In a refreshing chance of pace, the campaign in Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War breaks new, much-welcomed ground for the series.
Americans are good, Russians are bad, shooting people is good and morally justified (as long as it’s Americans doing it), a lot of explosions, and on-rails set pieces that involves shooting your way from point A to point B.
So it was a genuine surprise to see Black Ops Cold War do something radically different with its (unexpectedly short) campaign. Well, as radically different as a Call Of Duty game gets anyway.
In saying that though, the change in the usual single-player campaign was so unexpected that I’m hoping Call Of Duty will take inspiration from this and keep doing it for future games moving forward.
Just a warning, there will be a few minor spoilers ahead for the Black Ops Cold War campaign, so if you’re one who cares for narrative in a Call Of Duty game, best tread lightly going forward.
All good? Alright, let’s dive into it.
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There’s a mission midway through the game called ‘Desperate Measures’ and you play as a double agent in the KGB who is assisting America in hunting down a spy network that’s infiltrated the United States and plans to detonate several nukes across Europe. Typical Call Of Duty stuff.
Anyway, the mission begins inside the Lubyanka Building – AKA the former home of the KGB – and a couple of American agents call you up (via encrypted phone call) to get your assistance in helping them infiltrate the place using your status as a high-ranking KGB officer.
Simple enough, just shoot your way through, right? Not quite.
To get the American agents in you need to get a bunker key, but that simple task is made mega difficult as the whole place is on high alert due to knowledge that there’s a mole in the KGB, meaning that there’s only very few bunker keys and they’re in the possession of only a handful of people.
Throw in a couple of some suss looking Russian guys who are clearly there to make life difficult for you (since they’re there to find the mole), and getting those American agents in suddenly becomes far more difficult.
So now you’re left with several threads you need to tie up. How do I get a bunker key now? Do I poison the only General who carries the one working bunker key? Or do I sneakily reactivate another bunker key? Can I just steal one? What can I do to throw the KGB off my tail? Can I frame someone as the mole while using that to my advantage?
Here’s where Black Ops Cold War throws an unexpected curve ball: you can do all those things to complete the mission and then some.
Not only are there several different ways to approach this mission, there are several optional bits to do and some mission-important (though still optional) bits of evidence to collect along the way.
Some might chose to poison the General and get the bunker key that way, others might opt to frame the General and get the key that way while also throwing the KGB off your scent (which is what I did). Others may even try and interrogate a prisoner and getting them to do your dirty work for you.
The amount of choice available in ‘Desperate Measures’ is unexpected for a Call Of Duty game, and it goes to show that the series still has tricks up its sleeve when it decides to do away with the usual run-and-gun stuff.
Things eventually go back to the shoot-y stuff once you get the American agents in and the perspective swaps to them, but for a brief moment, Black Ops Cold War showed that there’s more to the series when it chooses to slow down and do something different.
That’s not to say that Call Of Duty should become the next big stealth game – it’s just not in its DNA. But changing things up every now and again with missions like ‘Desperate Measures’? More please.