Gaming Reviews

Gaming Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Multiplayer – A Step Forwards or a Leap Backwards?

Elliot Noyes

The whole philosophy behind Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is the fundamental belief that complexity doesn’t always create enjoyable experiences. Treyarch the game’s developer has tried to look back to the past for inspiration in the present and at heart create a game for long standing fans. Even if this motivation seems simple, the discussion over the quality of the result is complicated.

Specifically, we will look at the most popular element of Call of Duty since its inception, multiplayer. In the newest iteration it has been stripped back to try and give an authentic Black Ops Experience, whilst still adding new features which don’t diminish from this. These include increased customisation of weapons to allow the player to tailor their weapon to their playstyle, therefore making a range of guns viable (in a game series often dominated each year by a certain meta) and a return of the classic 3 lane map system.

Moscow with its interesting, classic feel and Miami with long sight lines among beautiful neon imagery are great additions to the franchise

This is in contrast to Modern Warfare, the previous game which employed a new take on map design which was ultimately disliked by many people, the only shining lights being popular remade fan favourites such as ‘Hardhat’ and ‘Vacant’. Whilst this return is therefore welcome, one of the main critiques from both the pro and casual community is that Cold War is a good game with bad maps. On the whole they just feel as lifeless and plain as Modern Warfare, but with increased colour intensity and an arcade like design. It is not all negative though as maps such as Moscow with its interesting, classic feel and Miami with long sight lines among beautiful neon imagery are great additions to the franchise. Aside from these though, one just can’t help but feel as if this is a product of the constrained production and release cycle that Call of Duty sits on year after year. 

I can’t help feeling like the days of jumping into a complete random lobby to mess around with your friends and see what happens are gone

Even after talking about issues with map design, the elephant in the room still remains in the form of skill-based matchmaking. This is a system which has split the community and one that has angered many pro players and fans of the series alike. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t any worse than it was in Modern Warfare, but I can’t help feeling like the days of jumping into a complete random lobby to mess around with your friends and see what happens are gone, instead replaced by a demanding skill contest usually reserved for a ranked playlist.

Not only does this make the game feel less enjoyable for the casual player to jump on and play after a long day, it is also not even beneficial for the new/inexperienced players who’s behalf it is largely enforced upon. The decision seems bizarre if you consider that Treyarch and Activision are trying to recreate the nostalgic experiences of some of the most loved games in the franchise’s history which had no or very little skill-based matchmaking in effect.

On a more positive note, the new fireteam mode is an interesting addition and one that emulates the feel of battlefield (with vehicles and large maps outside of battle royale) but in a Call of Duty context.

Although at points it can feel confusing and chaotic with 40 players and various annoying ways to die, I found myself enjoying it nevertheless. The ‘Dirty Bomb’ mode of it whilst having an amusing name is something different to what we have seen before. A game mode where you are tasked with finding radioactive bombs around the map and detonating them, thereby making areas contaminated and changing their appearance (as a result of explosion and for the remainder of the game). It is ultimately won by scoring points from detonations and therefore being very objective oriented (something Call of Duty often lacks even in other supposedly objective based game-modes).

I have been playing games in the Call of Duty (often abbreviated to COD) franchise for just under a decade and have played what are to be considered both good and bad games. However, the newest instalment, COD: Black Ops Cold War, is something quite different. Treyarch the developer have tried to look back to the greatest games in the series to create a fun, nostalgic experience and whilst there are clearly issues with the game as of a couple weeks after launch, it has the potential to develop into a game akin to the Black Ops we know and love.

Elliot Noyes

Featured image courtesy of K Putt via Flickr. Image license can be found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @callofduty via Instagram. No changes were made to these images.

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