After fifteen consecutive years of new releases, you might expect the Call of Duty train to be slowing down in 2020. Yet with PS5 and Xbox Series X on the horizon, game spending on the rise, and renewed enthusiasm for the series thanks to the breakout success of Warzone, Black Ops Cold War is positioned to be the series’ biggest launch in years.
And that excitement isn’t merely circumstantial; there are tangible reasons to be optimistic about this year’s installment of Call of Duty. Featuring a fully loaded suite of game modes — a single-player campaign, multiplayer, a new installment of Zombies, plus the Warzone battle royale — multiplayer cross-play and -progression across all platforms, and the promise of free post-launch content, Black Ops Cold War, at least on paper, is the most comprehensive and accessible Call of Duty yet.
Ahead of its launch on November 13, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War PlayStation 5 Showcase Screenshots
Have you played Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War?
2020 sees the Call of Duty reins return to Treyarch Studios, breaking the three-studio rotation Activision has implemented since 2012. Sledgehammer Games, which most recently led development on 2017’s Call of Duty WWII, was originally handling this year’s entry as expected — that is until mid-2019, when Activision moved development to Treyarch. The decision was reportedly made, at least in part, due to a conflict between Sledgehammer and Raven Software, the studio handling Cold War’s campaign.
Treyarch is the studio responsible for all four previous Black Ops games, as well as introducing Call of Duty’s now-famous Zombies mode in 2008’s World at War. Raven Software, meanwhile, is a veteran studio – having helmed the Soldier of Fortune series along with Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast/Academy – and has served as a Call of Duty support studio for the last decade. Its most recent non-Call of Duty game was the 2010 time-bending shooter Singularity.
High Moon Studios, Activision Shanghai, Demonware, and Sledgehammer are all providing additional support for Cold War, with Canadian studio Beenox leading development on the PC version, as it previously did with Black Ops 4.
Black Ops Cold War will be released globally on November 13, 2020, for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC — with one exception: the PlayStation 5 version will only launch on November 13 in the U.S. and Canada. It will be released on November 19 in all other territories, according to Activision.
The next-gen versions of Cold War will retail for $70 USD/￡65/$110 AUD; the current-gen and PC versions will be cheaper, retailing at $60 USD/￡60/$100 AUD.
A Cross-Gen Bundle will also be available for $70 USD/￡65/$110 AUD. This includes both a current- and next-gen copy of Cold War within the same console family. Those who buy the standard version of Cold War on PS4* or Xbox One** will be able to upgrade to the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S version after launch for an additional $10 USD.
*On PS4, both digital and physical versions of Cold War can be upgraded after launch. A physical copy can be upgraded to a digital PS5 version through the PlayStation Store, though the PS4 disc will have to be inserted in your PS5 in order to play. (If you purchase a physical PS4 copy of Cold War and upgrade to a PS5 Digital Edition, there is no upgrade path, as the PS4 disc must be inserted.)
**On Xbox One, only the digital version of Cold War can be upgraded for $10 USD; there is no upgrade path if you purchase a physical copy.
Activision has revealed several next-gen-specific features for PS5 and Xbox Series X, including:
4K, 120hz support 3D audio support Hardware-based ray-tracing Shorter load times Haptic feedback and adaptive trigger support on PS5 with the DualSense controller
For those unable or unwilling to pay for the next-gen upgrade, both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Cold War will be playable via backwards compatibility on Sony and Microsoft’s respective next-gen consoles, though they won’t run with the features listed above.
Black Ops Cold War will feature cross-play across all platforms and generations — PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. Cross-platform progression will be supported as well, as all stats and progress will be tied to an Activision account rather than Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.
After its notable absence in Black Ops 4, campaign mode returns to the sub-series with a direct sequel to Black Ops 1. Protagonists Alex Mason, Frank Woods, and Jason Hudson return for a 1980s Cold War-inspired story of geopolitical drama and conspiracy.
