The Black Ops sequel’s multiplayer should look familiar to anyone who’s played Call of Duty in the last few years, but changes like a revamped Create-a-Class system, faster gameplay, and an entirely revamped Scorestreaks system should help Black Ops Cold War stand out from its predecessors. Along with these more specific changes, there are also all the new maps, weapons, perks, and game modes that players expect from each new Call of Duty game.
Black Ops Cold War will also be the first Call of Duty to arrive on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and it’s bringing Warzone with it. Because it’s coming to both next-gen and current -generation consoles, Black Ops Cold War will also build on the crossplay that Modern Warfare and Warzone introduced, allowing players of all consoles and generations to join matches together.
Ahead of Treyarch’s reveal, Polygon had a chance to play multiplayer and a few of the game’s modes, answering all your burning Black Ops Cold War questions.
Is the multiplayer set in the Cold War?
According to Treyarch, the game’s multiplayer is set a few years after the campaign, which means it’s definitely set in the Cold War era. The Cold War setting extends to everything, from the deniable operations, to the CIA-themed in-match chatter, to the glaring neon lights of South Beach in the ’80s.
The area of Black Ops Cold War that feels most affected by the setting is the game’s weapons. Modern Warfare staples like the P90 are noticeably absent, and sniper rifles like the .50 caliber AX-50 sniper have been replaced by slower, bolt-action rifles instead. Some series favorite weapons like the M4 — here with its original XM4 name — as well as the AK-47 and the M16 have made their way to Black Ops Cold War, but they’re in their older models and feel a little slower, with older and less-powerful attachments. Despite that these definitely feel like older guns, each of them is still just as fun to use as their Modern Warfare counterpart.
Even the Scorestreaks this time around are Cold War-themed, with Spy Planes, Napalm Strikes, and Chopper Gunners replacing some of the modern options of previous games like drone strikes and AC-130s.
How does Black Ops Cold War connect to Call of Duty: Warzone?
Warzone will share progress with Black Ops Cold War’s multiplayer thanks to what Treyarch calls “cross-progression.” This means that you’ll have the same rank in Warzone and Black Ops Cold War multiplayer, and that you can use most items you unlock in either mode — similar to how Warzone interacts with Modern Warfare (2019).
As for your existing Warzone progress, all of that will carry over as well. It’s unclear right now whether players’ Warzone level will reset when the Black Ops Cold War update arrives, but we do know that all the unlocks and weapons that players earned from the first several seasons of Warzone will still be available to them after the update.
How different is Black Ops Cold War from previous Black Ops games?
Black Ops Cold War is closer to Modern Warfare than it is to previous Black Ops games. Black Ops 4’s manual healing has been removed in favor of the series’ more standard auto-regenerating health, and the unique character Ultimate abilities from previous games are gone as well. Instead, Black Ops Cold War is more about getting back to Call of Duty’s multiplayer basics. Much like Modern Warfare, your only real tools for success in Black Ops Cold War are quick movement and great aim. Black Ops Cold War even brings back some of the strange quirks of Modern Warfare’s movement, including slide canceling.
But there are also plenty of differences between this year’s Call of Duty and the series’ last entry. For one thing, Black Ops Cold War feels a little bit faster than Modern Warfare, thanks to the game’s new ultimate sprint and a feature that makes players move faster for a brief instant when their sprint starts. Characters also go down quickly no matter what weapon you’re using against them; this was especially true of SMGs in the build. Sniper rifles even seem to aim down sight a little quicker, making them useful even in the game’s most chaotic matches.
Even the game modes are a little different this time around. While Modern Warfare’s big-team mode, Ground War, doesn’t make a return, Black Ops Cold War does have a big-team mode of its own called Combined Arms. Instead of Ground War’s 64 players, Combined Arms is limited to 24 players — with 12 on each team.
What are the maps like?
One of the coolest maps available in the early build we played is called Armada, which we only played in the Combined Arms mode. The map takes place on several different warships floating in the Black Sea. Control points are spread out around various places — like on the decks of massive battleships, or the half-sunk wreckage of smaller boats — letting teams cross from boat to boat using ziplines, vehicles, or just some good old-fashioned swimming.
These giant ships give the match an excellent balance between the fast-paced fights of a regular Call of Duty match and the kind of huge-map sniping that might feel more at home in Warzone.
Black Ops Cold War also has a mode called Fireteam, which focuses on “objective warfare” and will feature 40 players in each match. We didn’t have the chance to play that.
In total, the build featured five maps:
- Miami — Fight through South Beach in streets crowded by abandoned cars and the lobbies of lavish beach-front hotels.
- Armada — A naval battle in the Black Sea with huge warships and the shipwrecks of smaller boats littering the water around them.
- Satellite — Set in the deserts of Angola, complete with caves, crashed satellite, and sand dunes so big they can be used as cover.
- Moscow — An intricate city map that mixes interior buildings with shootouts on the street, similar to the cities sections of Warzone’s Verdansk map.
