Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Review

November 16, 2020

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War hits the shelves just moments after the launch of the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 consoles, bringing the early 80’s era of the Cold War to the franchise for the first time. Treyarch and Raven Software are back for another Black Ops game, this time following a CIA officer and team of allied soldiers on the hunt of a Soviet spy. Set in the retro 80’s era, expect funky lighting and gaming arcades as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War goes psychedelic across all three of its game modes. Check out our in-depth review to learn whether Black Ops Cold War should be on your list of must-have launch titles; some say we just play games for a living, but we say we have a job to do.

A new part of next-gen gaming is the ability to install certain parts of the game and while we’ve seen attempts in previous generations, it’s never been as easy as it is now. The Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War menu screen has five options: Campaign, Multiplayer, War Zone, Zombies, and the Store. Each part of the game can be installed or uninstalled at a whim, and there are also extra installable options such as HD Assets, Ray Tracing and the Dead Ops Arcade 3 twin-stick shooter mini-game which can be the difference between a quick install or full install which clocks in at around 150 GB. We would have liked for there to be a bit more information in the File Management menu such as precisely how big each part of the game is, but for now at least we can uninstall parts of the game that we’re not using. It’s also worth noting that Warzone won’t automatically install and isn’t part of the File Management menu. We’ve also learnt that Warzone runs at a cool 4k120FPS on the Series X if your screen is capable.

The Black Ops Cold War campaign spans across several continents as you work your way through a mind-bending story of espionage and psychedelia. This CoD campaign feels quite different to previous games in that it’s in a new setting that plays on the 80’s theme as much as it can, while still attempting to stick to a Black Ops style. What it results in is an intertwined Reagan/Gorbachev nuke war where the choices you make directly impact both personal and world events. The campaign has a CIA Safehouse which you return to several times throughout the story to plan the next mission and make small-talk with your colleagues. Here you’ll find a mission board that gradually builds as you progress and allows you to replay completed missions. There are also locked optional missions that require you to locate hidden items in the main missions and then solve a puzzle to successfully complete, though we found these didn’t add much to the overall story.

When you begin the campaign, you choose your own persona which comes with the option of two ‘Psychological Profile’ traits. It borders on RPG character creation territory, allowing you to choose your skin colour, but beyond that, the choices are limited. There are five difficulty settings from ‘Recruit’ to ‘Hardened’ to the most challenging ‘Realism’ experience that will test even the best online players. It’s worth noting that there’s a 100-point achievement for beating the game on ‘Veteran’ or ‘Realism’ difficulty, but there’s not one for each mission. The achievements are well thought out in Black Ops Cold War, spread across all three main game modes, and include enough hidden ones to keep you interested.

The real-world Cold War involved a lot of spying and evidence gathering, and that’s exactly what you can expect from the Black Ops Cold War campaign. From sneaking through the woods with a guy named Woods to disguising yourself as a Soviet soldier and blending in to find a list of sleeper agents, the campaign has almost everything you’d expect for a late Cold War era game, though in typical CoD style it does feel like it ends prematurely, stopping short of providing a completely fulfilling single-player experience. The cinematics throughout the campaign look incredible and can be re-watched at leisure from the main Campaign menu.

Black Ops Cold War Beta

Black Ops multiplayer is back with a range of familiar game modes for every type of FPS player and still plays just like previous CoD games. The multiplayer menu has a few quick options to get you into the game. The featured mode, displayed as the primary option, regularly changes giving you the option to try something you might not usually play, while quick play mode will get you straight in to the action as soon as possible. Fireteam mode is the new multiplayer mode to Call of Duty. This new largescale 40-player mode puts you in a squad of four while completing different objectives like acquiring and depositing uranium to set off a dirty bomb. This mode is where you’ll find plenty of vehicles to toy with including everything from helicopters to snowmobiles. While Fireteam feels similar to the Battle Royale Warzone, it’s also less hectic and requires more planning and teamwork, making it the perfect mode to team up with your friends.

Creating a class in Black Ops Cold War multiplayer has never been so streamlined. The new layout is easy to understand with a customisation weapon attachment system set up for your equipped firearms. With up to ten custom classes, there’s plenty of wiggle room to plan your perfect loadout for each mode. As usual, most of the weapons are locked behind the multiplayer leveling system, though you get immediate access to popular weapons like the MP5 and AK-47. The base accessories and perks aren’t terrible, but it’s worth going back and checking each new one out as you unlock them as some of them, especially when the wildcards start to unlock, as then you can get some serious upgrades such as the ability to carry two primary weapons instead of a pistol, or to add three extra perks or attachment slots to your primary weapon.

Black Ops Cold War Beta

Prestiging is back with a bang in Black Ops Cold War, with Treyarch listening carefully to fan feedback when they implemented new features. Players can now retain all of the content they’ve acquired when reaching level 55 and choosing to prestige back to level 1, and there will be new goals to pursue as the game grows across seasons, with your own progress including your create-a-class content carrying over. What this means is there are effectively over 1,000 levels to grind your way through in multiplayer mode, with several unique Prestige Master titles to earn along the way. This new Seasonal Prestige system is set to be a global CoD feature that carries across to Warzone and potentially future games.

Zombies mode returns to the Call of Duty franchise again, bringing the chaotic gameplay mode to the next generation of gaming. Squad up with friends or strangers to face waves of Soviet zombies as you work your way deeper into a base to discover its secrets. Rebuild walls, barricade windows, purchase and upgrade weapons and other perks as you race against the clock and the horde to survive. We found random players tended to be of more help in Zombies mode compared to others, possibly because it’s a PvE environment where the only hostile forces are mindless zombie bots. Progression in this mode is separate to the normal multiplayer and this is probably because there are Zombies-themed perks and weapons to unlock. Lastly, the 1-2 player Onslaught Mode is a one-year timed PlayStation exclusive and won’t be covered in this review.

Cold War Out Now

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War uses a custom, rebuilt IW engine which includes hardware-based ray tracing and a new FOV slider for all platforms. It’s now becoming a lot harder to distinguish the difference between cut-scene cinematics and the in-game graphics as things like hair, facial animations and clothing are moving as fluidly as we’ve seen in any game. Graphically, this still feels and plays like CoD, but boy does it look good. Our biggest negative was the lack of reflections. With ray tracing now shining a new light on gaming, we expect to see quality reflections and unfortunately this is one of the minor areas where Black Ops Cold War doesn’t shine.

A talented line-up of actors voice the characters you meet throughout the Black Ops Cold War campaign including Bruce Thomas (Legally Blonde, Army of Darkness), Damon Victor Allen (L.A.’s Finest, Perry Mason) and Lily Cowles (Roswell: New Mexico). Your own character is a mute however, which combined with the lack of reflections make the campaign feel a lot less personal. All the firearms look and sound realistic though, assisting the completely hectic Cold War experience.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a great game that offers a diverse range of gameplay options suitable for all CoD fans. We think Activision, Treyarch and Raven Software have put together something well worth playing at the launch of the next generation of gaming, and give it 4 stars due to its scope.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War on Xbox Series X with review code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 5, Windows PC and the previous generation consoles. For more information, head to the official website.


- Unique mind-bending campaign
- Strong start to the current-gen Call of Duty online presence
- More game modes than we could shake a stick at.


- CoD campaigns always seem a few missions short
- Online PvE content lacks depth
- No character reflections!

Overall Score: