Although “Call of Duty” seems like a monolithic franchise, it actually contains different eras and subseries. Early games focused on World War II, then it became a gaming phenomenon when it moved to “Modern Warfare” with such characters as Capt. John Price and Soap MacTavish.
Arguably the most beloved line is “Black Ops,” which set a standard for the robust multiplayer experience that fans have come to expect. With “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War,” Treyarch and Raven Software again return to the world of espionage. Set in the 1980s, it follows a new character named Bell, who is part of a special unit hunting an infamous Russian spy named Perseus.
Over 17 chapters containing 12 playable missions, players embark on a global campaign to stop Perseus’ plans to obtain a nuclear weapon. Although Bell is the star, “Black Ops Cold War” switches perspectives to fan favorite characters such as Alex Mason and newer cast members such as Russian double agent Dimitri Belikov.
The shift gives players a mix of familiar run-and-gun missions while also introducing more stealth-oriented gameplay filled with cloak and dagger tactics. These chapters not only provide a needed change of pace from the firefights and explosions, but they also expand the diversity of experiences. A surprising amount of puzzle elements and exploration are involved as the team infiltrates Berlin and Moscow in search of clues.
On the multiplayer side, “Black Ops Cold War” is packed with plenty of modes and formats that will cater to a wide range of tastes. If players want to stick with what’s familiar, they can fire up a playlist with eight competitive rule sets. If the competitive scene isn’t your thing, “Blacks Ops Cold War” has a Zombie mode — a squad of four tries to hold out as long as they can against an unrelenting horde of undead.
On the opposite end, Fireteam is a new mode that pits 10 teams of four against each other. It has the open-world feel of a “Battlefield” game, but the experience is chaotic and the developers don’t teach players much about the feature.