Call Of Duty Black Ops: Cold War beta review – yearly tour

GameCentral reports back on the PlayStation 4 beta of this year’s Call Of Duty and finds a game that has greatly improved from the alpha.

It seems hard to believe now but only four years ago Call Of Duty was on the rocks. Undeserved or not, Infinite Warfare had been a PR disaster and while 2017’s WW2 helped to steady the tiller it was only the fact that Battlefield also experienced its own fall from grace that kept Call Of Duty on top. Last year’s Modern Warfare reboot cemented Call Of Duty’s return to dominance and now it’s time for the second Black Ops in three years to make sure the crown does not slip again.

Thanks to the coronavirus there’s been much less build-up to the launch of Cold War than usual, with the game only being officially announced in August. The free-to-play Warzone has been dropping hints about the setting for months though and there’s every expectation that this year’s game is going to be just as successful as last year’s.

At this point, there’s not much that needs to be explained about Call Of Duty multiplayer, which in itself is a large part of the series’ ongoing success. And yet the earlier alpha demo of the game did not go down well with fans, as it suffered from stability problems, unbalanced weapons, and all the other sort of problems you’d expect from a game so early in development. But now it’s only a few weeks away from releasing and the beta has proven much more convincing.

As with anything to do with Call Of Duty, the beta was complicated by the marketing arrangements with Sony, which means they get first dibs on everything. So while the PlayStation beta took place over the weekend it won’t be available for other formats until Thursday (you can see the full beta schedule here).

Just like last year’s game, Cold War is a quasi-reboot of the original game – although how much the story campaign is going to resemble the first Black Ops from 2010 remains to be seen. Black Ops has a reputation for offering a more arcade style of play compared to Modern Warfare and that’s still the case here, with a faster movement speed and a more exaggerated slide. But it also takes a lot of influence from last year’s game by having no specialists and getting rid of things like wall-running.

You still wouldn’t call it realistic but it also has a more streamlined loadout system that’s also similar to Modern Warfare, except with a more complex take on Gunsmith that gets into even more detail with attachments.

The alpha had a lot of problems with weapon balancing, especially sniper rifles, but that’s all largely been fixed for the beta. Although the complaints about the lack of recoil still stands, as not even the biggest weapons seem to register when you fire them – which feels very odd. At the same time mounting (leaning) is no long part of the game, which is perhaps an attempt to keep the pace up.

In terms of modes, the new ones include the self-explanatory VIP Escort and Deniable Operations, which is similar to Modern Warfare’s Ground War but with slightly smaller maps. The mode still offers a larger scale of battle than is the norm for Call Of Duty though, as your team battles to hold multiple areas at once. VIP Escort, where one team is attacking and one defending, is actually a part of Deniable Operations in the full game and it’s not clear whether it’s going to be a separate mode by the time the game’s released.

When it comes to the map designs there don’t seem to be any stinkers so far, with Cartel, Satellite, and Moscow all working well. Miami was criticised in the alpha for being too visually busy, and that’s still an accusation you can aim at all the maps, which can often be difficult to read if you’ve glanced away for a moment.

That may be one reason why still almost nothing in the game is destructible, apart from glass. You can’t even smash in doors anymore as they’ve all been removed. Destructibility has never been Call Of Duty’s thing but as the realism and detail of the graphics increases it’s something that’s beginning to feel more and more artificial. (Which may become an issue for many games in the next generation.)

Although it was just an alpha, if you did play Cold War before now chances are you came away disappointed. The beta shows some major improvement though and in exactly the areas that most people complained about, which is always a good sign.

With Modern Warfare being so successful there was never any chance that Cold War was going to tinker with the formula too much, but it does still look and feel like its own game and hopefully that’ll be true of the story and Zombies modes as well.

Formats: PlayStation 4 (previewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch and Raven Software
Release Date: 13th November 2020

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