Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Multiplayer Hands-On Preview

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Playing a new first-person shooter without having any sort of overview of a map or any feel for the weapons reminds me a lot of playing clarinet, specifically when I had to sight-read. You’re given a piece of music that you’ve never seen before and are expected to just do your best. That’s what Call of Duty feels like every time I jump into its newest iteration for the first time, especially this year without having any sort of detailed explainer of what’s changed. But it’s still Call of Duty, after all, and only so much is different. Usually. In my three-hour hands-on on PS4 Pro (with PC players) with Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer, I’m already seeing some things I want to see changed from this alpha to the beta and am interested in seeing how the wider community adapts to the new modes and unique maps.

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The new 6v6 mode we played (and you may have seen before the official reveal) was VIP Escort. The objective in this mode for attackers is to get your VIP player to one of two random extraction points. The defending team is tasked with hunting down the VIP. If that player successfully escapes, dies, or if the defending team is wiped out completely, the round is over and sides flip. Scorestreaks are off the table, but the VIP does have a Spy Plane (a UAV) to call in once per round. The VIP is also at a bit of a disadvantage in that they’re only equipped with a pistol, smoke grenades, and frag grenades. Unless you can work magic with a pistol (it’s totally possible) you’ll need to stick with someone on your team for protection. The first team to score four points wins.

In VIP, players are also downed first before being completely wiped out of the round. Teammates can revive the downed player. This is yet another Call of Duty mode that’s best played with friends, or at least with mics. Communicating through an odd series of jumps (as I tried to do in my preview session) isn’t ideal. And it can be confusing when your VIP is following you and decides to up and run off. A silent lobby that’s only filled with echoes of gunshots and shouts from our digital characters at least spared my fellow press from my slew of curses and other expletives. However, sitting in silence is far from the optimal way to play this mode. I’m curious to see how people who want to play this approach it. Once it’s open to the public, I hope we’ll all be spared of that random person who insists on munching on chips with an open mic.

Another “new” mode we played is Combined Arms. These matches feature large maps for 24 players and five to six capture zones that need to be controlled for points. The first team to 400 points wins. It’s unclear if there are other objectives in Combined Arms, but based on what we played and the information I received about Black Ops Cold War, it seems like this mode is once again a bigger version of Domination. It’s also a little odd to tout this as a new mode as it’s just another take on Ground War, but with fewer players than what Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 offered. Like last year’s game, Combined Arms features “transport vehicles” for getting around and “attack vehicles” like tanks. Combined Arms felt like more of the same, but with the added chaos of someone rolling in with a tank that took too many hits from multiple rocket launchers to take down. A tank should have some resistance, but as they are pretty easy to get to, I hope Treyarch tweaks their resilience.

Now, let’s talk maps. We played on the following five maps: Miami, Satellite, Moscow, Crossroads, and Armada. Of the five I’d say Armada is the most notable in that it’s one of the biggest and by far the most unique. Armada takes place on three large ships and other smaller naval vessels. You can use jet skis to get around or swim to approach points for stealthy attacks. I had a few underwater gunfights and took out opponents when I spotted them swimming in the water.

armada

And yet, Armada didn’t make the best first impression. I appreciate its novelty (there are ziplines, mounted machine guns, and so, so many jet skis), but the size of this map made getting around a bit of a hassle, especially with Call of Duty’s signature TTK (time to kill). I felt like a lot of my time was used trying to get somewhere with the hope of having an advantage in a firefight. I learned how to better control an area after playing this map a few times, but so far it’s on the low end of my preferred map list for Black Ops Cold War.

On the other hand, Miami was neat. This smaller map had plenty of corridors, minimal verticality, and lots of great engagement spots, at least in the few times I played. It is difficult to get a read on a map after playing them in a limited setting like a preview event, but this one has promise.

Another challenge is figuring out the viability of weapons. I happily returned to my first favorite Call of Duty gun, the RPD, and did my best with it despite the seemingly general preference to play with SMGs and snipers. I’m sure the weapons will undergo more tuning before we get our hands on Black Ops Cold War again, but the one major thing I hope changes is the time it takes to throw a grenade. Black Ops Cold War somehow makes pulling a frag grenade pin feel excruciatingly long in its fast action. Frag grenades only felt effective as a precursor to an attack, whereas I prefer to have the option to toss one while I’m in action. All other equipment was deployed in a more satisfying time.

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A few hours can only offer so much insight into multiplayer balance and design, but so far I’m generally interested. Given that Raven is focusing on the campaign and leaving the multiplayer to Treyarch, I have high expectations for whatever we get to see next. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out Fireteam, but as a whole new category of game modes featuring 10 teams in squads of four on “large-scale maps featuring land/sea/air vehicles and various objectives,” I’m curious to see how that fits in with Warzone and the wider Call of Duty multiplayer suite.

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Miranda Sanchez is the executive editor of guides at IGN. She’s usually determined to make LMGs work in every Call of Duty even when they’re not the best option. You can chat with her about video games, beer, and stationery on Twitter



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