Sadly, many Call of Duty players never touch the campaigns despite some of them offering the best action and narrative in the genre.
We’ve seen celebrities of varying star power take center stage during these campaigns, from Kit Harrington to Josh Duhamel, but while Cold War doesn’t quite have the same level of fame at the helm, it stands out for different reasons entirely.
On the surface, it’s pretty standard fare from a campaign point of view. You jump into a mission, kill some soldiers, blow some stuff up, fulfil some mission objectives, change up your guns, then move onto the next.
Where Cold War’s campaign differs is through its Safe House, which brings you closer to your teammates than ever before. In between missions, you can chat with your mission leader, as well as your teammates out in the field, getting a feel for their past missions, their likes and dislikes, and even using a bit of multi-choice dialogue to tailor your choices, whether you want to flirt or be more of a hardass.
None of it has a massive bearing on how missions play out, save for one or two instances where you can choose to abide by the rules or follow your own tempo. Where Cold War differs is in letting you tackle optional missions inbetween the core campaign and actually using the random intel you find scattered around to prepare you for them.
From there, you pin them to your Evidence Board, read what’s on the letter or listen to what’s on the tape, and in some cases, analyse it in detail, then sort through it in order to solve a riddle or guess at some incriminating parties in an upcoming mission.
In campaigns, generally, there’s always the hidden data file to find or the collectible dogtag that commemorates something special. In Cold War, those collectibles actually have a purpose and usefulness. They play a part in the actual story, providing the necessary intel you need to complete a mission.
It’s an incredibly refreshing idea that works well in the context of the overall story. The best bit is, it’s all completely optional, so you don’t even have to partake. But if you don’t, you’re actually missing out the best part of the entire story.
Well, apart from the game’s penultimate mission which is absolutely nothing like you’ve seen from COD before and is one of my most memorable moments in gaming this year. It spins the whole campaign on its head quite spectacularly.
The game is deeply rooted in its love of the 80s, old adverts plastered on the walls, vintage cinemas with a distinct feel, and retro arcade machines that celebrate Activision’s iconic gaming history. It’s a reminder of how important Activision has been to the industry over the years, letting us dip into classic games like Pitfall, Barnstorming, and Fishing Derby.
None of the games have aged particularly well, some are even quite confusing to play nowadays, but they’re emulated very well into an arcade machine and can be collected through the campaign and played at any time you like in the safehouse. Providing you find a way to unlock the secret area in the back using the clues scattered around. Another neat trick the game pulls off on you.
Cold War is also a notable campaign for its inclusion of Woods and Mason, two of COD’s most well known faces. This adds and contributes to their stories, filling in some blanks, and even continuing some of their arc. Seeing them in this setting certainly feels different.
All combined, the Cold War campaign is probably my favourite COD to date. On next-gen, it’s like taking part in a major action blockbuster with action always coming thick and fast, and mission structure varying with some really memorable and enjoyable moments. Plus playing with the DualSense controller through its adaptive triggers and ratatata rumbling, has immersed me in the COD experience more than I can ever remember.
Call of Duty will always and forever be best known for its multiplayer. With the introduction of Warzone, I even started to wonder if COD Campaigns may be on their way out entirely. The MP has stood the test of time and this years’ is no different, easily serving the best online shooter experience of the next generation, but this year’s campaign is a real treat that simply must be experienced, and it makes me hope it’s not the last we see of them.
There’s something really different and exciting that’s been uncovered here, with Treyarch, Raven and Beenox really only just scratching the surface of what’s possible. This can go much further and deeper, and I truly hope it does. Don’t sleep on this one, folks, it’s the finest COD campaign in years.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is now available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox, and Stadia
Tested on PS5
Code kindly provided by Activision