Just when I think I’m out, another few months pass, a new generation of consoles launch, and the temptation to jump back into Call of Duty returns, if only to see what gimmick has been introduced to prise what little free time we have in the world out of our hands.
Yes, friends, I did indeed spend actual time in my actual life playing Reagan Simulator 2020, aka Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. And I honestly couldn’t tell you what’s different about it all.
But this isn’t the page to critique in detail – this is a page journaling an ongoing journey; one of trying to find a single game out there that can be played online, repeatedly, without making me want to pull my own brain out and fling it over the nearest rainbow (i.e. it’s a regular feature in the magazine, fact fans). CODBLOPSCW is not going to be that game, it’s fair to say, but it did actually do two things very well indeed: moment-to-moment, heart-racing action, and choice.
The latter first, because I’m a renegade – Activision and its (approximately) 900,000 studios working on the COD behemoth has come up with plenty of different modes in which you can play the games over the years.
Rather than dropping them (though some are dropped), plenty of things end up carrying over to the next game – and that’s led to where we are today with Cold War, where there’s multiplayer and its dozen or so different modes; Warzone, the take on battle royale that does a decent job of it; and the ever-popular Zombies spin-off (‘spin-in’, given it’s included in the main game?).
Safe to say, there’s a lot of game to be had, a lot of different ways to play, and a lot of different potential things to get their claws well and truly into you. Gosh, Call of Duty tries hard to get its claws into you.
I spent no time with Warzone beyond seeing if it worked – it does – because I played that relatively recently. Instead, I focused on the main multiplayer portion and was a mix of pleasantly surprised, bored out of my mind, left feeling exactly how I expected to feel, and utterly infuriated. Cold War is, surprise, another Call of Duty game.
Straight-up deathmatch, team or otherwise, does the job in a pinch – it’s big dumb fun, but it’s where I spent most of my time dying within seconds of spawning, be it from some bugger shooting me through a 2 mm gap around a corner, some other bugger stabbing me while I looked right when I should have looked left, or the ultra-buggers who drop bombs on you because they’re so good at the game they deserve to be more powerful(?).
No, that’s not the fun. The fun comes in modes where you have to think a tiny bit, where you have to capture hardpoints – like in Hardpoint – or endure the ever-swaying to-and-fro of a conquest, sneaking in around the back to try and capture point A while everyone’s fighting over point C (top tip: do that).
There’s even some new newness here in Cold War, as I found, with Fireteam: Dirty Bomb offering both a fresh take on the larger game modes (40 players, teams of four), while also getting my Spider-Sense tingling that a game about stealing uranium to make and detonate dirty bombs is the sort of stuff nightmares are made of. Call of Duty: you do parody yourself.
The Fireteam stuff lasted a couple of games, but honestly, I just wasn’t able to wrap my head around it – more because I couldn’t be bothered than anything else, I’ll be honest, but also because the call of something else (not duty) came on strong: zombies.
Zombie mode in COD has always been a hoot, and in Cold War it’s no different, even if there are even more cutscenes to skip this year. But rather than getting caught up in the usual blast-the-undead FPS bit, I instead allowed myself to be drawn to the gimmick I’d always avoided: Dead Ops Arcade. This time it’s Dead Ops Arcade 3: Rise of Mamaback, specifically, but the template has been the same since the original Black Ops – it’s a top-down twin-stick shooter you can play with others, where you battle waves of zombies, pick up power-ups, and all that gubbins, and it’s brilliant.
By no means did I expect this to be where I spent most of my time, but then maybe that’s a comment on me as a player: I’m not good enough at the core COD action – much as my skills improved in the few sessions I played, there’s a serious plateau that hits after not too long, and it just gets… well, boring. Dead Ops, meanwhile, is Smash TV. I still like Smash TV. So I’ll keep playing Dead Ops. Feels like a bit of a daft reason to download about 200GB of data, mind you.
Just as I said about COD Warzone in a previous Online Diary, I don’t actually dislike Cold War’s online offerings, it’s just not something for me. Not something to stick with, or get particularly good at. I genuinely barked with joy at taking out five (or was it six?) opposition team members in quick succession thanks to a smartly placed proximity mine, and the few times some of us worked together it really did become more than the sum of its parts.
But neither of those things is unique to COD, or any game. Everything is more fun when you do well at it. Everything is more fun when you play it – together, as a team – with others. Especially Smash TV homages.