Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War Beta Review

A disappointing follow up to Infinity Ward’s best game in years.

If 2019’s Modern Warfare was that cool friend that turned the volume up to 11, then this year’s Cold War is the miserable neighbour who turns the dial down to six while still thinking he’s cool.

After my initial foray into the Beta, I can say that almost everything in Treyarch’s Cold War feels watered down and lacking, especially when compared to the excellence of Modern Warfare. However, before I go into my tirade about the frailties of the game I will try to dig out some positives.

As with every Call of Duty, the core gameplay of running and gunning feels as fluid and enjoyable as it always has. The maps are impressive with a variety of paths to take giving options during gunfights and gameplay, in particular, Armada and Cartel stand out at the moment as two maps I could see myself revisiting for their layout and design which keep me wanting more. The game sounds wonderful and equipped with the right headset a session of team deathmatch does feel immersive thanks to sound design, weapons sound satisfying when fired and explosions in the distance add to the feeling of really being there in battle.

Unfortunately, that’s where it stops. Aside from the sound design, the core gameplay and a few interesting maps Call of Duty has very little to offer this year that will entice CoD fans away from Modern Warfare. Everything feels scaled back, with fewer options and less customisation. Despite Treyarch finally, finally, admitting that the Pick 10 system doesn’t work by dropping it from their new release, the options in the game still feel very limited.

Ultimately, every gun in Modern Warfare has a miasma of customisation options from stocks to optics to underbarrel attachments. If we take the M4 as an example, in Black Ops it has a mere 9 optical options, whereas the weapon in Modern Warfare has 23. In Modern Warfare, every weapon felt unique to your playstyle, in Cold War, the weapons feel hollow and insignificant despite being a pivotal feature of the game.

Weapon customisation is not the only factor lacking options throughout the beta. As of now, there are only eight scorestreaks in the beta, again lacking in comparison to other similar games. This makes gameplay feel unrewarding, particularly as the points to streak ration is extraordinarily high, lessening the feeling of reward when earning killstreaks, or being forced to play whole matches only to earn an RC-XD or Spy Plane and alienating the less skilled players who may struggle to earn even the lowest scorestreaks.

Next is up is the lag, which, at least at this early beta stage, is rife throughout the game. Latency issues are always an inevitable part of any pre-release software. However, should the issues facing Cold War not be rectified in time for release then I can see a rocky start for the game akin to the launches of many of EA’s Battlefield games. While finding and joining games is no issue, lag during matches is rife, with the most irritating issues putting a dampener on the excellent core gameplay. Shooting first in gunfights and still being killed is something that has bugged (pun intended) both the average and pro player alike, with YouTubers such as Drift0r complaining about this issue. Similarly, being shot around corners or still taking damage after diving into cover is a reoccurring issue that has left me raging more than once through the weekend.

Graphically, despite using the same technique (known as Photogrammetry) as Modern Warfare, Cold War’s graphics seem less advanced than those of Infinity Ward’s latest output. Whether stationary or moving, the image quality – while not poor – does not befit a game either at the peak of the current generation of consoles or at the dawning of a new one. Graphics-wise, Cold War is a few years behind other current games of upcoming next-gen releases such as Doom Eternal, Gears of War 5 and Destiny 2.

Overall, while rising above the dregs of Activision’s Call of Duty catalogue and easily beating the likes of Infinite Warfare and Advanced Warfare, the game looks set to be fairly average, at least in the multiplayer department. With a lack of customisation options and a somewhat graphical downgrade detracting from the great gameplay and sound design. The jury is out on multiplayer, at least until November 13th. However, with Zombies, a single-player campaign and – of course – Warzone still to be seen, I hold out hope for the rest of the game.

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