You’ll play as a customizable character who teams up with Mason, Woods, Hudson, and CIA operative Russell Adler to stop a “global terrorist threat.” The campaign will feature at least one real-life historical figure: U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who steps out of the uncanny valley to task your team of operatives with unmasking a Soviet spy known as Perseus.
The campaign is estimated to be roughly five hours, and will take players across East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, Soviet KGB headquarters, Laos, Ukraine, and other locations, according to Activision.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Campaign Screenshots
A customizable protagonist is only one new layer of player choice Raven is implementing in the Cold War campaign. It’ll also feature dialogue choices, optional side missions, different paths toward completing certain objectives, and multiple endings.
It’s also worth mentioning that David S. Goyer – the screenwriter for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, who previously wrote on Black Ops 1 — assisted with the Cold War story.
Cold War’s multiplayer will feature Black Ops’ signature gameplay — fast action with fluid movement that’s designed to keep players focused on gunplay. To that end, Treyarch has implemented unlimited sprint, auto-health regeneration, improved sliding mechanics, and a “slightly faster” time-to-kill compared to Black Ops 4, according to the developer.
All post-launch maps and game modes will be free, and all maps will be released simultaneously across all platforms (no platform-specific timed exclusivity).
Cold War will bring back staple Call of Duty multiplayer modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint, Free-for-All, Kill Confirmed, and Search & Destroy, as well as Control from Black Ops 4. Treyarch is adding three new modes, as well:
VIP Escort: A 6v6 mode where “teams take turns to protect or eliminate a player randomly selected as the VIP equipped with only a pistol, a smoke grenade, and a Spy Plane for recon. To win, the VIP has to successfully escape at one of two extraction sites on the map as their teammates defend them at all costs. The round ends when the VIP dies or gets away, or when one of the teams is wiped out.” Combined Arms: 12v12 matches featuring a wide range of vehicles, from snowmobiles and dirt bikes to gunboats and tanks. Fireteam: A unique 40-player mode in which 10 teams of four do battle on large-scale maps and try to complete a variety of objectives.
Maps will run the gamut from the traditional three-lane setup to more modern, expansive layouts. One early standout is the ocean-set Armada, which features three large ships which you can traverse by way of ziplines and a small platoon of player-controlled gunboats. You can check out the full list of maps confirmed so far in the gallery below.
Black Ops Cold War Confirmed Maps
Gone are the Specialists of Black Ops 4. In their place are customizable Operators representing various Cold War organizations such as the CIA and KGB. Multiplayer will allegedly incorporate some narrative elements, though to what extent remains unknown. Treyarch says multiplayer will be set “years after” the events of the campaign and feature “battles that never happened.”
Regarding loadouts, traditional Create-a-Class replaces Treyarch’s signature Pick 10 system. Every loadout will include a primary weapon, secondary weapon, tactical equipment, lethal equipment, field upgrade (special equipment with a cooldown), three perks, and a wildcard. Gunsmith has been updated to display how attachments affect your weapons statistically, which will be useful as weapons feature up to 54 different attachments.
Treyarch is also making a significant change to Scorestreaks, which will no longer reset after death. There’s still incentive to rack up consecutive kills during the same life, however, as you’ll be rewarded with score multipliers. Scorestreaks will also feature cooldown timers to prevent spamming.
Other multiplayer features include the return of a traditional minimap that displays non-suppressed enemy fire, map voting, an FOV slider (on PC and, for the first time, consoles), and a ping system à la Apex Legends that allows for improved nonverbal communication between teammates.
One mystery that remains is how Cold War will handle player leveling, which went in a new direction with Modern Warfare’s Officer Ranks. Treyarch has only said Cold War will feature a “brand-new leveling journey that will later connect to Warzone, allowing players to unlock new functional content to be used in both titles.”
Cold War introduces an all-new Zombies story called Dark Aether. The first episode, Die Maschine, is set on a reimagined version of the classic Zombies map Nacht Der Untoten. You’ll play as part of a “CIA-backed international response team” called Requiem, which is racing against the Soviet-backed Omega Group to “harness the dark power” that lies within a derelict WWII bunker.
