Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War

Black Ops returns with a story mission and just like the 1980s, it’s a bit embarrassing now.

The Black Ops franchise has been through a lot. While the first was a clever, twisted psychedelic shooter-adventure, the second was a straight FPS flipping between past and future events, the third flipped between bad and embarrassing and the 4th was a Battle Royale Fortnite knock off. But now, Cold War returns the series to its MK-Ultra roots.

It’s the 80s and Soviet spy ‘Perseus’ has discovered “Operation Greenlight”, a scorched-earth plan the US put in place if Germany won WWII, with neutron bombs buried over Europe – they’re still there, and now Perseus has discovered one. Disgusted with the Commies’ outrageous behaviour, Ronnie Raygun orders Hudson to create a Black Ops team to get it back - and keep Greenlight out of the news.

And what team does he assemble? There’s BO stalwarts Woods and Mason, but key character ‘Bell’ is left up to us to decide… The character creation offers personality traits that provide in-game perks, but they often conflict with the mission – why send someone who specifically states they don’t do Stealth on stealth missions? I chose an ex-KGB background because I figured it’d be fun being Comrade cat amongst the Patriotic pigeons, but apart from a few ‘can we trust her’ comments it didn’t factor. Bell is also a silent hero, so they never really contribute, and there’s no sexy Russian accent. They keep banging on about my skills, but Bell never does anything skilful and ultimately it has no baring; my Russian narrative has the same impact as the ex-CIA option, just with different dialogue. And what is the narrative?

It has about as much narrative depth as the rest of the 80s. The missions are self-contained, disconnected and feel like best-of retreads from other CoD games. We just lurch from one set-piece to another, occasionally going on a ‘Nam flashback or sneaking about somewhere and when Hudson says it’s time for the final mission, you’re like “I thought I was still in the tutorial”. It doesn’t fly by because we’re having fun, it’s short and you never get invested. There’s side missions you unlock by discovering intelligence in the main game, but they’re actually short kill missions and pointless distractions. CoD’s story missions often feel like warm-ups for the Multiplayer, but this is barely defrosted. Cold War is right. It feels like we just watched porn for the plot and missed the good stuff. And the plot was terrible too.