The latest iteration of one of the most popular first-person shooter franchises ever, Call of Duty: Black Ops, walks a fine line between old school and next-gen, leaving the player in limbo and providing for a less-than-smooth experience.
Cold War is the fifth installment in the Black Ops series developed by Treyarch. Based in the 1980s, players go without jetpacks and thrusters seen in previous Call of Duty games, slowing down the pace of gameplay.
Upon release, the multiplayer consists of an eight-map cycle, three of which can be played in the 12 vs. 12 format. The maps have an older theme with darker tones and muted colors.
Visually, the maps are solid; it’s the game’s feel and flow where the problems lay.
While playing on water vessels is not a foreign concept in Call of Duty, the Armada Strike map carves out much of the space in the middle, forcing action to the sides.
The bottom portion of the ship is left largely unattended in every game mode, leaving players crammed in close-quarter gunfights inside of the ship or taking infrequent long-range shots inside the enemy spawn.
Moscow exhibits a traditional three-lane map that made Call of Duty famous, but the constant breaks into small windows, dim hallways and separate rooms encourage stagnant playstyles.
Long, narrow corridors and accessible camping locations plague the Checkmate map in all game modes. The closed roof prevents aerial killstreaks from removing enemies from the box they’ve sat behind all game.
However, not all maps are doomed. Crossroads and Satellite facilitate the most action throughout all battleground areas.
The bright background colors in both maps illuminate hidden enemies. The center of each map contains enough cover to outplay multiple enemies at the same time, but players cannot sit for too long without being taken out.
Similar gun balancing issues that ruined the early days of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare exist in Cold War, particularly with the MP5. From the moment the game was available for play, it was clear that a specific submachine gun had a clear advantage over most weapons in the game.
Months after Modern Warfare was released, professional players complained that the MP5 was still too strong. The gun was eventually patched, but similar signs of dominance exist with this game’s version: fast fire rate, minimal recoil and nimble player movement.
Everyone who has played a Call of Duty game in the past has encountered the frustrating occurrence of getting shot after running for cover. The pre-existing hit detection issues are surprisingly worse in Cold War, according to tests run by Morgan Park of PC Gamer.
In Modern Warfare, there was a three-frame delay between registering bullets with hit markers after the gun was fired. Park’s tests reveal a five-to-seven frame delay to register shots in Cold War, providing little reason to stray away from the tried and true MP5.
The inconsistency between attachments, perks and killstreaks showcase the biggest gap between old school and next-gen identity in this game. Treyarch removed some of the more futuristic attachments, such as thermal sights, under barrels and gun perks.
However, customizable bodies, handles, stocks and magazines exist on virtually every gun.
While perks are standard for any Call of Duty game, the wildcards feel more 2020 than 1980. Unlocking the option to equip eight attachments on your primary weapon or utilize three extra perks is a little too technologically advanced for the Cold War era.
Like the perks, the killstreaks in this game are standard for any Treyarch game. However, the scorestreak system implemented in Cold War creates a traffic jam for players looking to call in aerial attacks.
Modern Warfare utilized a streak system that reset every time the player died. In Cold War, streaks are carried over through death, only resetting once the final streak is obtained.
The use of skill-based matchmaking is supposed to create a balanced lobby for everyone. If the goal is to have every user near an even kill-to-death ratio, they will all obtain their killstreaks at the same time, creating a traffic jam for everyone looking to call in their rewards.
The game runs smoothly and looks visually appealing. However, the wavering identity between the old and new school creates a rift in the gameplay that leads to vastly different adventures from map to map.
Hotfixes to overpowered weapons and faulty hit detection can patch up some of the issues that currently exist in the game. Ultimately, the overall design of Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War will likely leave players with an inconsistent experience because it's unsure of what era it wants to take place in.