Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War Zombies Looks Like More of All That

The jury's still out on whether zombies count as war criminals.

“It’s happening again,” says a certain character in the first video for the Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War Zombies mode. That seems appropriate. The beefy nine-minute trailer shows a lot of what I’ve come to expect from the series and its uber popular mode. Though it ironically promises a more unified experience, in more ways than one.

Cold War loosely promotes the racist, homophobic, and misogynist far-right conspiracy theories of Yuri Bezmenov and G. Edward Griffin. Its latest round of historical stunt casting, which previously included both JFK and Nixon in Zombies mode, now sports Ronald Reagan — best known for human rights abuses like the Iran-Contra affair, proliferating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the solidification of a permanent underclass for slave labor in the prison industrial complex (i.e. the War on Drugs). Zombies is very icky in other ways. There are lots of glowing, mutated monsters for you to battle. But rest assured that you play CIA imperialists this time out. So it’s not completely devoid of the game’s reckless politics.

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Long-time players will recognize some characters and locales — as well as boarded-up windows. But it’s supposed to be a new story set in the same “universe” as previous modes. If you’re not a die hard Zombies fan, you might not know the whole series had an interconnected multiverse, which ended in a Crisis on Infinite Earths style wrap-up in Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (that is how they spelled it). That means you’re mostly working with an original cast and setup.

Other big features focus on progression. Cold War includes unified progress across both multiplayer modes: Zombies and competitive. So if you shoot living, virtual people online, you don’t have to start from scratch when shooting the virtual living dead. That’s an interesting change, since Zombies is almost like a wave-based RPG. And the inclusion of randomized loot — with rarity levels as in Destiny — leans even further into that idea. Now it seems like developer Treyarch is cutting past some of the early game progression. At the very least, you’ll have a way to push past it faster.

You can obviously do so with friends, too, no matter where they play. Cross-play support is back in Cold War. It’s also “cross-gen” this time around — meaning players on PlayStation 4 can team up with those on PlayStation 5, and so on. Squads can be up to four players, just as in previous Call of Duty games.

The trailer continues to detail very specific changes made this time around. Those that love Zombies (I haven’t cared for it much since Call of Duty: World at War) will probably find much to dissect. Over all, though, it mostly seem like those modes in past games. Perhaps the standout change is the ability to exfiltrate from missions without dying.

Previously, the only way Zombies mode ended was by being overrun. You puzzled out secrets and story bits along the way. Now you can choose to extract. The catch is that it summons bigger, badder waves of monsters to battle. The upside is that you get extra rewards for making it out alive. That’s very different for the franchise, and blurs the lines between it and more dedicated co-op survival games, like Deep Rock Galactic and Vermintide. Hopefully the rest of the experience lives up to it!

Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, with Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War Zombies, launches on pretty much everything Nov. 13, 2020. Though I will never get over how long that title is.


Steven Strom

An obsessive writer broadcasting to you live from the middle of nowhere. Thinks cute things are good, actually.

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