- Crossroads — A huge military complex hidden away in a snowy forest.
Several of the maps in Black Ops Cold War feature a similar three-lane style to other Call of Duty and competitive shooter maps. Meanwhile, others like the Angolan desert map, which is called Satellite, felt entirely different with wide open landscapes. These open maps have a much quicker and more chaotic pace than their more tactical and slightly slower counterparts.
Are there new Game Modes?
There is at least one new game mode coming to Black Ops Cold War, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the multiplayer. The mode is called VIP Escort, and it tasks teams with either defending a VIP on their way to the extraction point, or preventing said extraction.
The mode is split up into rounds with the first team to four round wins winning the match. In each round, players only have one life, but they won’t die immediately when they take lethal damage, so they can be either revived by teammates or executed by the enemy team. When a team is defending the VIP, one player is randomly selected to play as the VIP and given just a silenced pistol and some smoke grenades to defend themselves.
Thanks to the limited respawns, each round of VIP Escort is a little bit slower than a regular multiplayer match. The normally selfish every-person-for-themselves impulses that tend to dominate Call of Duty — even in its most team-focused game modes — are replaced by selflessness when the VIP is the only objective in the game.
In one round, when an attacker took aim at my team’s VIP from a distance, I stepped in front of them before I even tried to return fire. I took a bullet and went down, but my teammates avenged me and the VIP escaped, winning us the round. It was thrilling, but in a totally different way than a more normal kill-happy Call of Duty match.
Even the maps felt different in the new mode. Corridors and alleyways that I would have blindly rushed down in another mode turned into tense danger zones where it felt like an ambush could be waiting around any corner.
The one real problem with the mode as it stands is that the VIP might be too easy to escape with. While defending the VIP feels exciting and tense, stopping him from escaping feels daunting, considering you have two extraction points to defend and he only needs a few seconds to safely escape. While the mode could use a bit of tuning, it already felt like a great change of pace and a mode that will be especially fun with well-coordinated groups.
How is Create-a-Class changing?
Create-a-Class should be pretty recognizable to anyone who played Modern Warfare or Warzone, but there are a few changes. Most notably, Treyarch has expanded the secondary weapon slot to now include shotguns, as well as pistols and rocket launchers, giving players a few extra close-quarters options in their loadouts.
Treyarch is also bringing back Wildcards from previous Black Ops games. Wildcards allow you to augment your loadout significantly, breaking certain rules like including six perk slots instead of three, equipping any weapon or perk you want in any loadout slot — rather than the ones they’re normally assigned — or even adding up to eight attachments to one single gun.
Speaking of attachments, Modern Warfare’s excellent Gunsmith feature is making a return to Create-a-Class in Black Ops Cold War. Rather than making you scroll through a simple list of attachments, Gunsmith breaks weapons down into their component parts, letting you fundamentally change everything from foregrips, to barrels, to optics, to the kind of tape on the gun’s handle.
Black Ops Cold War’s Gunsmith also adds more detailed stats so you can understand exactly how each change affects the gun. With these stats, you can see things like how one stock adds 20% hip fire accuracy, while another increases a gun’s vertical recoil stability by 10%, letting you craft the perfect weapon for each loadout.
How do Killstreaks work in Black Ops Cold War?
Killstreaks might be one of the biggest changes coming to the latest Call of Duty. Treyarch has changed Killstreaks into Scorestreaks for Black Ops Cold War. These streaks aren’t lost when you die, but the requirements are higher and you earn a multiplier for kills earned in one life, so you’re still rewarded for staying alive. This system doesn’t feel radically different in modes like Team Deathmatch, but once you get into the more objective-based modes, it becomes a little more noticeable.
With the old system where streaks reset each time you died, players were often forced to choose between putting themselves at risk by playing an objective and playing it safe to protect their Killstreak. However, with the new system, players can rack up progress and multipliers by completing objectives, without worrying that it would all be erased by a well-thrown grenade on the Hardpoint.
If you’re worried that this sounds like it could be easily abused and that players could simply spam low-cost streaks, Treyarch is already one step ahead of you. Each Scorestreak has an internal cooldown, which should prevent players from using them too often.
While there was a perk called Persistence in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare that had a similar effect, this is the first time that streaks haven’t reset on death by default in a Call of Duty game.
When will you be able to play? Is there a beta coming?
There will be a beta for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War; we just don’t know much about it yet. Activision has let players know that they can get access to the beta by watching Call of Duty League streams, but the Call of Duty website also says that an open beta is on the way in the near future. Also, according to the multiplayer trailer, PS4 players will get access to the game’s open beta early, running from Oct. 8 to 9. The PS4’s open beta will run from Oct. 10-12. A week later, Black Ops Cold War will have a crossplay beta which will be available in early access on Xbox One and PC, and open on PS4 on Oct. 15 and 16, and open for all platforms from Oct. 17-19.