The campaign opens in January 1981 as CIA operatives named Adler, Mason, and Woods are in Turkey, hunting down terrorists named Qasim Javadi and Arash Kadivar for the roles in the real Iran hostage crisis. The writers of “Black Ops Cold War” set the tone in terms of violence in the opening mission, giving you the option to decide how brutal you want to be as you’re interrogating a suspect on a rooftop. You have the option to bring him in or throw him off the roof, and the choice makes almost no difference to what unfolds after that. These games very rarely display anything that could be called morality in the broader sense, which makes the choices presented in the campaign this time a bit surprising. They are uber-patriotic explosions of action—stories of illegal military operations not only sanctioned by the United States but orchestrated by them.
So, yes, it’s under orders from Reagan himself that your agent, nicknamed “Bell,” investigates the identity of a man named Perseus, a terrorist leader who was behind the hostage crisis and may have his hands on a nuclear weapon. The story then flashes back to Vietnam in 1968 before moving to East Berlin, a Russian training facility, and even KGB headquarters. The gameplay consists mostly traditional shooting from cover, but there are elements that break that tedium, including optional objectives to find evidence in missions that then open two side missions. Honestly, I liked the investigative and optional aspects introduced into a traditionally straightforward campaign and wished there was more of it. However, these game really come to life in their most extreme events like a runway chase and crash that would make the producers of “Fast and the Furious” jealous and a rooftop showdown in Cuba that includes raining down gunfire from helicopters. Again, subtlety is not the motto here. In a year without blockbusters, it feels like a game that can finally give people that larger-than-life feeling we’re missing in 2020.
They’re designed to shock and awe, something that’s even more powerful with the strength of the PS5 on a 4K TV. Not only is this the best-looking “Call of Duty” game to date on the next-gen console, but the new haptic triggers on the PS5 controllers add another element to the gameplay. Aiming down the sights with the L2 trigger and shooting with the R2 trigger can feel differently depending on the weapon and situation. It takes some getting used to, especially in the non-stop gunfire situations of multiplayer, but it adds a fun layer to a franchise that can feel repetitive.