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Call Of Duty Black Ops: Cold War Beta Impressions – With Some Tweaks, It Could Be The Best COD In Years

There’s still something about scorestreaks in Call of Duty that gives me a buzz – a little dopamine hit that other shooters struggle to replicate. Death is only a snap to the sights and a pull of the trigger away, and one more kill might grant you an attack helicopter. Obviously, you want an attack helicopter – who doesn’t? – and so your heart starts pumping and it keeps on pumping until someone fills it with hot lead. Doing well? Have a little more success, as a treat. It’s like someone turned our economy into a shooting game – except here we all have the same opportunity.

In fact, the system is even fairer in Black Ops: Cold War. Where your streak used to be cut short upon death in previous Call of Duty games, now your progress towards a streak carries over between lives. This change has split the community, but I’m all for it. Whenever I was on a streak in the older games, I’d hunker down and try to carefully rack up kills to get my next reward. Now you can just stay in the action and work the objectives. It’s less of a risk, but the adrenaline high of chaining kills together remains.

Black Ops: Cold War’s multiplayer beta reminds me of its series highs – midnight launches and late-night play sessions followed by early morning regrets. It’s been a few years since the series has tempted me to play into the early hours, but it feels like the COD I loved is back. It’s a COD worth staying up for. Even the guns feel the best they’ve felt in a while – each trigger pull is like waking a dragon with hayfever. It’s frenetic, punchy, and in-your-face. It’s COD at its best.

For the most part, map design is fantastic. They take the best of the three-lane ethos and stretch that out, offering more ways to get around the enemy. I’d call it simple complexity – there’s plenty to discover, but they’re intuitive and easy to memorise. They’re also very pretty.

Miami is all beachside hotels, framed by palm trees and airplane trails. It’s gorgeous, from the glow of outside swimming pools to neon bar lights and reflective puddles. A main street offers up back and forth territorial combat, while a windswept beach, building interiors, and back alleys provide flanking routes. Hotel balconies give snipers a way to pin down anyone foolish enough to not take advantage of them. Some of the edges of Miami feel a little redundant, however, since the main street itself has multiple routes and ample cover to move through it.

Another map, Cartel, isn’t quite as good. It’s a haven for campers. There’s a small watchtower in the middle that provides almost full cover if crouched, and one of the objectives is surrounded by foliage, obscuring the view around it. You often see players hiding prone in a bush, shooting the ankles of anyone unfortunate enough to run into their kill zone.

Hop over to Angola in Satellite and you’re offered up craggy cliffs and sandy dunes, where sniper rifles rule and spawn camping runs rampant. You’re never more than a couple of matches away from a game like this, where it feels like you’re repeatedly throwing yourself into a meat grinder.

I hope Treyarch takes map feedback onboard because there’s plenty of potential, but it could do with some fine-tuning. While we’re at it, slow those knee slides down, eh? Yes, I feel cool as hell when I slide past someone like a murderous kid on a dancefloor, peppering them as I pass. But it feels less cool when you’re the one being murdered by a knee-sliding kid. This isn’t Titanfall.

These issues are more prominent when you’re playing the same four maps on constant rotation in a beta, of course. But this limited selection of beta maps also highlights another potential problem: the lack of persistent lobbies.

Once a game is over, lobbies are disbanded and you’re pushed into another match with different players. This hurts map rotation since you often find yourself in another game in the same map you just played. At least with persistent lobbies, it’s a choice you all voted on. Here there’s no consistency because it’s always new people, and that means they’ve all just played a map that was likely different to yours. It also prevents rivalries, where you finally get revenge on the person who kept killing you in the last game. Hell, it potentially stops people from finding allies, too – a random player you clicked with and bonded with over multiple games. People actually find real-life friends like that, and now that kind of thing just can’t happen anymore. It’s a shame, and it’s something the developer should address before launch.

Despite those small caveats, though, I’m enjoying Black Ops: Cold War more than I’ve enjoyed any COD since the original Black Ops. It’s staggering how much it offers, as a package. I’ve only touched on the core maps here, but the beta also offers up Combined Arms – a couple of large maps with vehicular warfare, long sightlines, and larger teams. One takes place across a series of battleships connected by ziplines and features underwater firefights and jetskis. Another takes players to a snowswept research base where tanks dominate the open plains and snipers pick off anyone brave enough to attempt to cross. It feels more Battlefield than COD and it’s a nice change of pace from the core.

When you’re in the mood for something more methodical, there’s VIP Escort, which turns Call of Duty into Rainbow Six Siege. The rules here are simple: one of your teammates is a VIP and you have to get them to a chopper. You all have a single life and need to move as a unit, covering your angles and pressing forward more carefully than you would in either core or Combined Arms. At launch, Zombies mode and a robust campaign will be available, too, along with a host of other multiplayer modes and maps not seen in the beta. Black Ops: Cold War is a behemoth and I can’t wait to see it all.

Next: Black Ops: Cold War Has An FoV Slider On All Platforms

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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.

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