Everything you Need to Know about Black Ops: Cold War

Promo shot of Call of Duty Black ops Cold War with 3 characters in battle

Among the many big-name titles set to land this November is the latest entry into a beloved FPS franchise. Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, set to land in less than a month, is the fifth in the Black Ops series. It focuses on a conflict that hasn’t inspired quite so many shooters as either World War. The Cold War provides a solid backdrop against which to engage in secret wars and to worry about things like plausible deniability and whether some seemingly trustworthy character or other is going to do something ultra-sneaky like betray everyone in dramatic style.

The game has endured something of a troubled development, with Treyarch being brought in to take the lead alongside Raven and Sledgehammer. It’s a more-or-less straight sequel to the original Black Ops, which was set in the 1960s. This time, the action unfolds over the early 1980s.

There’s a marked emphasis on actual Cold War events, with the marketing material featuring Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov talking about how to destabilise a country from the inside through ‘active measures’ – sounds like it’s taking itself seriously! There’s even an impressive in-engine version of former US president Ronald Reagan, which neatly flexes the graphical musculature of the next-gen systems.

Black Ops 5 What’s New?

What is the latest Call of Duty all about? For one thing, Black Ops Cold War seems to mark a departure from the more realistic theme of the 2019 Modern Warfare, and a return to the high-octane, over-the-top action style the series was once famed for.

The Zombies mode which proved so popular in previous entries makes a return, this time with the support of cross-play. For the first time, you’ll be able to play with friends on consoles using your PC. Beyond that, we don’t know a great deal about it – but what we do have an appreciation of is the multiplayer element, whose appeal will ultimately make or break Black Ops 5: Cold War in the long term.

There’s a pleasing amount of variety on display in the various arenas, with deserts, woodlands, and snowy environments all present. Most interesting, arguably, is the naval warfare level, Armada, which requires players to fight across a pair of warships. There’s not really a bad level on offer – with Crossroads probably being the weakest (although it’s likely to be more suitable for ‘Fireteam’, a mode that sees the map constantly change as uranium is released by dirty bombs). One feature that’s inspired particular frustration (and, let’s face it, hilarity) are the bushes on the Cartel multiplayer map, where a knot of thick bushes provides a hotspot for campers. That’s just cheap!

Gameplay Tweaks

The open beta rolled out slightly earlier on PlayStation than on other formats, thanks to an agreement between Sony and Activision. It’ll have begun rolling out on other platforms by the time you read this.

Many of the issues and imbalances which cropped up in the alpha have been addressed for the beta, although some technical issues concerning lag and poor sound quality have since been reported. Recoil, even on larger weapons, has been tamed to the point that you feel like you’re Doomguy, presumably in an attempt to maintain the pace.

Some elements, like wall-running and leaning, have been excised for the same purpose (although you might argue that a 1980s’ setting doesn’t fit that well with the thrust-jumping shenanigans of other Black Ops games). The Pick 10 system has been streamlined out of existence, with players instead choosing perks from a rather rigid list of categories. The Gunsmith system is where the depth is: it’s more fully featured than ever before, with each weapon offering dozens of attachments for unprecedented customisation.

All of the doors have been dispensed with, which means that it’s just windows that can now be destroyed. But smashing stuff to gain a strategic advantage has always been more of a Battlefield thing; Call of Duty would be a markedly different game if an element of this kind were incorporated.

In Black Ops 5 Cold War, Killstreaks have gone out of the window, replaced by Scorestreaks. The new system means that players can earn recognition for earning points rather than killing opponents and that the counter doesn’t reset when you die. With that said, multipliers are handed out to players who manage to survive, so you’ll still need to stay alive for a while to earn a healthy streak.

What do I need to Play Black Ops: Cold War on PC?

Digital Foundry’s early preview of the multiplayer provided cause for optimism as far as performance is concerned. A 10900K, a 2080Ti, and 32GB RAM allowed for maximum settings at 4K60. This might seem like a lot of computational firepower, but it’s worth bearing in mind two things. First, the leap between the last Nvidia generation (Turing) and the current one (Ampere), which means those with 30-series cards will be fine. Then the fact that just 2% of gamers are gaming at 4K, according to Steam’s September hardware survey, if you’re part of the ~65% gaming at 1080p, you’ll likely get away with an older machine.

For PC gamers, the most interesting graphical niceties will be the RTX and DLSS features that the game will feature. Ray-tracing looks to be restricted to shadows, DLSS will provide a performance boost via Nvidia’s amazing AI technology. To take advantage of these features, you’ll need an RTX-capable card, which means most Turing cards and all Ampere ones.

What’s really important in any Call of Duty game is the frame rate. A new system containing a modern Ampere-series card should be able to maintain a constant 60 frames or higher, depending on the settings you’ve chosen. If you’re considering a rebuild prior to launch (perhaps with an Ampere card included), you should check out our guide to building a gaming system for any budget. Many gamers might prefer to dial things back a bit to push those frame rates all the way up into the 100s and beyond. After all, what’s the fun in Call of Duty if it’s not blisteringly fast?

When’s the Release Date for Black Ops Cold War?

When does the new Call of Duty come out? It’s set to land on 13 November on every platform. Much of the advice we offered concerning the last Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare, also applies to this one: go big on the graphics card, and make sure that you aren’t bottlenecking elsewhere. Enjoy!