Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is an upcoming first-person shooter video game developed by Treyarch and Raven Software and published by Activision. It is the sixth installment of the Black Ops series, and the seventeenth installment in the overall Call of Duty series. Serving as the direct sequel to Call of Duty: Black Ops, the game is planned for release on November 13, 2020.

The game is set during the early 1980s of the Cold War. Its campaign follows CIA officer Russell Adler as he pursues an alleged Soviet spy, Perseus, whose stated goal is to subvert the United States and tilt the balance of power toward the Soviet Union. Multiplayer will have new game modes, more extensive customization, and new map dynamics and elements.

Black Ops Cold War Gameplay

Campaign

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is set during the Cold War in the early 1980s. The story is inspired by actual events and the campaign features locations such as East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, and the Soviet KGB headquarters. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan learns of Perseus (Navid Negahban), a Soviet spy based on an alleged conspiracy, and authorizes a black operation, led by CIA officer Russell Adler (Bruce Thomas) and his SAD/SOG team, to counter Perseus. CIA veterans Alex Mason (Chris Payne Gilbert), Frank Woods and Jason Hudson also take part in the operation.

Players can create a custom character for the campaign, codenamed Bell, with options for different skin tones, ethnic backgrounds and genders, as well as different personality traits that provide in-game perks. The campaign will have multiple endings, dependent on player choice throughout the campaign.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer features new and returning game modes, as well as maps that accommodate both the traditional 6v6 format, as well as larger 12v12 combat. The game also introduced a new game mode named “Fireteam”, which can support up to 40 players.

The Create-a-Class function uses a similar system to the one in Modern Warfare with two major differences: field upgrades are implemented as part of class loadouts, and each class has a wildcard choice for more primary attachments, more perks, more grenade equipment or mixing and matching any weapon/perk type in any slot. It will also support cross-platform play. In addition, the progression system for multiplayer will be integrated with Call of Duty: Warzone, meaning that gears and weapons unlocked in Black Ops Cold War can be used in Warzone and vice versa.

Zombies

Black Ops Cold War Zombies features a new storyline titled “Dark Aether” which expands on the original Aether story, concluded in Black Ops 4, while also tying to the main narrative of the campaign. Instead of playing as predefined characters, players can take on the role of Operator characters from Multiplayer, as part of “Requiem”, a CIA response team assembled by Grigori Weaver (Gene Farber).

Progression and loadouts from Multiplayer are shared with Zombies, as players are able to use any weapon to start a Zombies match, alongside Gunsmith, scorestreaks and field upgrades, in addition to returning mechanics such as wallbuys, the Mystery Box, Pack-a-Punch and past Fan Favorite Perks. For the first time in Zombies, players can opt to “exfil” the map, which will put them in a difficult wave with increased enemy spawn that they must survive before they can escape. Collectible intels are also scattered around the playable maps, allowing players to keep track of and unfold the main story as they progress.

Black Ops Cold War Development

On May 18, 2019, Kotaku reported that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was in upheaval as developers Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software had increasing tensions between the studios. Two sources described the game as a “mess”. In response, Activision assigned Treyarch to lead development alongside Raven. This led to a shorter development period compared to previous entries as well as the two studios having different responsibilities, with Raven Software leading the development of the single-player campaign.

On August 4, 2020, Activision in their Q2 earnings call confirmed that a new Call of Duty title was planned to be released in 2020 and that Treyarch and Raven were developing the game. It will be the first Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 3 to be co-developed by two studios, as well as the first time Raven Software being the main developer, as in previous games they assisted on the multiplayer and extra features. Activision president Rob Kostich confirmed during the Q2 earnings call that Black Ops Cold War will be “tightly connected” to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) and Call of Duty: Warzone.

Raven Software’s Dan Vondrak said on the idea of multiple endings, “when we started creating the story, we had multiple endings in mind right away. And that really helped … But we knew right away that we wanted to do that. I absolutely loved the idea that we could [have a] little bit of homage to Black Ops 2 by having these [multiple endings].”

Black Ops Cold War Marketing

Announcements and marketing relating to a Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War game have traditionally been around April or May prior to the game’s fall release. However, Activision began teasing the game with an alternate reality game (ARG) in August 2020. Various YouTubers prevalent to the Call of Duty community on YouTube were shipped crates. Once authorized to open on August 10, 2020, they were greeted by a slide projector, 10 different slides per crate, and a manifest.

Starting on August 14, 2020, the game was marketed, after initial ciphers solved, by enticing fans to solve ciphers and puzzles on pawntakespawn.com. The website allowed fans to watch VHS tapes containing news segments and footage that pertained to the corresponding year(s) throughout the Black Ops Cold War. Throughout the VHS tapes, at random intervals, two-digit nixie tube combinations appeared, required to solve ciphers, in addition to one set of coordinates per VHS tape that led to a location in Warzone.

On August 19, 2020, once all ciphers were solved, the teaser trailer was revealed. The teaser trailer contains segments of a 1984 interview with former Soviet PGU KGB informant and defector Yuri Bezmenov discussing active measures. The worldwide reveal was on August 26, 2020.

Starting on September 22nd, 2020, another alternate reality game (ARG) on pawntakespawn.com, teasing the Zombies mode, began when various Call of Duty YouTubers such as NoahJ456 and MrDalekJD were sent crates with 1980s technology and ciphers to solve. The official reveal for Zombies was released on September 30.

Censorship

See also: Overseas censorship of Chinese issues and Blitzchung controversy

CBR.com reported that the teaser trailer had been banned in China due to a one-second depiction of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. An edited teaser was released worldwide instead. PC Gamer’s Andy Chalk wrote: “There’s also no mistaking the irony of active censorship in a promo trailer for a game whose tagline is, literally, “Know your history”.”

Black Ops Cold War Release

Special editions

Pre-orders of all Black Ops Cold War editions grant early access to the open-access beta, a weapons pack, and a Frank Woods operator pack in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Warzone. The Ultimate Edition grants access to three additional cosmetic skin packs, plus access to the Season 1 Battle Pass for Black Ops Cold War. The Cross-gen Bundle and Ultimate Edition grant console players two versions of the game for use on the current console generation (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) and the next generation (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X) upon availability.

Post-launch content

All downloadable content (DLC) for the game, both for multiplayer and Zombies, will be completely free. As with Modern Warfare, the game will feature post-launch monetization via the battle pass system and cosmetic bundles available via the in-game store.

Notes

  • Additional work by High Moon Studios, Beenox, Activision Shanghai, and Sledgehammer Games

Beta access starts on October 8th–12th for Playstation 4 and Playstation 5 first and October 15th–19th for Xbox, PC and Playstation for the second week.

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