s campaign is definitely something worth experiencing, even if that is just from a Call of Duty fans perspective. However the seeming shock-tactics of spraying Vietnamese villagers with bullets from a helicopter and making rash decisions comes across as an attempt to make the game more emotionally responsive than it actually is. The characters are stereotypical, the gameplay is unoriginal in concept and the price-tag might not totally justify the content you are receiving, especially with WarZone being free to all gamers.