While highly believable rumours, clear indications, and double experience points from Doritos left little doubt about what this year's Call of Duty would be called it's really nice to finally get the official word from Activision, Treyarch, and Raven. Especially as the first details we've received have made me very excited.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is indeed real, and is set to launch on both PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 13. The reason why the release date for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions aren't mentioned is obviously that we don't know when the consoles will launch yet, but the game will be available on both from the get-go. I've been lucky enough to have known this for a while, as I attended an 80-minute presentation last week, and it's safe to say it got me hyped.
Let's start with the tidbit that got me excited from the get-go. Black Ops Cold War takes the series back in time, as it's a sequel to the original Black Ops. As most of the story is set in 1981, that means that Alex Mason, Frank Woods, and Jason Hudson are still alive and ready for action. That's not to say they'll be guns blazing all the time, even it today's reveal trailer shows that there will be more than enough of that too.
I say that because there was a surprising amount of talk about player-choice and freedom. We've heard stuff like that about Call of Duty games before, but some of the examples I was shown made it clear that they're serious this time around. Dialogue choices, having the option to either poison a target to get the intel, or disguise yourself and trick someone to give it to you, and simply the fact that you get to choose gender, skin tone and a background that might even change certain attributes of your character - these are all elements that are meant to take your ownership and immersion to another level. Just don't expect your choices to change the gameplay experience as much as games that have choice and consequence as their core pillar.
Yes, there will be multiple endings based on what you do, but Raven's senior creative director, Dan Vondrak, spent so much time specifying that only a handful of missions will have options where our actions will have noteworthy consequences and they're mostly there to really highlight that we are this character and our actions matter. A detail making that abundantly clear is that there will be two optional side-missions that only become available if you find hidden objects in some of the main missions. The developers promised that these two wouldn't be diluted main missions or something like that, and I'm willing to believe them because David S. Goyer, writer of The Dark Knight and the first Black Ops, is consulting again.
Gameplay is still king, however, so I'm glad to say that the glimpses I saw of that definitely raised my expectations as well. I don't like comparing games in previews and reviews, but bits I saw gave me real Modern Warfare and Black Ops vibes in terms of their variety. Where one mission took us back to the napalm and intense shootouts of the Vietnam War in 1964, another required a more stealthy approach as the playable character joined Woods in what seemed like a recon mission inside an enormous enemy base in 1981.
Then it was time for some real Cold War espionage, as the playable character was a double-agent inside the KGB headquarters. This was the part that really showed off the freedom and exploration, with a new map mechanic thrown in for good measure. Four of the different options to solve a mission were shown: bribe someone, poison them, steal something, or the choose some good, old-fashioned blackmail.
A final example of new gameplay features revealed that Black Ops Cold War will play tricks on us once again, this time with fun physics and other really neat ways that I won't spoil here. Let's just say that it seems like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's campaign seems to bring back the beloved formula used in the first games, whilst also adding some variety via a few new and interesting mechanics.
Unfortunately, Achievements/Trophies show that few players finish what I think have mostly been fantastic campaigns and instead go straight to multiplayer and Zombies. Not that I blame them when these aspects of the franchise are always top-notch, and what I've heard about Black Ops Cold War's improvements to those areas are enticing as well. Treyarch and Raven Software would find a cool way to kill me and erase my existence from history if I told you about it today, so I'll tell you about that on *classified*. For now just know that it sounds like the campaign will be well worth diving into if you like the intense action, nerve-wracking stealth and conspiracy theories that made Black Ops the colossus it is in the first place.