Zombies will be tied more closely with core multiplayer than it has in previous games, as both modes will share loadouts and Battle Pass progress. Additionally, Battle Pass progression will be unified across all of Cold War’s online modes — there’s more on that in the “Battle Pass” section below.
Perhaps the most notable update to Zombies in Cold War is a mechanic called Exfil, which gives you and your squad an opportunity to escape if you feel death is inevitable. Triggering Exfil will call in an escape helicopter and result in zombie spawns being “dialed up to 11,” according to Treyarch. If you escape successfully, however, you’ll earn additional rewards.
The Pack-a-Punch machine and Mystery Box return alongside new mechanics such as weapon rarities, discoverable loot, field upgrades, and support weapons such as sentry turrets and chopper gunners.
Like multiplayer, all post-launch Zombies maps will be free. Treyarch also hinted at the return of Dead Ops Arcade, its top-down, arcade-style Zombies mode, though it’s revealed nothing more than the teaser image seen below.
Dead Ops Arcade 3 tease (via Treyarch)
Treyarch says Black Ops Cold War will expand on Warzone as it currently exists. The studio has yet to reveal much about its plans beyond that, but we know all characters, weapons, and other progression-related items will carry over from Modern Warfare.
Cold War may introduce a new Warzone map, though Treyarch has yet to confirm those plans. The only update the developer has confirmed is the addition of Cold War-specific “themes, locations, weapons, and vehicles.”
As mentioned above, Warzone will share a Battle Pass with multiplayer and Zombies.
The Cold War Battle Pass will be unified across multiplayer, Zombies, and Warzone, allowing you to move through its tiers regardless of which game mode you play.
Battle Passes will launch alongside each new season and feature new Operators, weapons, blueprints, and other cosmetic items. Treyarch has yet to reveal a price, though for reference, Modern Warfare’s each cost $10 USD. Free tiers will be available for those who don’t purchase the Battle Pass. These include new weapons and “other categories of items,” according to Activision, but no specific details have been shared.
As expected, Black Ops Cold War will be the featured game for Call of Duty League’s 2021 season. With the new season, the esports league will be returning to its former 4v4 format, after two years of 5v5. Call of Duty League is also changing platforms for the new season, moving from PS4 to PC (though players will still be required to use controllers).
Black Ops Cold War is available for preorder, and preordering any edition will unlock the Woods Operator Pack for immediate use in Modern Warfare and Warzone. This includes the Sgt. Frank Woods Operator Skin, M4 Weapon Blueprint, Voice Quip and Finishing Move.
Black Ops Cold War is available in three editions. Here’s what comes with each:
Standard Edition: Includes the base game and Confrontation Weapons Pack (two weapon blueprints, available at launch).
PS5: Get it at Amazon – $70 Xbox Series X/S: Get it at Amazon – $70 PS4: Get it at Amazon – $60 Xbox One: Get it at Amazon – $60 PC: Get it at Battle.net – $60
Cross-Gen Bundle: Includes Black Ops Cold War for current- and next-gen (PS4/PS5 or Xbox One/Xbox Series X), as well as the Confrontation Weapons Pack.
PS4/PS5 (digital): Get it at Amazon – $70 Xbox One/Series X (digital): Get it at Amazon – $70
Ultimate Edition: Includes Black Ops Cold War for current- and next-gen (PS4/PS5 or Xbox One/Xbox Series X), the Confrontation Weapons Pack, one season of the Black Ops Cold War Battle Pass (plus 20 tier skips), and the Land/Sea/Air Pack (three Operator skins, three weapon blueprints, and three vehicle skins)
PS4/PS5 (digital): Get it at PS Store – $90 Xbox One/Xbox Series X (digital): Get it at Microsoft Store – $90 PC (digital): Get it at Battle.net – $90
For more on this year’s Call of Duty, be sure to check out our Black Ops Cold War multiplayer impressions and our Black Ops Cold War single-player preview. You can also head over to IGN’s official Black Ops Cold War wiki for multiplayer tips, tricks, and much more.
Jordan is a freelance writer for IGN.
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